Bootleg Theater Presents
Parker Gispert (of The Whigs)
Criminal Hygiene, Thayer Sarrano
2220 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90057
This event is 21 and over
Parker Gispert was still in college when he helped form the Whigs in the early 2000s. But after five critically-acclaimed albums, hundreds of tour dates all over the world with the likes of Kings of Leon, Drive-By Truckers, the Black Keys and many others, and television appearances everywhere from the Late Show with David Letterman to Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the Athens, Georgia-bred rockers decided to pull back on activity in 2017.
Which left Gispert, who had spent the majority of his adult life either in the studio or on the road with the band, at a crossroads.
“It occurred to me that if I wanted to record and tour that I was going to need to do it solo,” the singer, songwriter and guitarist says. “I'd always thought about it in the back of my mind as something that I wanted to do one day, but ‘one day’ had never really come.”
Now, ‘one day’ is here in the form of Sunlight Tonight, Gispert’s debut solo album (produced and mixed by Emery Dobyns). The eight-song effort finds Gispert, known for leading the Whigs through raw and jangly southern-garage rave-ups, taking a decidedly different musical approach—biting electric guitar riffs are cast out in favor of gentle acoustic picking and strumming, and his band mates’ raucous rhythms are traded in for minimal accompaniment that includes light bass and drums, orchestral strings and even trumpet. Gispert’s lyrics, meanwhile, are his most introspective and personal to date (albeit with a bit of humor thrown in here and there) and they’re delivered in a vocal style that finds him pushing out on his range. “I didn't need to project over a band, so I was able to sing in registers I hadn’t really used before, like a lot of high falsetto,” he explains.
The end result showcases a different side of the artist, to be sure. But it’s one that Gispert felt compelled to explore. “A lot of guys from rock bands that go solo, they just hire another bassist and drummer and go make another album,” he says. “I didn’t want to go that route.”
Ultimately, his change in musical direction was helped along by a change in geography. A longtime resident of Nashville (by way of Atlanta, and then Athens), Gispert last year accepted an invitation from a friend to visit his 100-acre hemp farm, located roughly an hour outside Music City. “It was like out of a total time warp,” Gispert recalls of the property. “No heat or AC. No animals. No active crops. Water from a well. It was just, like, a house and a plot of land. I ended up staying there for a year.”
That plot of land was where Sunlight Tonight came into being. “I would wake up early and get my guitar and walk outside and come up with all these songs,” Gispert says. “And without a band to turn to as the deciding factor on, say, a melody or a lyric, I ended up turning to the scenery and the landscape I was dealing with instead. The farm was like my collaborator—it kind
of answered everything for me, as weird as that sounds. And the songs started coming pretty quickly.”
The first one that came is also the one that opens Sunlight Tonight—a psychedelia-laced meditation titled “Through the Canvas.” Built on a bed of acoustic guitar and cello, the song finds Gispert laying out what is essentially a statement of purpose: “Suddenly I got up / Suddenly I could move / shook off all the bullshit that was weighing down my shoes.”
Explains Gispert, “With the Whigs, I had been in that band since I was a teenager. So when that slowed, I found myself in a place where I was almost paralyzed, like, What do I do next? It was just confusing. But that song sums up what happened when I got to the farm. It was like, suddenly I got up, grabbed a guitar, walked down to this big field and...”
Shook off all the bullshit? Gispert laughs. “Yeah. And bullshit was exactly the word to describe it. It was all the worries. All the fear. All the drama. All the stuff you can’t even articulate. After I put all of that behind me I was able to set out on this journey of making a solo record.”
That journey ended up being very unlike any Gispert had embarked upon previously. For starters, he says, “I wrote all of the songs for the record while outside, and that’s something I’d never done before. Usually I’d be in a cramped apartment or a studio space—not, like, walking around outside in a big open field at 1:00 AM, just singing and playing.”
He laughs. “And the good thing is, I was on this secluded property, so nobody could see me—it didn't matter if I looked like a total goofball just wandering around in my jean shorts strumming an acoustic guitar.”
The material that Gispert came up at the farm with was primarily acoustic-based, but at the same time still incredibly diverse, from the dark folk of “Magnolia Sunrise” to the ambient tones of “Life in the Goldilocks Zone”; the T. Rex-y groove-glam of “Volcano,” to the lo-fi garage-fuzz of “Is It Nine”; the exuberant mariachi-horn-rock of “Too Dumb to Love Anyone” (the one composition Gispert says was originally written with the Whigs in mind) to the oddball genre exercise “Do Some Country.”
