INTERVIEW: WAAX

Exploding onto the local Brisbane music scene with an abundance of energy, screaming and anger, WAAX quickly made themselves known as an act that you had to get acquainted with. It was always a known fact that they were destined to blow up, and with their career in a steady incline since the beginning, they took a leap of faith and didn’t race the process. Through taking their time to get acquainted with their listeners and allowing themselves to grow artistically and personally, they started to realise that they were emotionally hiding behind the angst they built WAAX around. “I am really interested in what makes us human, and the things that make us the most human is our emotions. I feel like I would be cheating myself if we didn’t explore those things because I’m afraid of them. I wanna be closer to having no fear because fear is a construct we accustom ourselves with” lead singer Maz De Vita explains of the realisation she had that abled her to write some of WAAX’s most vulnerable tracks yet.

Their debut album ‘Big Grief’ is out August 23 and hears the band like you haven’t heard them before. From the big angsty moments like ‘No Apology’ to the emotionally vulnerable ‘History’ and the empowering mantra of ‘FU’, this whole record is a cathartic exploration of who they’ve become.

I recently chatted to Maz De Vita about the unapologetic emotion they wanted to capture on ‘Big Grief’, their underlying vulnerability, performing a Thirsty Merc cover on their new tour and what they’ve learnt from their touring and prior BIGSOUND experience. Check it out HERE;

TB: WAAX’s debut album ‘Big Grief’ is a record that is layered with a lot of different emotions and is a lot more than just heavy punk-rock. What was the goal that you guys set out to do with this record?

MD: We wanted to have a really intense record emotionally. We wanted to have a very bright record but we also wanted it to be really honest, raw and unapologetic. I wanted to have moments of empowerment as well as moments of introspection and darkness. I guess we wanted to have a bit of a bipolar record *laughs*. It sounds bright and these parts that sound happy but if you look into the lyrics and listen to the melodies, you will realise there are darker undertones bubbling underneath.

TB: ’No Apology’ instantly became one of my favourite tracks on the album, so do you mind if we dive into the creative process behind this track for a moment?

MD: Yeah! That one is actually one of the older tracks on the record and we were really proud when we made it. I wanted to have a song on the record where you could just let loose, especially for someone like me who is a bit reserved. I know I’m intense, energetic and animated on stage but offstage I’m pretty reserved and cautious.

I found that being in a band I have had to really push myself out of that cautious nature and sometimes I just need an extra push to break free from that, and that’s what this song is. I don’t want to apologise to people. I want to be as I am without being so stressed all the time about how I will be perceived by people or by my own expectations.

TB: Behind all the angst and energy, there are some quite vulnerable and personal moments on the record. So what is one of the most vulnerable moments for you as a songwriter?

MD: Probably ‘History’. It took me a while to feel comfortable seeing that track on the record because it is tied to a lot of memories, especially making the track. It wasn’t an easy track for me to make. I had to regather my strength to sing it and it’s just hard. It always makes me feel so much, especially live. We are currently halfway through our tour and we’ve been playing that song live and It’s really difficult to sing. I cant even find the words to explain it.

TB: Sonically, the album has some more stripped back moments like ’Changing Face’, ‘Last Week’ and the majority of ‘History’. So as a band are these songs harder to create as they show vulnerability in a purer way or is it sometimes more the full energy charged ones that are harder as they are layered?

MD: That might have been the case for us early on as I definitely hid behind screaming and yelling with the mask of anger. But I’ve found that as we’ve matured as a band, personally and as songwriters that we’ve started to feel more comfortable in the space of exploring vulnerability.

I am really interested in what makes us human, and the things that make us the most human is our emotions. I feel like I would be cheating myself if we didn’t explore those things because I’m afraid of them. I wanna be closer to having no fear because fear is a construct we accustom ourselves with but when you strip it back you have to wonder why are we so afraid? How can I be better? How can I grow? That is what those songs are to me. They are about getting past the fear and getting past the mask we put on and embracing being human.

TB: ’FU’ has become a bit of an anthem for WAAX and that definitely shows in the live spectrum. So how important have those moments of strength become for you guys?

MD: Oh, so so important! Those moments have always been present in our songwriting and I don’t think they will ever go away. Playing them live gives the audience so much empowerment as we are there together playing the songs. Especially when ‘FU’ comes on because everyone can relate to feeling down trotted or misunderstood.

I definitely have seen it time and time again throughout my life. People think I’m a doormat. They think that I’m the sort of person they can fuck with. It’s very annoying because they have absolutely misread me. And I will be the most lovely person and give my everything to everyone but some people have taken that for granted and that really shits me to tears *laughs*. Being taken advantage of really pisses me off. It grinds my gears!

TB: WAAX are currently on their biggest Australian tour yet, so how have these shows been going so far? And what’s been the coolest or hardest thing about premiering the new material live?

MD: The shows have been fucking insane! I’ve just been shocked the whole time. We sold out two nights at The Corner in Melbourne and two nights at The Triffid in Brisbane and I will tell you, it’s pretty weird *laughs*. We’ve been slowly grinding away for six years and all of a sudden everything is taking off and start to happen.

