The Whigs stick with that classic-rock format, the trio.
Rock history is rich with trios, including the Eric Clapton-featuring Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Grand Funk Railroad, Joe Walsh’s James Gang, the Hendrix-inspired Robin Trower trio, the Police, Nirvana, Green Day and Blink-182.
“I love it,” Whigs singer-guitarist Parker Gispert said last week from Nashville, the band’s homebase for 18 months. “Lots of my favorite bands are trios. It’s so classic.”
Even with only three members, the Whigs, a band formed 11 years ago in Athens, Ga., sounds complete.
“Everybody really has to contribute a lot to the music and the trio,” Gispert said. “We never really thought to add anybody else. It seemed like we had the bare essentials to be a band. Nothing more but nothing less.”
Classic rock albums inspired the Whigs’ latest release, Enjoy The Company. The album includes the homage-to-rock ’n’ roll song, “Rock and Roll Forever.” Also following the rock tradition of including the phrase “rock ’n’ roll” in a song’s title or lyrics, “Rock and Roll Forever” features shout-outs to the Velvet Underground, the Ramones and AC/DC.
In another instance of honoring rock’s past, Enjoy The Company opens with the eight-minute-long “Staying Alive.”
“We actually cut it down a little bit,” Gispert said. “It’s one of those songs that’s divided into two sections. The first section is compact. Everything’s tidy, in the right place. But when we get to mid-point of the song, then it’s kind of a free for all.
“It’s fun, like taking a leap. You don’t really know how you’re gonna get there every time, or if you’re gonna get there. It’s exciting to have that element at a show or in the studio.”
On stage, the length of “Staying Alive” varies.
“Sometimes it goes a little longer, some nights it’s more punctual,” Gispert said. “It’s alive, which is important.”
Gispert and his fellow Whigs — bassist Timothy Deaux and drummer Julian Dorio — recorded Enjoy The Company at Dreamland Studios in Woodstock, N.Y. Producer John Agnello (Hold Steady, Drive-By Truckers, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.) helmed the session. “Great vibe,” Gispert said of Woodstock, the place where that legendary music festival took place in 1969 and many classic recordings were created. “It just has something magical, something mystic about it. It’s a little dream place up there.”
Gispert’s description of Woodstock does not include “nostalgic.”
“It doesn’t feel like you’re standing back in time there,” he said. “Even with all of the classic recordings from there, it feels very lively. Probably, that’s how they felt when they were there.”
Whigs co-founders Gispert and Deaux were studying philosophy and psychology respectively at the University of Georgia when they formed their band in 2002.
“I enjoyed going to school and I got a really good education, but I don’t think either of us had plans to go into the field that we were studying,” Gispert recalled. “We were more into making the Whigs what we did.”
The band got good response from the start.
“Our first shows were really crowded,” Gispert said. “Kids who we went to school with came. They were genuinely into it. And they’d tell their friends. We quickly had a good amount of people to play for and an exciting energy around the band.”
The Whigs released their debut album, Give ’Em All A Big Fat Lip, independently in 2005. The following year Rolling Stone magazine named the group one of 10 Artists To Watch.
“That was a big break, our first real national exposure,” Gispert said. “And everybody, including the first record label that we signed to, put attention on the band that definitely wasn’t there before. It was exciting.”
The band went on to receive repeated national press and TV exposure, including many appearances on late night TV talk shows. The group made another appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno last week.
“It’s a privilege to play the late-night shows,” Gispert said.
The Whigs made their third appearance on Late Show with David Letterman in September.
“That’s a lot, because we’re not a huge band,” Gispert said of the Letterman spots. “It’s just so exciting. I loved that stuff growing up. When I was obsessing over music, pre-YouTube days, I always taped the musical guests. It’s weird to be on the other end of that. The stage of The Ed Sullivan Theater is like sacred ground.”