The following feature appears in the May 2016 issue of NYLON.
There’s a moment on the song “Sister” when Mish Barber Way, leading lady of Vancouver punk trio White Lung, snarls, “We will submerge you into garbage/ I swear I’ll miss all of you.” The track is far from being about the singer’s own sibling; rather, it’s told from the perspective of Karla Homolka, who helped her husband murder and rape three girls—including her own teenage sister.
Off-stage, Barber Way doubles as a journalist, investigating stories on everything from sexual politics to homicide. Given the lack of drama in her life while writing the band’s fourth record, Paradise, due out on May 6, she decided to explore the psyches of societal outcasts. “Two songs are written from the perspective of female serial killers, because I was doing a study about it,” she explains. Overall, the album is a lean, 29-minute ride that’s rich in new-school guitar tricks. “What’s the modern punk instrument now? Computers,” says Barber Way. “There’s not one synth on Paradise. I also wanted to prove that I can actually sing and not just holler. Often on punk records, vocals are an afterthought.”
Given her fascination with certain news stories (“Two of my favorite reports last year were about women who’ve had sex with animals,” she says matter-of-factly), Barber Way is no stickler for self-censorship when it comes to her inspirational heroes. “I hate political correctness. It’s fucking stupid. The Internet has provided this constant mirror,” she says. Her muses include Camille Paglia, Jim Goad, and Joan Rivers—all renowned for being fearless beyond reproach. She once interviewed the latter: “[Rivers] was a goddamn fucking genius,” says Barber Way. “She talked to me about how no one will hold the door for you. She had a real cutthroat attitude.” Here, the singer and journalist gives us a rundown of other outspoken figures who inspired her own voice.
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