Inquiring Minds

Georgia Rockers the Whigs Uphold Hometown's Vibrant Legacy

There is one thing that rock trio the Whigs would like the general music public to know: the Athens, Ga.-based group has nothing to do with the '80s/'90s (and since-reunited) alt-rock band of a similar name, albeit with the addition of a certain well-known central/south Asian country in the moniker.

"We understand that the Afghan Whigs are well-respected, but coming up with our name was just a coincidence. And even that just came from the suggestion we call ourselves just The Wigs," says drummer Julian Dorio. "And they were [inactive] at the time. It hasn't caused problems. Although maybe the confusion is just starting!"

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Dorio, along with singer/guitarist Parker Gispert and bassist Timothy Deaux, aren't likely to confuse listeners either. The trio's latest release, the vibrant, punchy, and hook-laden Modern Creation (New West), sounds nothing like the other group.

The Whigs formed when three University of Georgia students -- Dorio, Gispert, and original bassist Hank Sullivant -- got together in the musically rich town that has also nurtured R.E.M. and many others. Their first record was 2005's Give 'Em All a Big Fat Lip.

Sullivant left in 2006 to tour with MGMT and then pursue his solo project, Kuroma. Deaux came onboard two years later. Modern Creation is their fifth record, but one they had a specific goal in mind for when they entered the studio with producer Jim Scott.

"We wanted to make this one as live as possible, and not just piecing it together to make it sound like we played in the same room together at the same time," Dorio offers.

"There's nothing wrong with [overdubs] at all, and even we have a couple in there. But we're a live band, and wanted to capture that as much as possible. At the core, we wanted to try and count off the song in the room and just nail it."

Catchy rock numbers like "Asking Strangers for Directions," "Friday Night" and "I Couldn't Lie" permeate the record. Lead-off single "Hit Me" even had a funny video (and the band performed the number on The Late Show With David Letterman). But it's Dorio's inventive drumming that actually leaps out of the speakers, an anomaly for a lot of bands. The observation surprises even him.

"My job as a drummer is to serve the song. And if it calls for playing that's more involved or complicated, yeah, that might catch more people's attention. But sometimes it just means playing a simple beat. Or not playing at all!" Dorio laughs.

He also give credit to Scott for the end result of Modern Creation, noting that his vision was both in sync with the band's, and his skill behind the board helped the overall sound and environment of the recording. And while he notes that drums serve mostly as a backing instrument in pop music, with rock they can absolutely move more to the forefront.

"All the great drummers from decades past, you wouldn't consider them being in the shadows at all because they made such an impact on the songs," Dorio says.

Story continues on the next page.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero