Early into Modern Creation, the fifth album by The Whigs in less than nine years, sits the tune Asking Strangers for Directions. Armed with a guitar charge that plows along with the assuredness of a 1970s Thin Lizzy record, the song offers the intriguing prospect of a journeyman seeking navigation from a stranger, even though he knows how to reach his destination.
"I'll pretty much take anything I can get as an inspiration for a song," says Whigs guitarist and vocalist Parker Gispert. "With that track, I had the title first. I just thought that was a cool concept people could relate to — specifically, asking someone where you're going when you already know. But maybe you're asking them to make sure. Either way, it's pretty weird you would take their advice on where to go even though you don't know this person from a hole in the wall. You don't know if they have any idea of where they're going. I just thought that concept was a cool thematic base for a song."
A little more than 12 years into its career, The Whigs, born in Athens, Ga., knows where it is going. On the national front, the trio — rounded out by bassist Timothy Deaux and drummer Julian Dorio — has toured with such heavyweights as Kings of Leon, Drive-By Truckers and, most recently, Social Distortion. Backing up such road work has been a prolific string of albums rooted in power trio pop but fortified with all the gusto of an ornery garage rock troupe. Lexington audiences, though, have seen The Whigs grow, mature and rebel through repeated club appearances. Gispert is gratified by the relationship.
"I still miss The Dame," he says of the long demolished and defunct incarnations of the Main Street venue that introduced the band to Lexington.
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Modern Creation, out since April, is simply the next step in that evolution, while a headlining gig Saturday at Cosmic Charlie's should strengthen its bond with Central Kentucky.
"Right as we finished our last record (2012's Enjoy the Company), our first thought was to make an album we could perform live in the studio," Gispert says. "That was the inspiration and that was what guided the songwriting process. We didn't want to lean on a horn line or lean on any outside instrumentation or too many overdubs to make the songs pop off the speakers.
"As a result, it's been a really fun album to play on the road. The sonics are super conducive to the live show atmosphere. That's a nice thing for a band when you don't have to worry about choosing a new arrangement for a song or how you're going to pull a certain tune off live. The infrastructures of the jams are built to be played live, so it's been really easy to translate them in a live setting."
Best of all, the blend of guitar rock abandon and schooled pop composition — a balance that has long distinguished The Whigs from many of its contemporaries — remains intact.
"I think our favorite bands, the classic influences that everybody will name like The Beatles or The Kinks or The Stones, were really good at gathering a wide array of influences and translating them through the guise of a pop," Gispert says. "What we try to do is be influenced by all sorts of things, but then process it all through a traditional songwriting structure. It lets us bring something that's easily translatable to the audience and present it with a more abstract lyric or concept."
Gispert adds that the trio hopes to have another album written, recorded and released by this time next year. Guess that means there still is plenty of wide-open territory left between rock and pop borderlines for The Whigs to explore.
"Oh, yeah," he says. "We haven't hit a wall yet."