That last one also features some witty wordplay (“I am a rock artist,” Gispert sings, before adding, “I paint pictures on limestone”), as well as a unique origin story regarding its title. “I was at a Nikki Lane show,” Gispert recalls, “and in between songs this woman in the audience kept yelling [in heavy southern accent] “C’mon Nikki! Do some country!” And my friend and I were just like, ‘Man...that would be such a sweet song title!’ ”
There are other lighthearted moments on Sunlight Tonight, such as the nursery-rhyme-like “Is It Nine,” on which Gispert attempts to determine which number would fit best into the alphabet. The genesis of that riddle? “It was just a ridiculous question I asked myself, and I had never heard a song about that particular question before,” he explains. “So I thought for my first solo album it would be a good idea to have one track that was uniquely ‘Parker.’ Because there are so many love songs or political songs or whatever out there already.”
Which is not to say that Gispert shies away from those topics on Sunlight Tonight. “Too Dumb to Love Anyone,” for one, addresses his present station in life as an unwedded man. “I'm 36, and most of my friends are at that point where they’re getting married and having kids,” he says. “And my friends' wives will say things to me like, ‘Parker, when are you gonna meet somebody and join the club?’ So I always say, the only thing standing in between me and a great relationship is that the idea has never occurred to me.”
Then there’s “Magnolia Sunrise,” which unfolds somewhat uneventfully, with Gispert grabbing breakfast at a local diner (“Coffee, Tennessee / grits made to order”) before an anxious waitress shatters his mundane tranquility: “There’s still a lot that could go wrong,” she tells him. As the guitar accompaniment builds and the orchestral strings turn frantic, Gispert intones, ominously, “One Saturday morning / there will be no warning.”
The narrative, Gispert says, “is based on a real interaction I had, at a diner right down the road that I’d go to all the time in the mornings. I ended up talking to this waitress who was having irrational fears of, like, a hurricane coming, or a nuclear threat. It brings up this idea of, you could be chilling out, enjoying your day, and when you least expect it, that's when something happens—tragedy could be right around the corner.”
Clearly, Gispert’s environment and experiences at the farm factored heavily into the words and music he wrote for Sunlight Tonight. But when it came time to record the material, he left his rural surroundings behind and headed back into Nashville, cutting tracks at Blackbird Studios and Hacienda Studios, with producer Emery Dobyns (Patti Smith, Antony and the Johnsons) at the helm. Dobyns also added various instrumentation to the tracks, alongside contributions from Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney, former Sparklehorse vocalist Sol Seppy and Adele bassist Samuel Dixon, among other musicians. “It was like there was one phase of the record, which was me alone writing everything,” Gispert says. “And then there was the second phase, the studio phase, which was very much a team effort, with Emery shaping the record sonically and production-wise.”
When it comes to playing this material live, however, Gispert has been going it alone—an atypical arrangement for him onstage, but one that he’s been finding incredibly satisfying. “I love it a lot,” he says about being out on his own. “I feel really comfortable up there by myself, and in some respects I'm able to connect with the crowd in a way that I never was able to do with a band.”
That said, Gispert still gets plenty of opportunities to play with his band, as the Whigs continue to reconvene for sporadic live shows, including a recent spate of dates celebrating the tenth anniversary of their 2008 record, Mission Control. But far from his solo endeavors having a negative impact on the group, he’s found the opposite to be true. “I'd always been afraid of doing something solo because I thought it might mess up the band vibe, but now I'm able to see that it actually helps,” Gispert says. “When we do get back together to play, it's fun and it's fresh and it has new life.”
As for what the future holds, Gispert is open to any and all possibilities that might follow in the wake of Sunlight Tonight. “Because I didn't even see any of this happening, you know?” he says. “So I can’t really say what comes next. But it’s almost like a weight off my shoulders to not really know where I'm going from here.”
One thing he can say for sure: the farm that served as both inspiration and companion to Gispert throughout the writing process for Sunlight Tonight is now a thing of the past.
“I’ve moved away,” he reports. “I’m living over by a lake now.” Gispert laughs. “I’m trying to switch it up.”
Criminal Hygiene was formed on October 3rd, 2011 over a couple of really good burgers at Olympian Family Restaurant in South Central Los Angeles. Eat lunch there and you might start a band too, its a fucking great establishment. On that shameless day, founding member Michael Fiore took a break from his double bacon cheese to share with founding member James Pratley Watson a simple idea: "Let's record some music…" to which, James replied: "Let's get drunk first…" The duo did those things that day, and thus, Criminal Hygiene was formed. At this time, they were in their last year at the University of Southern California, and frequently skipped class over the next 7 months to get drunk in the middle of the day to record music. They were angry, lost, and generally not giving a fuck. Since then, an angel by the name of Sean "Birdman" Erickson swooped down from Tacoma on the wings of his incredible mustache to join the band on drums. With the addition of Birdman, Criminal Hygiene became a real band, with purpose and meaning for themselves, and they even released the CRMNL HYGNE LP in early 2013. Since then, James has been replaced by another Michael (Michael "Chili" Hiller) and they've spend the majority of their time playing shows, delivering pizza and burning trees on their front lawn.
