Modern music has in some ways become a victim of its own eclecticism. Genres have begat sub-genres, which have begat sub-sub-genres. It never ends. A recent review on Pitchfork.com referred to a band’s journey from “psych-folk recording project to top-billed digi-pop tweakers.”
That sound you hear is Parker Gispert sighing. He sings and writes songs for The Whigs, a rock band out of Athens, Ga., that resists hyphens.
“ ‘Normal rock’ is the term that I find myself using a lot, which is not a good catch-phrase,” he said, beginning to laugh.
“I think it’s borne out of situations like being on a plane, or eating food, and the waitress will say, ‘You guys look like you’re in a band. What kind of music is it?’ We’ll say, ‘Rock.’ ‘Well, is it punk rock?’ ‘No.’ ‘Heavy metal?’ ‘No.’ ‘Indie-rock?’ ‘Not really. It’s just normal rock.’ ”
Which, in many cases, is the best kind of rock. The Whigs, which perform Friday at Headliners Music Hall, rose out of Athens in the early 2000s and was quickly lumped into the briefly lived garage-rock revival, along with bands such as the Hives, Vines and White Stripes. Gispert said that he never agreed, hearing little similarity beyond the use of guitar, bass and drums.
The Whigs release their fourth album Tuesday, called “Enjoy the Company,” and it strikes another blow for normal rock. The band’s modest magic is in how it bends the sonically familiar into vital new songs, a gift shared with all good bands but not one that necessitates a sub-genre.
“I love when you meet somebody new but they feel really familiar to you,” Gispert said, “and I like songs that when you look into them you realize that it’s built out of old parts but you can’t pinpoint exactly what it sounds like. It just feels comfortable, like it’s been there.”
Nearly from the beginning, The Whigs drew attention. The original lineup of Gispart, Julian Dorio and Hank Sullivant formed while attending the University of Georgia, seduced by Athens’ long history of rock ’n’ roll. The band hit the road early and often, garnering major-label interest, but chose to record and release its debut, 2005’s “Give ’Em All a Big Fat Lip,” independently.
ATO Records, home of Louisville’s My Morning Jacket, then came calling and The Whigs signed (they’ve since moved to New West Records). Sullivant left shortly after, eventually replaced by Timothy Deaux, and the band has since released “Mission Control” (2008), “In the Dark” (2010) and now “Enjoy the Company.”
Gispert said that the band tries to rethink its sound with each record. The songs on this one are a bit more reflective, he said, and he ditched all delay and tremelo pedals to change up the sonics. It’s clearly still The Whigs, which is obvious the moment you hear the vintage chug and release of “Waiting.”
But there’s also “Staying Alive,” a miniature eight-minute epic that opens the album with a grand flourish that includes a woozy horn section that drives the song down a side road ultimately leading to a shack filled with meth-head guitar players intent on shredding.
“I like albums that lead off with a strong track like that,” Gispert said. “Length aside, I just felt really good about the song, and it really made the album come together. We wanted to make a record that wasn’t 2012. We wanted to make something that would age well and wouldn’t fit in with a lot of stuff being made now.”
The band’s guest-list will get worn out tonight. It has made a lot of friends in Louisville, especially in Wax Fang, a band it has toured with off and on since 2007. Dorio even performed with Wax Fang at the Forecastle Festival, and is roommates with Wax Fang’s manager, Corey McAfee.
“We’ve met a lot of people in Louisville over the years,” Gispert said. “Louisville has a similar mentality to Athens that I can’t really pinpoint, but it has a lot of like-minded people. It’s always been a welcoming place for The Whigs.”