By John Clay, Rock At Night Columnist-London
Author/director John Clay interviews WAXX!
Greetings everyone! I have a number of questions for you. Here we go: What do you find in WAXX that inspires you to go further in this journey, and in saying that, what are the obstacles you have had to negotiate? Go!
Gavin: Hi John, for me playing music with these boys super inspires me especially when we are in such great company in the Norwich music scene, in fact all the local acts inspire me. Being a Dad and running a studio and label make it hard to find the time but it’s well worth it.
Henry: Hey John, I think going into a band with three guitars opens you up to doing a lot more in a live and studio setting. I have never played with three guitars in a band so it’s certainly been a challenge. However, it’s also given us the ability to create such an awesome and psyched up sound, especially live with the rest of the band. I also think just the awesome commitment and genuine fun we all have together makes me want to drive this band further and further. As I’ve only just moved to Norwich it’s great to be integrated into such an amazing and tight scene full of awesome people and musicians.
Nathan: I first met Gavin at Catch21 studios when he recorded the other band I play in, Leadboots. Throughout the process it became clear we have a lot of the same influences and both really wanted to start a psych influenced rock band. It clicked pretty quickly when we met up to throw some riffs around and start write. The big challenge then was finding the right guys to flesh out the line up, and the time to commit to the project. I was on the fence as I just wasn’t sure I had the time. But the momentum has been unstoppable really. The whole band just gelled really quickly and took off.
Paul: It really was just an opportunity to play with some amazing musicians that had a set of tunes that were missing from my life. The main things that have drawn me further along the waxx journey are the guys, some familiar and some new and the potential! The potential makes me feel like it’s worth the time. Like Gav, I’m knee deep in a family life which I love, it takes time. That and the hangovers. It’s all about balance, time and spending it wisely
Can you detail the issues regarding the guitar line up? Are various roles agreed upon that run throughout the whole set? Tell us everything.
Gavin: I think it’s not so much about roles as sounds, my tone is very washy and FX heavy and you guys are more aggressive I guess, which is cool.
Nathan: I was worried at first as I spent ten years in a band as the only guitarist, so got used to filling that space; but it’s actually really liberating having three guitars as it means everyone can find where they work best: Gavin holding the wall of noise foundation, and Henry pulling out the big lead lines. I’m somewhere in between rhythm and lead, depending on what the song needs.
Henry: I wouldn’t so much call it an issue. We have Gavin and Nathan sharing the vocals meaning I typically lean more into lead melodies or some heavy rhythm. Most of the time Gavin is really laying down FX driven psychedelic rhythm and me and Nathan go for a more aggressive and heavy dual rhythm/shared lead kind of vibe. We also all have times where we lay down mad solos and stuff so together we have something really special.
Ryan: It’s three guitars plus a keyboard too. I thought this might be a challenge arranging everything so we’re not stepping on each other’s toes but we’re all highly experienced musicians, really receptive and communicative and we gel pretty easily.
Nathan: It’s great finding the right balance for each song. Sometimes you almost want to be fighting for space and keep the energy high on an aggressive track. Other times someone can play a minimum or drop out to concentrate on vocals.
Henry, you’ve gained notable contentment from your move to Norwich. What specifically does the area offer you in comparison to your previous community?
Henry: I’ve lived and played in Guernsey for the past fifteen years and moved to Norwich in the past two and Guernsey is such an awesome place filled with amazing musicians and an awesome scene.
So coming to Norwich, which to me has a similar feel and vibe in terms of music is so sick, and makes me feel right at home. Everyone is so into music here and wants the best for the bands which is great.
Ryan, can you detail how your label is in cahoots with Gavin’s in relation to ‘Dave Says’ By WAXX?
Ryan: Off with their Records and Catch 21 are label mates. Sometimes other labels can be a bit standoffish and I think that’s really silly. I think Gavin and I have what I’d call an abundance mentality and I think when there’s more of that then the music scene is so much healthier. Waxx are on Catch 21 but Off with their Records helps any way we can.
Gavin: And it’s good to mention Ryan and his label are in fact doing stuff at my studio next year too and we’re happy to have them as part of the C21 family.
What do you find in WAXX that inspires you to go further in this journey, and in saying that, what are the obstacles you have had to negotiate?
Ryan: I’ve found Waxx very natural and free-flowing, I’d be hard pressed to think of any real obstacles I’ve faced in the band. It sounds cliche to say but I think we clicked as a band very quickly and that’s probably a bit of luck but also some weird magnetism that brought like-minded people together.
Can you give specific examples of how Off With Their Records has assisted in this release? Feel free to detail what you mean by ‘abundance mentality’ (feel free to cite previous examples of this model).
Ryan: I didn’t do anything. I helped promote it on my social media, got us our first local gig, which was great. Gavin knows what he’s doing and doesn’t need a lot of my help, though I’m sure I can help more on future releases. Abundance mentality is not being in competition with each other, it’s about helping each other. It’s premise is odd because it imagines there are infinite resources and infinite energy, but in practice this little myth can be very powerful, and actually creates that imagined abundance. I didn’t come up with the idea, there are books about it if you’re interested.
Do share a title on the subject of abundance mentality which may act as inspiration.
Ryan: Oh I don’t remember any book titles. It’s a very well known concept, people can Google it if they’re interested.
Alex: Wheel of time series by Robert Jordan.
Nathan: Joel Osteen: The Abundance MindSet.
Alex: The Otherworld Trilogy.
Gavin: Yes wookie Lol. [Editor’s note: Wookie is the nickname for Alex]
ROCK AT NIGHT SAYS: ‘Dave Says’ sounds deliciously 60s with spot on harmonies (think Cowsills) with jangly guitars. It’s hard to believe this was written in the Millennium. Rock At Night has been on a real 60s garage rock kick lately so this find is a real gem!
Cheers. You fellas are obviously well read as a band and culturally quite aware. With that mind, and with the emphasis on being the single free wheeling lothario as a popular archetype, will there be any songs that focus on lessons learned in family life? Must that aspect be played down to protect the cultural worth in the context of our current indie rock landscape?
Nathan: Or in other words: Are we happy to shun the rockstar archetype and admit to being a Dad band?
Gavin: Absolutely not John, as you’ve seen from our recent zoom video featuring an encroaching family shaped dog. We are a band of hairy family men and in fact ‘Dave Says’ our debut single is also about a family member. A lot of the lyrical content will be close to home moving forward, and proudly so.
Nathan: Not an issue for me. I have no children, great work hours and a very understanding partner. I’m all rock star.
Gavin: You are getting married next year though mate so let’s see how that plays out lol
Ryan: Ha ha. Good question. I don’t think we peddle the lothario archetype do we? Three of us are devoted fathers and I don’t think any of us are single. If people project that onto us that’s up to them. I certainly think that and similar archetypes are falling out of fashion and the landscape of indie rock is changing because of it.
Nathan: Yeah, no doubt I’ll be married with kids soon enough. That’s why the first Waxx tour needs to be epic!
Gavin: All joking aside though my family life gives me such better things to write about and I think also you can have it both ways it’s balance baby
Alex: Well I’m full tilt mental. So choo choo all aboard the one way train to duckville quackzilla.
Gavin: Can hands down say I’m happier and healthier in my thirties than I ever was in my twenties and Wookie’s pickled by alcohol to the point where he’s finally able to cook and interview at once. It’s a super power no doubt.
Nathan: He definitely had a Keith Floyd vibe tonight! But yeah, there is no persona to hold up. I wear everything pretty much on my sleeve.
Henry: Music come from all sorts of places and none of us are pretending to be someone we aren’t, just because some of the band are parents and have families doesn’t mean they don’t rock the fuck out as much as the next band, (but as the youngest member I definitely rock the hardest haha).
Gavin: Think we’re all pretty unashamedly ourselves in waxx! It’s part of what I really dig about it
This is all very refreshing, and yes, our twenties are easily messed around by market forces manifested through male toxicity delivered via signings of the time. It’s a vast subject, right? The idea of being thirty plus, if not forty has changed in the last thirty odd years and thus the dissonance between marketing and audiences could benefit from your perspective as a band. Feel free to tell us more of your inner discoveries regarding this topic and how it’s affected your kinship.
Paul: There is a dual life almost happening but the deeper I grow to love my family the more important my life as a musician is. I want to be able to share the opportunities that are there with the wee’uns, be a freewheeler and show that if you love it you can make it work.
Nathan: Goes back to what I said about it being an organic process, I could never be in a band that sits down and says “what’s gonna sell? We’ll write that, look like that.” Nothing wrong with selling our image and music, but it has to be OUR image and music. I think that honestly comes through in the band and is what captivates people. Everyone has influences but you should be influenced by what you love
Gavin: Yeah my kids love dancing around the kitchen to our stuff and hanging out in my studio when they can and it really puts things into prospective for me, especially now my eldest son is a better drummer than me these days. And all this means to me is that I have a responsibility to show them hard work pays off but so does just being yourself. I’m waving my freak flag high no matter what the cost. I’ve been in a lot of bands and WAXX! has the widest age range but you’d never know it at all on stage or in the studio, and I dig that.
