The trio formed in school, earned their degrees and instantly hit the road.
Parker Gispert of bluesy rock ‘n’ roll outfit The Whigs admits that the three-piece has had some luck. The band formed in the college town of Athens, Georgia, found success right out of school, and 10 years later still tours on punchy, anthem-filled records like their 2012 release Enjoy the Company. Its 10 tracks are a storm of distortion and garage-rock noise, always countered by Gispert’s smooth, persuasive croon and a hint of old-school blues.
The Whigs were named one of the “Top 10 Artists to Watch” by Rolling Stone in 2006 and have toured alongside acts like The Kooks, Kings of Leon, and The Black Keys. Just last week, they performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno; tonight, they play Circle Bar.
How has tour been going?
It’s been going well. We had a little bit of a break, and I’d been home for a few days. But yeah, things are good.
What’s it like headlining your own tour versus opening for a bigger band?
We play a little longer when we’re headlining. The venues aren’t as large. We’ve been a band for about 10 years now, which is weird to say. We’ve played just about every kind of show that there is to play - small clubs and big places. It’s nice to have a good, healthy mix of headlining and supporting.
Do you prefer the smaller venues?
It’s a balancing act. You know, you do some of the big shows, and then you’re back in a small club and it’s a little more relatable. It seems more normal; it brings us back to our first shows when we were playing those kinds of clubs. If you have friends in town, you can hang out at the bar and talk to people. You’re not really as isolated as you can be with the big shows. You’re hanging out, and then you’re on stage. A lot of the clubs don’t even have a backstage room.
We’re not a huge band. It’s crazy because we were on Leno last week, and I think it was our ninth time on a late night show. For a band our size, that’s a lot. We’ve had a lot of – for lack of a better term – high profile tours or shows. We’ve done a lot of crazy stuff, but at the core of it, we’re not playing theaters ourselves. We do live in the club-size rooms when we put on shows.
In your ten years as a band, has it ever been difficult to keep up the music writing and the touring?
It’s a natural thing, and I can’t imagine doing anything else at this point. It’s a lot of work, but it doesn’t feel like we’ve been doing it for that long. I was in college for the first few years of the band, and it’s been a nice, natural progression. I don’t feel like we’ve ever had to force it.
Would you consider yourselves a “college band” at the start, then?
The shows we would see and the bands that we were influenced by, they weren’t people who were in school. They were older than us and it wasn’t very “college”-y, creatively for us. But then when we’d go to play shows, we would have kids from our classes come and see us. Even if we would play there today, unlike some place like New Orleans, Athens is predominantly college kids. Probability-wise, you’re going to end up with more college kids than 45-year-old adults. That’s just the make-up of the city. I always thought it was a good balance for us, though. At the end of the day, we were playing at a bar to 19-year-old kids who want to party. There’s an effort to keep it fun, to not sit there and be self-indulgent artistically. You definitely want to relate to the audience and make sure they’re having a good time.
What was the next step for the band after graduation?
We formed in college, and I intended to graduate but was definitely more focused on the band. When we had time on the weekends, we’d get in the van and go to different towns in the Southeast. We’d started touring Charlotte, Birmingham, places in close proximity. On spring break, we’d go to SXSW. By the time we graduated, we’d made our first album. It had gotten a good amount of press. People started to listen to it. We were going to New York and Boston, out of the southeast touring-wise.
This probably sounds really stupid to say this, but our bass player and I literally took our final exam – we were in the same class – and then drove to Atlanta and signed our record deal on that day. The next day, we drove to Milwaukee for Summerfest. And we were on tour immediately. There wasn’t really a transitional time where I’d finished school and had three months or something to say, “What am I going to do?”