HomeInterviewsSXSW Artist Spotlight: W.H. Lung

SXSW Artist Spotlight: W.H. Lung

A band that turns every SXSW gig into a rip-roaring dance party is one to watch. W.H. Lung is that band.

Named after an Asian supermarket in their hometown of Manchester, England, W.H. Lung started in 2017 as a studio-based trio: singer Joe Evans, multi-instrumentalist Tom Sharkett, and bassist Tom Derbyshire. After Derbyshire’s departure, Alex Main joined on drums, along with Hannah Peace on vocals & synths, and Chris Mulligan on bass & synths.

The five-piece dance-rock band played seven gigs during SXSW last week. 360°Sound had a chance to catch their show at the East Austin venue Hotel Vegas on March 17. The next day, we spoke with Evans, the frontman, about the band’s high-energy show, their new album Vanities, Manchester’s rich musical history, and more.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

360°Sound: I enjoyed the show last night at Hotel Vegas. It was a super energetic set, and the crowd was loving it. You looked like you were having a lot of fun up there.

Joe Evans: Yeah, it was great. It was a really great crowd. You make an offer in Texas, the Austin crowd picks it up and rolls with it. It was a pleasure.

Is this your first time in the U.S.?

First time in the states, yeah. I’ve been wide-eyed and enjoying the views. [Austin] is an amazing city, the people are great, such a nice vibe. I’ve really enjoyed being here.

Tell us a bit about the band’s background and how it came to be.

In 2017, we were writing music as a three-piece and then we needed a band to perform the songs live. That started a journey that resulted in this life I’m happy with now. It’s very tight, a real good unit. For this last album [Vanities], the songwriting was me and Tom, the guitarist in the band. We then started the task of playing live as a band.

The live sound I believe is a little bit different from the recorded music. It has to be. Every band is a cover band of their own tunes, aren’t they? I like seeing it as two different things. I think it’s working very well so far.

Is there a song that’s especially fun to perform live?

I love playing the last two, “Showstopper” and “Inspiration.” It’s so fun; it gets the party going. I think everyone is in the mood for them. It’s the end of the set and everyone is just letting loose. We do interesting things with those songs when we play them live. I love playing the whole thing because it’s different every time we do it.

On the first album, Incidental Music, the songs were longer. I understand on Vanities, the second album, you wanted songs that were more immediately catchy, grabbing the listener right away.

The first album was kind of an exploration. We recorded with a guy named Matt Peel in Leeds, [England], and he had loads of synths. The first album is just exploring synths, really, making lush landscape music and going on for ages with a groove we were enjoying.

[Vanities] we wrote in the spirit of dance music. We wanted to make an album that harked back to the nights out that we were missing during the lockdown. We knew we wanted to make a dance music record. I guess the more instant and immediate songs come from that ethos and that intention.

As someone who’s never been to England, when I think of Manchester, I think of bands like The Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, and the Madchester scene in the late ‘80s. Have you been inspired by the city’s rich music history?

Of course. I think if I weren’t from the city we’d still be inspired by those bands, but it’s been a privilege to be from the same city as them. It’s really exciting. They certainly were a big influence on us when we started the band, and it’s kind of unavoidable that they continue to be so.

I think any band that comes from Manchester there’s going to be all the associations. It’s not necessarily that you’re compared to them, but you’re definitely in a particular geographical location, and it’s going to be commented on. I guess it’s just about finding satisfaction in that rather than letting it intimidate you in any way. Just like how New Order grew from Joy Division, there’s a journey. It’s about finding where you’re from and being proud of it and then doing your own thing.

What’s the scene like in Manchester today?

It’s great. We were particularly inspired by the dance music culture in Manchester. We always shout out The White Hotel as a venue. There’s a really good electronic music scene in Manchester that is very vibrant and collaborative and nice to put on and everyone is welcome. It’s a really nice scene to be a part of just in terms of the night culture and going out there.

Your dance moves on stage are quite athletic. I was wondering if you took dance or grew up playing sports.

I played sport when I was a kid. I do a lot of yoga and stuff now so maybe that’s feeding into it. I kind of just let myself be taken with the energy of the moment. I was just having a great time [at Hotel Vegas], really enjoying myself. I kind of just do whatever my body allows me to do in the moment. Dancing with people, that’s what it’s all about, sharing the moment with somebody.

What can we expect from W.H. Lung in the coming months?

We’re just so happy to be in America. We really hope that we can get across here soon and explore more of the country. We’ve found the audiences to be wonderful. We want to share our music with more people around Texas and outside of Texas. To be here is wonderful, [SXSW] is great, the people and the city are great. We just gotta keep our fingers crossed that the visa situation works out [laughs] and hopefully, next summer we’ll come back over here.

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