Hot blood and cold fury fuel White Lung, a punk quartet from Vancouver. Formed in 2006, they were a core member of Vancouver’s infamous Emergency Room, the DIY venue that began in an underground parkade at Emily Carr and soon moved upwards, if only in altitude, into a former fish processing plant on the Downtown Eastside.
The Emergency Room became a haven for experimental art of all kinds, but especially for all things loud, dark and angry (and white as their lungs may be, this band’s sound is pitch black). It was here, among the gutters, addicts and derelict hotels, that Vancouver’s DIY lo-fi spirit was reborn, thanks in no small part to passionate acts like White Lung, whose harsh tones reflect that place: a societal battlefield rife with injustice and hopelessness and rage.
Tall and slender with platinum hair, singer Mish Way seems willowy until she releases her banshee howl, wailing vocals taut with anger, her lyrics equal part warning sign and threat. Kenneth Williams tears notes from the strings of his guitar, at times piercingly high, frantic and keening, at others chugging low, black and murky, but always at a staggering pace. Grady Mackintosh anchors Williams’s guitar lines with equally sinister ones on bass, and Anne-Marie Vassilou won’t be content until she splinters her drum kit. Together these four swirl each song into a musical maelstrom.
With each release they’ve only grown in intensity, from their debut single in 2007, Local Garbage, to their first LP, the eponymous White Lung in 2010, straight through to their latest: a ten-track blitzkrieg released May 2012 and called Sorry.
They approach each show with flash fire intensity that all but scorches the stage. Fitting that White Lung came from the Emergency Room, because they play each song with the haphazard urgency of a midnight ambulance race, careening around lonely street corners, bloody and disoriented, unsure whether they’ll make it in time but knowing damn well they won’t go quietly.