"It’s rare that a song strikes so perfect a balance between foreboding and sensual, but Thayer Sarrano gets it just right on “Shaky,” the title track from her new album. The tune is a study in contrasts, pitting hard edges against the soft allure of suggestion as Sarrano wraps her whispery drawl around a flat, forceful rhythm while vaporous tendrils of steel guitar float past." - Paste Magazine
"there is an aura of “southern gothic” via twangy guitars, deep woodsy echoes and a rhythm like cautiously trudging through those woods. But she also exudes a patina of the urban, opiatic tenor of ’90s gaze-girls like Opal or Mazzy Star." - CMJ
"A siren of the cypress swamp, Athens, Georgia’s Thayer Sarrano beckons you into the darkness on the throbbing “Touch My Face.” Evoking the mystical side of Stevie Nicks, overdriven guitars guide the listener through meandering paths that follow Sarrano’s smoky coos to what one can only hope is a mystical communion.” - Bucketful of Nails
"Thayer Sarrano is a force to be reckoned with in the ever-fertile Athens, Georgia scene, having worked as a touring and session musician with Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven, T. Hardy Morris, of Montreal, Dave Marr, Kuroma, and David Barbe, among numerous others. This haunting track is taken from her upcoming third album, Shaky, a tour de force of Gothic Americana...We love it."- Big Takeover
Thayer Sarrano is forging her own path into a southern- psych-dreamland, bottling up ghosts and bringing them to life through her ethereal desert rock hymns. The tones tremble and bend, layered in swirling atmospherics. The angelic voice will pull you in close to share devastatingly beautiful and heart-breaking secrets, while shadowy figures dance in the background. This is music that envelops the listener and may transport you to another world or time. A magical place that is melancholic and haunting, yet bursting with heavenly light.
With her latest release, Shaky, The Athens, GA multi-instrumentalist sounds, more than ever, like where she is from. She grew up in a monastery and then the swamp in southern, coastal Georgia. Classically trained as a child, awakened by Grunge in the 90s, with chanting forever in her subconscious, she had always written instrumental compositions and poetry. Songwriting came when she landed in the vibrant musical community of Athens, GA and began to collaborate with friends to form her own band, as well as establish herself as a studio/touring session player (Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, T. Hardy Morris, of Montreal, Dave Marr, David Barbe, many more). Debut album, King was released in 2009 dubbing her “The new Queen of Shoegaze” - Americana UK. The sparse and raw album was recorded live in her living room in one day. Her follow up LP, Lift Your Eyes to the Hills , (2012), enters more complex arrangements and features the single “The Bend,“ written for Groninger Museum, The Netherlands, leading to consistent European touring. The record was produced by Thayer and Hank Sullivant (Kuroma, MGMT), and was an independent release as a charitable campaign for Nuci’s Space’s teenage rock camp, “Camp Amped,” of which Thayer is passionately affiliated. “Featuring heavily spiritual themes, it could have collapsed under it’s own weight, but ‘Hill’s manages to maintain a startling lightness of being.“ -Flagpole Magazine. Now, with Shaky, we see Sarrano at her bravest and most vulnerable.
Written in an unstable period of much loss, Shaky is still a record of grace and perseverance. The honest, painted lyrics weave the mystical with personal experiences. But to Thayer, it’s all real. “I’ll feel like I have to just make this quilt out of these patches of visions I’ve collected and then suddenly the song is finished and I realize it’s all true…” We start to believe her that these seemingly abstract visions are really happening, and in this other world we see pictures we can relate to. Pictures of dissolving relationships in “Crease”, "your memory unties my cells/ it breaks the line from your heart to mine…” Of the elusive in title track, "I trace your echo I follow your lead/ you’re shaky shaky but you settle me.” Of the search for something greater in “Glimpses,” “there’s a world at the same time as this one/it’s bright it trembles it glistens,” and of the beautiful ether in “Lost Art,” “their hands are open, call to the wild/ layer landscapes, breaking the sky/ I remember them from when I was a child/ it’s the same little image from inside my eyes…“
Dovetailing the thick twang of the country with the airy, echoing, spacious feeling of an empty church, Sarrano has carved out a pocket in which her otherworldly music has room to breathe. Or perhaps the pocket was already there and Sarrano stumbled upon it, becoming a vector for something deep and soulful and strange. Regardless, once you’ve stepped into that pocket with her, you’re bound to want to return.
$10.00 - $12.00
Doors at 8:30pm
Show starts approximatly at 9pm