I'M ON THE PHONE with Mish Way. It's early. We're both a little hungover. We're doing an interview, ostensibly, but we end up mostly shooting the shit. Her band had a show in Seattle the night before that they had to cancel due to visa issues. I tell her that, the night before, I watched Bruce Springsteen—who probably never has visa issues—crowd surf halfway across the Rose Garden floor. She tells me a story about Coolio stage diving at some show in England: The crowd let him hit the ground, he knocked himself out, and everyone in the audience promptly robbed him. I bet that never happens to Bruce, either.
Way's a music writer, like me, but she's infinitely cooler than me: She's the singer for White Lung, the Canadian band that's one of the most visible exports of the punk scene that revolved around Vancouver's fabled Emergency Room venue. Listening to the four-piece's second record, Sorry, it's tough to explain what differentiates it from other fast, heavy, aggressive punk rock—other than the fact that it's great. There's explosive anger, but it's perfectly channeled into two-minute bursts of dynamite. Not a single ounce of energy is wasted; every raw, roaring hit lands like a bull's eye.
The sound comes out of full-on collaboration between all four bandmates: Way, guitarist Kenny William, bassist Grady Mackintosh, and drummer Anne-Marie Vassilou. "It's just the way we write together," Way says. "I feel like maybe we all kind of have this anxious, on-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of nervous energy that makes us want to play fast. We just don't know how to write any other way together. That's just what comes out. And it's funny, because we all listen to such a variety of different music and our influences all come from different, eclectic places. I would have never called us really a punk band—which is kind of delusional in my own head that I don't think that. I'm like, oh, it's super melodic! I remember showing someone the song 'Glue' after we wrote it, and I was like, 'Look, I wrote a pop song!' And my friend was like, 'This is not a pop song. Are you stupid?'"
White Lung's 2010 debut album won Canadian music mag Exclaim!'s punk record of the year, but Way says the band has progressed well beyond it in a couple short years. "This is the way I think of it: It's the Evil, our first record, is four people trying to learn how to write songs together. And Sorry is four people that have kind of figured out how to do that. It's a lot more cohesive, the melodies are stronger; it's just a better record, and I think that's natural, because you're supposed to grow and become better as a band and better musicians. I've said this before, but I'm sure when we write our next record, I'll think some of the songs on Sorry are really crappy.
"We didn't want to put any filler songs on this record," continues Way. "We didn't want to just throw a song on because the record should be 25 minutes. We weren't gonna do that. We were like, it's a 19-minute record, and that's fine. We're not gonna put on some song we all think is crap just to make it a little bit longer."