With its new album, In Spades, due out May 5, Afghan Whigs is planning a full-scale North American tour to promote it this fall. And frontman Greg Dulli can’t wait.
“I love making records,” Dulli tells Billboard, “But nothing is like playing in front of an audience. When you play live on stage with a group like this, over and over, night after night, something else begins to happen. There’s just an unspoken communication between the players. We have like an on stage telepathy between us. We’re all really good friends and there’s a great dynamic between us and we all know each other. There’s a fearlessness to try anything when you know everybody and you’re comfortable and you can be vulnerable and creative and all the great things you need to do to make great art.”
The Whigs’ tour begins Sept. 6 in Orlando, rolling until Oct. 26 in Houston. Har Mar Superstar will open all dates. Prior to that the sextet has a handful of shows booked, including a May 23 date at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and four more shows next month in the U.K. and Ireland before playing the Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona, Spain. “The songs change when you get them on stage, too,” Dulli adds. “I really believe that a song doesn’t become what it’s truly going to be until it gets played, like, 10 or 20 times.”
The in-concert potency of the current Afghan Whigs lineup — Dulli, bassist and co-founder John Curley, guitarists Dave Rosser and Jon Skibic, drummer Patrick Keeler and multi-instrumentalist Rick Nelson — was established during the group’s touring to promote 2014’s Do To The Beast, its first new album in 16 years. It went so well, in fact, that the group was back in Nelson’s Marigny Studio in New Orleans just three weeks after the tour ended. “I think making that last album blew a lot of wind in the sails,” Dulli says. “Doing the tour and being able to play new material was like blood for us. We continued with the momentum and kept on going ’til we got something we liked.”
Dulli estimates the group worked on up to 21 songs before picking the final 10 — among them “Into The Floor,” which came from a jam the Whigs added to “Miles Iz Dead” while on the road starting in 2012. “We started to put it on the set list as ‘Into The Floor’ and it became its own thing,” Dulli recalls. “When we didn’t play it on the Beast tour people would ask us every night, ‘Hey, when are you gonna play ‘Into The Floor?’ So we decided to lay it down when we started recording (In Spades) and we laid it down in one take.”
There was a lot of that on In Spades, according to Dulli, further testament to what this incarnation of the Whigs has grown into since reactivating in 2012. “It was the first time probably since Black Love (in 1996) that it was a group in the studio playing live,” he says. “Eight of the 10 songs on the record were played live in the studio — and very alive. I’m very particular about songs once they get going, but I gave little to no direction to the individual players. It’s all their own interpretations of the material that I’ve bought to the group. It’s a group effort in every way.”
The next one may well be, too. Although the focus is on promoting In Spades and touring for the foreseeable future, Dulli considers the songs that didn’t make the album to be a head start towards making its follow-up. “(In Spades) actually had more fresh-start songs than the previous one,” Dulli says. “Before we did Do To The Beast I had the riff to ‘Parked Outside’ for a few years, the riff to ‘Algiers’ for, like, a year, ‘Lost In The Woods’ I’d had for a couple of years. So those were sort of laying around, waiting to find a home. On (In Spades), everything but ‘Into The Floor’ was designed just for this album, but we still have a lot we can go back to when it’s time to do the next one.”
The Afghan Whigs’ full North American tour itinerary includes:
Sept. 6 — Orlando, FL @ The Social?
Sept 7 — Atlanta, GA @ Terminal West?
Sept. 9 — Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club?
Sept. 11 — Richmond, VA @ The National
?Sept. 12 — Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
?Sept. 14 — Boston, MA @ Paradise?
Sept. 16 — Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel?
Sept. 18 — Montreal, Quebec @ Theatre Fairmount?
Sept. 19 — Toronto, Ontario @ Opera House
Sept. 21 — Minneapolis, MN @ First Ave
?Sept. 23 — Chicago, IL @ Metro?
Sept. 24 — Milwaukee, WI @ Turner Hall?
Sept. 26 — Detroit, MI @ St Andrews?
Sept. 28 — Cincinnati, OH @ Bogarts
??Sept. 29 — Nashville, TN @ Exit IN?
Sept. 30 — Birmingham, AL @ Saturn?
Oct. 12 — San Diego, CA @ Belly Up?
Oct. 13 — Los Angeles, CA @ Fonda Theatre?
Oct. 14 — San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore?
Oct. 16 — Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
Oct. 17 — Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theatre?
Oct. 18 — Seattle, WA @ Showbox?
Oct. 19 — Salt Lake, UT @ Urban Lounge?
Oct. 21 — Denver, CO @ Gothic Theatre?
Oct. 22 — Kansas City, KS @ Record Bar
Oct. 24 — Austin, TX @ Mohawk?
Oct. 25 — Dallas, TX @ Trees
Oct. 26 — Houston, TX Heights Theater