For our latest FMQB SubModern Session I connect across continents with singer Marie De Vita and guitarist Chris Antolak of the Australian band WAAX to learn a little bit about them and their new EP, Wild & Weak, which was released last month. Along with their bandmates Ewan Birtwell on guitar, Tom "Griff" Griffin on bass, and Tom Bloomfield on drums, they performed some songs from the EP for us at Baked Goods in Melbourne, AU, which you can listen to here.
FMQB: Give us a little background info on WAAX. How long have you been around? How did the band get started?
Marie De Vita: The band’s been around for four years. It started with me just demoing songs and looking for people to play with. We started gigging around locally in Brisbane. We started to get a little more serious and recorded a song. From that moment on, we kept recording and got better at it, and started touring a fair bit around Australia.
Chris Antolak: There were a few line-up changes. The original incarnation of WAAX didn’t have myself in it, nor our current bass player. It was actually just yourself [Marie] and Tom (our drummer). Kind of when the release of Holy Sick, our first EP, myself and our bass player Griff came into the fold, and from there it was almost like the second coming of WAAX, I suppose.
MDV: And you can hear it in the difference between the two records. The one we have now is a little more polished and a little more realized because we work really well together as a team. Just like any band, you have your obstacles and you figure out which people you gel with better in the studio.
FMQB: Tell me about the name, WAAX?
MDV: It’s not a very glamorous story. When I first started playing with the guys, I was getting really into Krautrock and they all seemed to have single word band names. I was really into Can and I thought we could do something similar to that and have Wax. I told a family friend, and he was like, "Maybe you could add another "A" just because," and I was like "Alright." And it sort of just stuck.
FMQB: I thought maybe it was for Google-ability.
MDV: That definitely played into the decision making.
FMQB: So let’s talk a little about Wild & Weak. It’s your second EP that just came out, right?
MDV: Yes, our first one came out in 2015. This one is definitely a step up for us.
FMQB: Is it out worldwide or only fully out in Australia?
CA: No, it’s out worldwide. I’m pretty sure anybody around the world can find it on iTunes or Spotify.
FMQB: So at least digitally, maybe not the physical formats?
CA: Not necessarily when it comes to distribution. You can buy it online, but it’ll be shipped from Australia.
FMQB: You’ve described this new EP as more internal compared to your first EP being more external, if you want to elaborate on that?
MDV: Yeah, well it’s just the natural evolution of my songwriting and lyrical content. On the first record I was really shy about talking about my emotional state. With this record I was more open to talking about how I was feeling at the time. Especially after a lot of the line-up changes, I found myself pretty unwell mentally, so I thought I’d document it with this record. Each song of the record represents a stage of this sort of mental unraveling. It was a really cathartic experience for myself, and the boys as well, because not only was it experimenting with different lyrical content, but also with different sounds and approaches to recording.
FMQB: When you wrote the songs, did you intend for them each to be the specific stage of the mental process that they are, or did it just work out that way?
MDV: Well, Chris and I had discussed the idea of a concept behind the record and it just started to slowly fall into place, in that each song really did represent a stage. I thought they really worked well together and pieced a puzzle together. The order in which they were written was pretty much chronological. There are a couple of songs in there that came in towards the end, such as "Wild & Weak," which is the opening track. That was actually the last one to be written, but it really reflected the beginning of this mental process that I went through.
CA: There was the discussion around the idea and then we’d come up with certain riffs or chord progressions and I suppose you’d [Marie] kind of find the subject matter for the song from the feeling of the music and the instrumentation.
MDV: I think we were looking to write for the song or write for the feeling, rather than trying to be a certain genre or anything like that. It’s more or less just an instinctual, emotional experience.
FMQB: I hope that you found the peace that you were looking for and are in a better place after having put this all out there.
MDV: Yeah. I’ve definitely grown as a person. I think that having some mental problems will always kind of stay with me, but learning how to cope with it and learning how to face certain challenges has certainly become easier for me. I feel like a more developed person after the whole experience as well. And just as much as that, a better recording artist. I think we’ve all gotten better at recording and being more in tune with each other.
FMQB: Did you always know this was going to be an EP, or were you thinking at any point about doing a full-length?
CA: I think initially we were tossing up between a full-length and an EP. We agreed an EP would suit it best because of the turmoil that the band went through from the first EP to this one now. It seemed like it was the right length to fit everything in and it was like a re-introduction.
MDV: Like a rebirth!
FMQB: Now that you’ve been re-introduced, do you feel like the full-length is the next step?
CA: Definitely! We’ve already started writing for that. We’ve even got a song that we’re road-testing at the moment. That’s definitely in full swing.
FMQB: You’re touring all over Australia now, but do you have any plans to make it over to the States at some point?
CA: There’s no plans in the works currently. It’s definitely something on the horizon though.
MDV: We’d love to more than anything!
FMQB: I look forward to the day when I can experience WAAX in person, but thank you for sharing these live performances with us.
By Josh T. Landow