Playing the new songs has been a really fun challenge. I like to tell the audience that we are going to give them a preview of the new record and they seem to be pretty receptive to that. We’ve never shied away from playing new material but there is always that inner voice that tells us “what if they don’t like it?”, “what if they don’t react?” but that’s the challenge of it. I find it really fun to try win them over with a song they haven’t heard yet.

TB: You have even done a sneaky little Thirsty Merc cover of ‘In The Summertime’ with Sweater Curse on this tour. So how did this cover come about? Because sonically it seems like quite a strange choice for you guys?

MD: *Laughs* Yes! Look it is a bit of a meme! Myself and Chris from Sweater Curse are really good mates and we became obsessed with Rae Thistlethwayte who is the lead singer from Thirsty Merc. He is such a strange dude and such an interesting character to follow on the internet. So whenever we found ourselves talking about the tour we were like ‘wouldn’t it be funny if we rick rolled everyone and played ‘In The Summertime’ together?’ just because it’s so random and no one expects that. So we decided to actually do it. We get everyone from Sweater Curse and the other opening band that night onto the stage and just have fun. Patience from The Grates even got up at the Brisbane show with us during that song, and she had so much fun.

It’s just a moment of silly fun, which is actually so important to us. Some people don’t realise that It’s a really fucking hard industry and there is a lot of work that goes into everything so it’s important to always take a moment and just have fun with what you’re doing.

TB: WAAX have some very passionate fans that have followed you from the very beginning and they don’t hold back in your live shows by going absolutely crazy. So what is one of the most surprising or strangest things you’ve seen when you’ve looked out into the crowd mid show?

MD: I see a lot of funny things *laughs*. It’s the level of dedication, it’s insane. My favourite thing about our shows is that the first front rows is always female identifying people and LGBTQI+ people, which is unreal. It’s honestly the most beautiful thing to see when I look into the crowd.

In Adelaide there was a girl at the front who showed me her knuckles and she had ‘Wild & Weak’ tattooed on them and it looked so nice! I was like ‘woah, what the fuck’. It blew me away. It’s moments like that when you zone in on one person and you have a moment like that and connect with them which are so special and cool.

I love that our fans can come to a show and feel like they can be unapologetically themselves at all times.

TB: Over the years you guys have done a lot of support slots and have played huge festivals which can sometimes be really gruelling experiences. So what is something you guys have learnt from those experiences that you’ve taken on moving forward with your headline shows?

MD: It’s definitely helped us work with bigger stages. From playing festivals, it’s made us understand how to use that space a little more and how to work the stage. It makes you hone your craft with your setlist because when you’re playing a festival you don’t know who is watching you and when they are watching you as people come and go throughout your set so you need to make every moment as impactful as the next and make every moment count.

TB: Some people may argue that music videos are dying or are only good for big pop acts, but for you guys music videos have been pretty pivotal as they’ve introduced you to so many people on platforms like MTV and Rage. So why do you think music videos are still an important factor for a band like WAAX?

MD: I always see them as apart of the story. You couldn’t definitely say that music videos aren’t as relevant as they were once but they are apart of the story. It’s another gateway for fans to learn more about you. It’s also a gateway for people that haven’t heard of you before as it shows a different side of you other than just the music.

TB: WAAX have previously played at BIGSOUND. So with the 2019 festival just around the corner, what is some advice you have for artists that are showcasing for the first time this year or attending the conferences? What was the biggest takeaway for you when you attended?

MD: I learnt that if people aren’t moving then that’s not your fault. At BIGSOUND a lot of industry people stand there with their arms crossed like “I’m a very important person, and I’m here watching this band”. So don’t let that make you feel like you’re not good enough. Industry people that attend BIGSOUND are literally watching 2 songs and then moving onto the next gig to try see everyone and see what stands out, so don’t take it personally or let it dishearten you.

It definitely got us down at first because I just thought I couldn’t get through to these people. But after the showcases we had all these rave reviews, so I was surprised. I guess they are just a different type of crowd.

The other main thing is to just be yourself and absolutely stick with what you’re about. If they don’t get you, then they’re not worth your time. If they try to change you in any way just walk away, it’s not worth it.

TB: Let’s play a little game of rapid fire questions where I’m going to ask you some questions that you just need to answer with the first thing that comes to mind…

MD: Yeah, ok!

TB: Our pre-show pump up song is…

MD: ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ by Bonnie Tyler! We play it before every show, it’s so important!

TB: The emoji that best describes our album ‘Big Grief’ is…

MD: Look, I’m going to say the smiley face with the cowboy hat. It has nothing to do with the album at all, I just really like it *laughs*. I use it a lot in conversation when texting about the album so I’m just gonna say that one!

TB: Something I’ve been disappointed lately with is…

MD: Free to air TV! It’s boring as hell! All it is now is just reality TV. We are staying at a Airbnb at the moment and we’ve only got free-to-air and it’s just not a fun time. I swear they had Survivor on like 6 times yesterday.

TB: Pineapple on Pizza is…

MD: Fine with me! I know it’s a pretty controversial topic but I don’t mind it.

TB: Sometimes I wish I could…

MD: Cook better! I guess I could work on it more but I just don’t have the patience for it *laughs*.

WAAX’s debut album ‘Big Grief’ is out August 23!

WAAX Australian Tour

Friday 23 August – The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle

Saturday 24 August – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

Sunday 25 August – The Zoo, Brisbane (U18 Show)

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