The Whigs’ Parker Gispert is scheduled to play concert two of his three-show residency at Eddie’s Attic on February 3rd (with Matthew Pendrick of Slow Parade). He’s been working on the chance to play solo at a few Atlanta venues that haven’t had the pleasure of hosting The Whigs, yet.
Well now, Eddie’s Attic can add Parker Gispert’s singer-songwriter vocals to their ever-expanding repertoire. I caught up with him for the chance to discuss The Whigs’ beginnings as an Athens-based band, what life is like touring as a solo artist, and, of course, what’s next? – Interviewer: Jena Stephens
JS: I want to hear about what got you started in music and playing guitar?
PG: I had an older brother who had an electric guitar and… maybe, when I was in 6th grade, I started playing his. We had a chorus concert and I was doing Happy Together by The Turtles and there were no instruments, just singing. The guy in the grade above me was doing a Bob Dylan song and I thought that seemed way cooler than just singing, so I started playing my brother’s guitar and went from there.
JS: Oh, that’s really interesting, actually! So you started music pretty young?
PG: [laughs]Yeah, I thought I started kind of late though, like when I started in 7th grade, it felt like a lot of people were playing at the time.
JS: Was that in Athens? I know your band started there, but I didn’t know if you grew up there.
PG: No, no that was in Atlanta. I grew up in Atlanta and went to college in Athens, and then went to UGA and lived in Athens for 10 years after that.
JS: What was it like being in a band who got started in Athens?
PG: Well, I was out of my parents house for the first time and I was starting college, which is an exciting time. Julian, our drummer, and I had gone to the same junior high and high school. It was fun! It was just our friends coming to the shows at first… lots of rehearsal, lots of practice time, just trying to figure out what the band was trying to sound like. It was an artistically free, fun time.
JS: Yeah, I bet! Especially playing in that part of town.
JS: So, what was it that made you want to go solo?
PG: You know, I really didn’t even think about it, to be honest. Hopefully, there’s a lot to come still for the band, it was more something that, working with a group, in terms of touring… I just wanted to stay on stage and I didn’t want to blink and have too much time go by where I’m not playing shows. I thought it would help me sing better, it would help me from a song-writing perspective; it would make songs stronger at the core and it would give me a chance to react with the audience in a different way.
I also thought that I would get to play a lot of rooms that the band didn’t play… like Eddie’s for instance! The band has never played there and we’ve played in Atlanta for years. So, I thought it would give me a chance to get in front of audiences that the band didn’t get in front of. So, it’s just a different way to develop [laughs].
JS: Would you say you like that more, the intimate style, or that it’s just different?
PG: Yeah, it’s just different! It’s just different.
JS: So, I know you recently sold out two performances at Aisle 5 and I was wondering how that compares to the intimate atmosphere that is Eddie’s?
PG: Well, in the band, I don’t really talk that much… I’m a big fan of the Ramones or rock bands that just blitz through their set. I like the pacing of that and I think it fits the aesthetic of the rock band best. When I’m playing by myself, I take a minute in between songs, I talk about the song, I can maybe say something about when I was writing it… I’m a little bit more liberated to fill in the gaps in between with a story or some insight [to the song]. I think it’s interesting for the audience and for myself because I probably wouldn’t have taken a moment to think of [a lot of it]had I not been presented with the forum to speak about that stuff.
It’s cool for me and it’s cool for the audience.
JS: Yeah, definitely, it gives you a chance to connect with them, I would think.
PG: Yeah… yeah! And you’re connecting in a different way with the rock band, you know? That’s the thing, just kind of riffing through the song gives you the best connection. I feel like when I’m up there talking in the rock band, it almost takes away from the pace of the delivery of that music.
JS: Yeah! I would say they’re both great in their own right.
PG: Totally! Totally.
JS: So, I was wondering, one of the songs I last heard you perform in January reminded me a lot of Third Eye Blind’s Motorcycle Drive By.
JS: [Laughs] Do you know that tune? A lot of people don’t because it’s not one of their [biggest hits].
PG: Oh yeah, I know that song!
JS: You reminded me a lot of it, it’s one of my favorite songs. I was wondering if you had any musical influences by them or, if not, who yours were?
PG: [Laughs] Yeah, no I actually know that album really well! That album came out when I was in junior high school and I was in a phase where I was listening to a lot of heavy music… like Sepultura and Pantera. The Nirvana stuff was on the radio and my older brother had started listening to Pavement, maybe some Built to Spill, and I just remember thinking how similar it all was; like the structures of the Third Eye Blind songs were similar to the structures of the Pavement songs. They were both pop-rock, just delivered, and produced, and conceived in different headspaces, but I appreciated them both.
I recognized the demographic of Pavement fans and that scene, as well as more of the mainstream radio, and that scene. Third Eye Blind, I just enjoyed them both and it made me smile a little bit, realizing how musically similar it all is. Like, Third Eye’s Semi-Charmed Life has a line [sings]‘Goodbye’ that is similar to a Dinosaur Jr. line and I don’t think people would usually put them in the same category, but a lot of that stuff was lining up for me.
Plus, yeah, I like that song, Motorcycle Drive By [laughs].
JS: Tell us about the vibe that you want to put out in your solo shows? I know you’re connecting with your audience; was that more on a listening room or up-[beat]scale?
PG: I definitely play to the audience, I’ll say that! I think it’s more listening room, chilled out, vibes. Slow, quieter.
JS: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you when you’ve been touring?
PG: Ummm… I don’t know. I get asked that a lot, that question, and I really don’t know!
JS: Nothing crazy? You should be sure to have a crazy time next time you come back here in February so that next time that’s asked, you can tell people the crazy thing that happened.
PG: Okay cool, all right that’s the goal!
JS: And what about, as far as the solo career is going, are you planning on putting out an album? Where’s the solo career going from here?
PG: It’s funny, I never really imagined having a solo career. I realize when I’m up there playing on a stage, that’s under my name… and I still don’t know if I should come up with a name or use my own name… it was more just born out of the headspace of just wanting to develop the songs at their core, challenge myself as a singer, challenge myself as a song-writer, challenge myself as a performer to grow. I haven’t really conceived if I want to put out an album or any of that stuff. My first priority right now is to finish this [The] Whigs album, which we have nine songs for. I’d really like to write five, six, seven [more]… I’m working on songs for that. And when I’m playing at the solos shows, it’s a song I’m working on for The Whigs’ record.
JS: Yeah! Well that’s definitely not a bad thing, it seems like you’re pretty happy with the way both paths are going.
Parker’s down-to-earth demeanor gives audiences the vibe that he’s connecting with them on a personal level. Be sure to catch him at Eddie’s Attic, with Slow Parade’s Matthew Pendrick, on February 3rd and with City Mouse’s Brian Revels on March 2nd. Check out more of his music at www.thewhigs.com.
Also, check back with Open Ears Music for a post-show review after February 3rd!