The road to White Lung’s upcoming third album began with some major changes for the Canadian noise-punks. A little over a year after their tremulous and terrifying 2012 release, Sorry, vocalist Mish Way, guitarist Kenny William, and drummer Anne-Marie Vassiliou cut ties with bassist Grady Mackintosh. Not long after that, Way ditched the ex-quartet’s hometown of Vancouver to settle into Los Angeles’ warmer climates. For a less dedicated band, such upheaval would mark a crisis, but for White Lung, says Way, it just sparked a new way of working.
“For us, it had always been four people sitting in a jam space banging out and screaming out a song,” she says over the phone. “I’d write my lyrics on the spot. It wasn’t like that [for this record].”
Though the first half of the band’s new LP was recorded while Way was still living in Vancouver, the rest was completed long-distance. “Kenny would send me a demo he made on his computer with a guitar and a bass part and a crappy idea of what Anne-Marie’s drumming might sound like,” Way explains. “I’d work on a vocal part and then I’d share it back.”
Correspondence songwriting is nothing new, but the frontwoman says that the distance helped the trio hone the brief, serpentine blasts of high-strung punk that make up Deep Fantasy, which is out June 17 via Domino. “With all this space and time away from each other,” Way says, “I had a lot more time to make sure that in those two minutes and fifteen seconds of this song I was saying exactly what I wanted to say in exactly the right way.”
What she has to say comes through loud and clear. Due in part to Way’s more restrained and relaxed melodies (and to the fresh polish applied by producer Jesse Gander, who also handled Sorry), the heavy concerns of Deep Fantasy hit with the density they deserve. In the past, Way’s lyrics have meditated on the interpersonal power struggles that dominate modern society; those themes were once muddled by lyrical abstraction and sonic muddiness, but now they’re planted in the foreground.
“Everything in this world is about [power], whether it’s just a simple thing like losing love from someone to losing everything you own,” Way says. “Everything is about trying to find out your own personal power and where you stand.”
For a quick lesson on how the band’s newfound clarity underscores their emotional content, consult “Drown With the Monster,” the forthcoming album’s opening salvo. Way shrieks about kicking — or, rather, drowning — habits and William’s Wire-y, pointillist guitar leads unravel in the few spaces she leaves empty. It’s a dynamic at work throughout the entire album, one that gives the 10-track set the same sort of erratic pulse that powered the group’s past efforts, just without any extraneous screaming or teeth-gnashing.
“You know those stupid games they have for children where you have a rectangle and you can’t just jam a square in there?” Way asks as she’s describing White Lung’s newly streamlined sound. “On all our old records, I was forcing a square into a rectangle and this record I finally figured out how to use the right shape.”