For more than a decade, the Athens, Georgia, trio The Whigs (singer/guitarist Parker Gispert, drummer Julian Dorio, and bassist Timothy Deaux) played loud and hard garage-rock, spinning out five albums, touring relentlessly, and gaining a devoted cult following, along with critical praise from Rolling Stone and Spin magazines. They weren’t about finesse; they were about ragged rock with strong melodies.
The melodies are still present and accounted for on Parker Gispert’s debut solo album, “Sunlight Tonight,” but that’s about all that fans of The Whigs’ no-frills, power-trio approach are going to recognize. The album, released last November, is eight tracks of shimmering autumnal acoustic pop, with Gispert’s unplugged six-string surrounded by horns, strings, and layered backing vocals. It’s intimate-sounding, sure, but not especially stripped-down. Call it pastoral orchestral folk, if you like.
Gispert’s solo career really only came to life after The Whigs decided to take an extended break after their 2014 album “Modern Creation.” Suddenly finding time on his hands after more than 10 years of being in a band, Gispert was on his own.
“It was tough when we slowed down because I’d been doing it so long,” he says, “but when it occurred to me that I wasn’t in control of the band situation, it was liberating to just have it be separate, and then have this other new thing I’ve got going now.”
The genesis of the songs on “Sunlight Tonight” come from Gispert’s extended stay at a friend’s 100-acre hemp farm an hour or so outside Nashville, Tennessee. He found himself wandering around the idyllic green fields with an acoustic guitar, creating melodies and lyrics for what he saw stretching out before him.
“My main collaborator was the farm itself,” Gispert says. “I’ve always liked music that resonates with the region it came from. When you’re driving around California listening to the Beach Boys, or walking around Manhattan listening to Lou Reed, that makes sense. So when I was out on this farm, I really wanted to sort of depict what I was looking at through the music. I wanted it to feel like the place where I was; I wanted to articulate what I was looking at. So whenever I was at a crossroads with a particular line in a song or a particular musical decision, I just let the environment answer that for me.”
It turned out to be liberating for Gispert, not just because he’d never written songs in that kind of a setting before, but because he was doing it solo.
“I think that’s the biggest difference is just not having everything be a group decision,” he says. “I think it’s exhilarating; it kind of takes me back to when I was in high school before the band started, writing songs in my parents’ basement. I was able to work quickly and focus more on whatever inspired me to write the songs and flesh out the ideas a lot more the way that honors their inspiration.”
Gispert knew he’d be playing bare-bones versions of the songs when he performed live, which he’ll be doing at both Radio Room and Horizon Records on Saturday, but that didn’t stop him from creating more intricate, layered arrangements in the studio.
“There’s something really cool about a guy playing by himself onstage,” he says. “A lot of people just make their albums that way, too. But I figured that while I was in the studio, I should take the opportunity to make the songs sound however I wanted them to sound and not worry about how I was going to redo them on stage. I wanted to keep that initial intimacy but use the studio to make it sound as grand as possible.”
What: Parker Gispert
When: 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12
Where: Horizon Records, 2-A W. Stone Ave., Greenville
Info: 864-235-7922, http://horizonrecords.net/
What: Brother Oliver, w/ Parker Gispert and Jeremy Shiloh
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12
Where: Radio Room, 110 Poinsett Highway, Greenville
Tickets: $8 advance, $10 door
Info: 864-609-4441, http://www.radioroomgreenville.com/