The Whigs: Interview with Julian Dorio: Three Ring Circus

The Whigs were named perhaps the best unsigned band in America by Rolling Stone, have released two albums with Dave Matthews’ ATO Records, and spent the past year zigzagging across the United States while touring with Kings Of Leon—and you’ve probably still never heard of them.

The band’s been playing the kind of rock you can hear seeping through the cracks of your talented neighbor’s garage door—the beautiful noise of dirty guitars, hard drumming and gripping bass lines—since 2002. In the SAE fraternity house located in the band’s hometown of Athens, Georgia, the group—comprised of guitarist/vocalist Parker Gispert, drummer Julian Dorio and bassist Hank Sullivant—used gear they purchased off of eBay to record Give ‘Em All A Big Fat Lip independently in 2005. The album caught the ears of reps at ATO Records, who signed the band and re-released the debut in 2006. Also in the same year, Sullivant departed ways with The Whigs, leaving the band without a bassist for nearly two years.

Mission Control, the band’s second album, was released in 2008. Since then, The Whigs added bassist Tim Deaux and have had a non-stop touring schedule, performing with such acts as Tokyo Police Club, Toadies, Dead Confederate and The Kooks.

“We’re like a circus,“ said Esquire Magazine’s “Drummer Of The Year” Julian Dorio as he and his band mates made their way to a Vegas performance. He took some time out of his schedule to speak with The Aquarian Weekly about the band’s yet-to-be-released third album, being on edge at David Letterman, and trying to maintain relationships while following a dream.

The new album, In The Dark, is set to come out in 2010. Has the release date been set yet?

Actually, I think as of this morning—so this interview is in good time—I think March 2 is the release date.

The Whigs have performed some of the new tracks off of the album while touring. What kind of physical responses have you gotten from the audience while looking out at the crowd and playing these songs?

We have a little experience in the past obviously putting out other records and performing songs and stuff that people aren’t really familiar with. This time around, even if [the audience doesn’t] know them or know the lyrics or anything like that, they seem to get into it. Some of the cities that we’ve gone back to, people are kind of hostile. They want to hear something that’s not released yet. So hopefully, it’s catching on a bit.

Is it a little nerve-wracking when you play a song for the first time in front of fans?

It’s not so bad. But it depends, yeah. It can be a little uncomfortable. There’s a good and bad side of that. We’re definitely not as rehearsed on some of the new ones. They’re not quite second nature like the older songs. But at the same time, there’s a sort of fresh quality that can be cool. You play it like it’s brand new. Sometimes, it’s good not to know it like the back of your hand.

Every band has a songwriting process. Take me through that process for one of the tracks off of the new album.

Something that was new for this album was that Tim, our bass player, and I actually started a lot of the songs on drums and bass and sort of took an opposite approach where we would write drum lines and bass lines all the way through. You know, basically an entire song, and then presented that to Parker and created a song and created a vibe that he could react to. In the past, if he was writing something, he would bring it to us and we would react and write our parts to that. So, we thought it would be a cool approach to reverse that.

For instance, a song like ‘In The Dark,’ which is the title track on the album—well, this happened with a lot of the songs—but Tim and I would sit there without Parker and just start working on ideas and we would record ideas, and build a verse and build a chorus, and build a bridge and build an intro, all this kind of stuff, sort of arrange the tune. We would go to our practice space and we would play together and work on it until we felt like it was something we were into. Then we would call Parker and bring him down and say, ‘Why don’t you react and listen to what this is.’ We would play it all the way through and he’d start playing on top of that. Either he’d start playing guitar or he’d start singing immediately. So it was a little backwards I think from what most rock bands do, but we really enjoy it.