Following more than 10 years of being apart, members of that incendiary ’80 and ’90s rock band the Afghan Whigs met late last year for some exploratory musical activity.
“We convened in New Orleans to check it out,” singer Greg Dulli, a resident of New Orleans and California, said from Los Angeles. “That was just to see if it clicked or not,” he said.
Reunited and feeling good, the Afghan Whigs swiftly booked a 30-date tour.
“It continues to feel good,” Dulli said. “It’s been really fun to watch it expand. We’re going deep into the catalog now, playing songs that we’ve never played live before.”
Formed in 1986 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Afghan Whigs released much-acclaimed albums through a series of record companies. Seattle indie label, Sub Pop, issued Up In It, the band’s album debut in 1989, as well as follow-up Congregation in 1992. Also in 1992, the Whigs’ Uptown Avondale EP, featuring Dulli indulging his love of classic soul music, appeared.
The Afghan Whigs’ 1993 major-label debut, Gentlemen, earned many accolades, including a spot in SPIN magazine’s top 100 albums of 1985-2005. Black Love arrived in 1996, followed by Columbia Records’ 1998 release of 1965, recorded at Daniel Lanois’ Kingsway studio in the French Quarter.
Looking back as the Whigs’ discography, Dulli is a proud parent who won’t pick favorites.
“I like Up In It as much as I like 1965,” he said. “I like Gentlemen as much as I like Black Love. They’re all significant to me. They represent different times of my life.”
Inhabiting the Afghan Whigs’ catalog again during the band’s 2012 touring has been rewarding, Dulli said, more so than he imagined.
“I thought I would enjoy it, but I’ve enjoyed it extremely,” he said.
And it appears there’s new Afghan Whigs music on the way.
“We’re gonna record this weekend, so there you go,” Dulli said. “I don’t know what’s gonna happen once we go in. I’m just going to see what happens, which is always how it goes down, but I have high hopes.”
After years of near breakups, including onstage fistfights, the Afghan Whigs officially disbanded in 2001.
“It was over dinner,” Dulli remembered. “We were all there and it was friendly. A little bittersweet and sad even. But it was the right thing to do. No regrets.”
Dulli carried on with the Twilight Singers, a group that had already released its album debut, 2000’s Twilight as Played by the Twilight Singers. He’d go on to release four more Twilight Singers albums, solo work and his collaboration with Mark Lanegan, 2008’s Saturnalia, a project credited to the Gutter Twins.
Meanwhile, Whigs bassist John Curley, a dear friend of Dulli’s for decades, would join the Dulli road show on stage when his former bandmate blew through the Whigs’ hometown of Cincinnati.
“When John went on to Chicago with us,” Dulli said, “and we had such a great time, that was the first time that we had played together outside of Cincinnati in 10 years. It was cool.”
Curley also played six shows with Dulli on the West Coast. They had a great time. Dulli later met with Rick McCollum when a Twilight Singers tour visited the guitarist’s city of residence, Minneapolis, Minn.
“I hadn’t seen him in a really long time,” Dulli said. “We had lunch the day of my show and then he came to the gig. Again, it was all just all in the back of my mind.”
And then one more of a series of invitations to perform as the reunited Afghan Whigs at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in London got Dulli thinking seriously about getting the old gang back together. The ultimate decision to do so finally came, inspired in part by the happy experience Dulli and Curley had during the singer’s acoustic tour.
“I was free this summer and John’s kids were sufficiently grown,” Dulli said. “It was a combination of factors that led to it being a good time to do it.”
Reaction to the reunited Whigs has been gratifying. Upcoming shows in Detroit, Cincinnati, Chicago and Minneapolis are sold out.
“I’ve been humbled by it,” Dulli said. “Everybody likes to be liked. It puts a big smile on my face every time I walk out there and get loved on.”
The Afghan Whigs return to New Orleans on Friday, Oct. 19, for a show at Tipitina’s.
“I’ve played many a joint in New Orleans but, once we got rolling, Tip’s was sort of our place. We played many epic shows at Tip’s. I look forward to bringing it back there.”