Interview with White Lung’s Mish Way

White Lung
We had our first show, and we didn’t have a name. I had all these terrible names that I was playing around with, but naming a band is hard! We didn’t want to have a “The” name, we didn’t want to have anything too gendered because at the time we were all girls.

White Lung w. Gluestick, Nerv, Slut River | Gabe’s | April 3

“How the fuck is your nickname Mish?”

This was not only the first thought I had when finding out the singer of White Lung’s name, Mish Way, but also the first thing she asked me when I told her that I am also a Melissa who goes by the nickname Mish.

It’s quite possible we both could have talked about all of the elements that make this coincidence strange, but we moved on to matters that more than just the two of us would care about, such as discussing White Lung’s upcoming appearance as part of the Mission Creek Festival on Wednesday, April 3, at Gabe’s (with Slut River, Nerv and Gluestick).

Little Village: Your band is often described as a ‘feminist punk band.’ Do you actively try to weave feminist messages into your lyrics? Do all the members in the band share those politics?

Mish Way: I’m a feminist. That’s what my academia is in, although I have been a feminist since I was young. My bandmates are feminists, but it’s not something we really discuss. We aren’t consciously trying to be a political band at all. I talk about feminism because it’s a huge part of my life, but if you read my lyrics, it’s not blatant or very literal. But I also think it’s important to declare my feminism and be proud of it. You know, people are so scared about words … We act a certain way on stage, are feminists and then it’s like ‘boom,’ Riot Grrrl stamp no matter what. People have to put you into some kind of box so they can figure it out.

LV: Considering the masculinized history of punk music, I wondered if you get any pushback for having feminist messages weaved throughout your songs?

MW: I never really experienced that much sexism in punk. Being a waitress was way worse. So, no, I haven’t experienced any negativity from it.

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I guess just based on my own involvement in music, and exchanging experiences with female friends in punk and garage bands, I know a lot of women still get ‘mansplained’ to in terms of their equipment, songwriting, playing ability …

MW: Oh yeah, or with like sound guys or when you go into a music store. They are like dangerous nerds … They are old, they’ve been there for like 75 years, and maybe they’re pissed off. Although I’d be pissed off, too, dealing with brats all the time. Luckily, I don’t experience it too much as the singer, but I totally know what you mean.

LV: How did White Lung start? Did you know each other beforehand and decide to start a band?

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MW: I was in some really bad bands … not serious bands, one with my ex-boyfriend. So, I was playing guitar and kept thinking, ‘I really want to start my own band.’ Then I met Anne-Marie, our drummer, and we became really fast best friends. She is like the only person in the world who really understands my crazy and we get each other. Then we met our bass player, Grady, from playing around the [Vancouver] area. It wasn’t a conscious thing to start a girl band though. Later, we met Kenny and he’s the one that inspired us to start touring because before we just played locally. It takes a special guy to tour with three women that are older than him, and cranky. He puts up with a lot of shit. Or maybe it works in his favor?

LV: This might be dense, but what does White Lung mean? Or what’s the story behind picking that to represent you?

MW: We had our first show, and we didn’t have a name. I had all these terrible names that I was playing around with, but naming a band is hard! We didn’t want to have a “The” name, we didn’t want to have anything too gendered because at the time we were all girls. Our friend Steven, who plays in the band Vapid was working at a bakery and white lung is a slang term for a condition that bakers get when they get flour in their lungs … I liked that idea because it’s gross, but it seems pure. I mean, basically, we needed a name to put on a show poster and then we just went with it.

LV: You mentioned before the way people automatically connect you to the Riot Grrrl movement, but what current bands do you see White Lung as forming, like, a ‘scene’ with?

MW: On this coming up tour, which starts on Tuesday, we are playing with Merchandise from Tampa Bay, and they are definitely one of my current favorite bands. Carson Cox, their singer, is incredible! I love them, and they just got a new drummer and their set is just wild now. There is also a band from Vancouver, White Poppy, that this girl Crystal Dorval does. She’s like this one-woman project, you should check it out! Her album, I Had a Dream, is absolutely incredible, she loops everything and it’s this sludgy, crazy mess … There’s a lot of great things going on right now, to go on a tour and actually be really excited to be playing with these bands is great.

In talking specifically about White Lung’s show in Iowa City, Mish expressed a lot of enthusiasm for getting to play again with Slut River.

MW: I love Slut River! We played with them last year in Omaha, and they’re so cool! I love An(n)a, she has such a great voice, she is so badass. I’m really excited to see them again, it’ll be fun, it’ll be a great show.

We ended the conversation by mutually geeking out again over the coincidence of our names, making me doubly excited, not only for what will be an awesome show, of course, but also for meeting a fellow Mish for the first time.

When Melissa/Mish isn’t writing about TV or other random things for Little Village, she is also a host of The Fuzz Fix, which airs on Thursdays from 7-8 p.m. on KRUI 89.7 FM.