Mish Barber-Way: Flour Power

July 17th, 2017 | Category: Interviews

An energetic and angsty mix of hard rock and post-punk, Vancouver’s White Lung sounds like a well choreographed fist-fight between, say, Girlschool and Fuzzbox. The tense fusion of Mish Barber-Way‘s vocals and Kenneth William’s guitar-work sounds like no other band you’ve heard, and it makes for downright unforgettable songs. With four records released in six years, White Lung is as prolific as their songs are fast. The latest, Paradise (Domino, 2016), is stunningly seductive.

Even so, White Lung is only one arm of Barber-Way’s full-frontal haranguing of hegemony. As a Senior Editor at Penthouse, Barber-Way writes about things other folks don’t dare talk about. The taboo is her regular beat — in print and in song.

Roy Christopher: How did you end up on your current path?

Mish Barber-Way: Here’s where I’m at in my path right now: I am sitting at work in my office at Penthouse. I am on a tour break. I am not thinking about music. You know how I got to California? Because I was bored in my hometown of Vancouver. I had hit a ceiling as far as my writing career. Vancouver is a small-town masquerading as a big city. I just decided I was going to move to Los Angeles, and I told everyone I was leaving December 30, so I had to be held accountable. And I did it.

But you mean how did I become a singer in a band? I have been musician and a showboat since I was a child and got to know my id. I would sit in front of the mirror and watch myself shaking my hair around. I had one of those Playskool radios with a microphone attachment. I recorded myself hosting fake radio shows with my best friend. When we got older, we put on plays and imitated Madonna. During my childhood, I was a committed figure skater and dancer. That was my life. Everything. I was very self-disciplined and meticulous. I was extremely competitive and hard on myself. Then, I became a teenager, discovered punk and started learning guitar. I moved out young. I started a band called White Lung with my best friend, Anne-Marie Vassiliou. I finished my university education, but it took me so long because I had to work a few jobs to pay my way. I always liked writing. I knew I wanted to write. I did the thing anyone else does to get what they want: hustled my ass. I worked for free. I did internships and busted my butt at shitty night jobs. I worked hard and tried to learn. Along the way, I found my voice.

RC: Did you start as more of a writer or a musician?

MBW: I had been working towards both of these careers equally. The difference is that with music, I never expected to make money from it. I played in a band because I loved making music, and all my friends were in bands and that was our livelihood, not my bread and butter. When White Lung is writing an album, the lyrics are the most important thing to me. Of course, I want to make great choruses, and melodies, but the lyrics are my main concern. In that sense, I am more of a writer. I want to write a book soon.

RC: You write about topics most people don’t talk about. Do you think that if we talk often, openly, and loudly about sex and drugs, attitudes about them will change?

MBW: I wrote about those things mostly to keep myself in check. This interview I did explains it well. The confessional style of writing has become the it girl. Every girl and their tampon talks about fucking and drugs. It went mainstream with Elizabeth Wurtzel, and it ended with Cat Marnell. I did it because I grew up reading writers and lyricists who wrote like that. I thought it was the only way. I like confessional, bleeding-heart bullshit or heavy academic research. I like history. Women writers are all the rage right now! Feminism has gone mainstream. Feminism has gone mainstream. I am not entirely interested in identifying myself with this fourth wave movement, or really with any group. I just want to be treated as an individual. I am a feminist on my terms, not what is the popular rhetoric of millennials. Much of today’s online feminism takes no personal responsibility. It demands equality, while asking for special treatment. It calls masculinity “toxic,” which I disagree with for many reasons. It blames society, capitalism and the patriarchy for all women’s unhappiness, to which I also I disagree. While there is a lot of power and positivity in current feminism, I also find it fails to see the big picture. The older I get the more I want to live in the country and disappear. The world is way too noisy.

RC: I recently painted a mural part of which depicted a skateboarding woman. I got shit for the fact that she was white. It struck me as odd that no one commented that it was a woman — not a dude — just that she was white. So, when the revolution comes, will there be a place for white women?

MBW: What revolution?

You should be allowed to paint whatever ethnicity you want. People are insatiable! They are never satisfied. Look at Mattel, and the Barbie make-over. Women have been complaining about Barbie’s impossible portions for decades. So, Mattel buckles under the pressure of the buyers and makes a whole new set of Barbie dolls of all ethnicities, shapes and sizes, and people still complained. It wasn’t enough. We are in a very, very special time in history.

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