Nathan: I remember playing in a seventies rock band at around seventeen. We were just a bunch of dropouts that all lived and breathed rock music. We all had long hair, and tatty clothes because we were broke. We played a battle of the bands and won huge points for our “Well thought out and cohesive look, complete with charity shop clothing.” Blew my mind that these judges took us genuinely being completely ourselves and assumed a well staged image. Guess so many out there had to do it that way. I’ve been lucky to keep finding genuine like minded band mates.
Henry: Yeah, age range in bands has never been an issue for me, I’ve been in bands with people my own age and people twice my age. WAXX! feels so natural and we all get on so well that it never even crosses my mind and never will.
Nathan: I think real music defies age anyway…if the Stones are still touring, we got nothing to worry about.
Alex: I can’t wait to be mature enough to please my wife.
Nathan: You’re fully developed at this age. That’s all she’s getting.
Alex: Mate, that’s what I told her.
Nathan: By the way, I saw Bob Dylan a couple of years ago. Blew me away, amazing performance and his last record is his best in twenty years.
Alex: The Chats are my favourite band.
In closing, and just so we can frame our ending sentiments around ‘Dave Says’, have we seen any ‘Dave’s’ online in relation to the pandemic or any complicated social issues of the last twenty months? Feel free to define what Dave is. Perhaps you’d like to lead here in this particular tract, Gavin?
Ryan: You know the real Dave, Gavin. What would he say about the pandemic or Brexit or any of that? Bet he could sort the lorry driver shortage.
Nathan: Everyone became a Dave for a while there. Social media tricks us into thinking we’re making a difference by screaming rhetoric into a vacuum. No honest debates because anyone on the wrong side of the popular narrative is vilified and shouted down. Like people are trying to create a digital utopia whilst ignoring what’s going on outside their window. If you’re simplifying complex issues into something that can fit into a hashtag, I’d argue you may be missing the bigger picture. I saw this a lot throughout the pandemic and it was scary.
Possibly those who became Dave did so due to politicians not filling their role adequately enough?
Nathan: Depends on what their role was. It’s probably a conversation for a different interview. But it was a great example of social media’s uglier side.
Gavin: So many Daves were born and yes, I feel they are symptomatic of failing systems, however these systems were also put in place by Daves. It’s a crazy circle of Daves. My advice would be listen to music, not Dave.
Nathan: Some people like to feel superior.
Ryan: Oh god, I now see this endless chattering mass of Daves vomiting out more Daves like some kind of Cyriak/Monty Python crossover. Terrifying.
Gavin: Horrible isn’t it? Davetopia.
Nathan: I don’t think Daves even get along with other Daves.
Henry: At the end of the day ‘Dave Says’ is a great tune that was written about someone most of us have met at some time or another, and I think that’s why I personally love it so much. The song is not about politics, just someone who chats utter bollocks! I’m aware some people may link bollocks chatting to politicians too Haha!
Gavin: There are lots of things to complain about in this cultural and economic landscape at the moment, but Dave isn’t about that. He would rather teach you how to change a plug head that you’ve already changed a million times correctly. Art and culture are things he can’t understand and so are these political concepts. They are beyond Dave and thank God they are!
Considering the social commentary inherent in the song it would be remiss not to pull on this string so to speak. Not to do so does less service to the track. Targeting Dave is not unlike the anger people express towards those who don’t wear masks without factoring in how easy it is to ignore the mixed messaging of the government overseeing the situation. That said, you raise a good point in Dave not grasping a subject enough and feeling his view ought to be heard because, again, there is a lack of political action here. At the very least, we can posit that Dave is a wake up call to more consideration in the narratives that surround us.
Nathan: I’d say the difference is, I’d always hear Dave out, see if he had something to teach me. I think we’re trying to define someone that wouldn’t show the same courtesy the over way around as they are sure they know better and have dismissed all other views already.
We could go further, but for now, there is the matter of your press release. Do tell us about those nick names and where you got them from?
Gavin: Which names are you referring to john?
The names are in your press release. I’m not making it up, I was sent them, by you, ha!
Gavin: Let me look mate.
Nathan: I’m dying to know what my alter ego is!
I’m surprised Gavin doesn’t remember!
Gavin Bowers (Neverneverman/c21)
Paul Taylor (Nebula Sun)
Ryan Williamson (Marla)
Alex Wookie (Elephant)
Nathan Pickett (Leadboots)
Henry Fears (Lord Vapour)
Gavin: Those names are other bands we currently play in, or have recently been a part of.
Nathan: Ah, other bands. Busy lot!
Ryan: Good nicknames though.
Gavin: Sorry John no scoop there
Paul: Sure I could go for that
Gavin: Yeah, definitely kinda works as nicknames though.
Nathan: That’s gonna get super confusing for PR. All going by our other band’s names.
Gavin: Shut up Leadboot.
Nathan: Never, Nevernever man!
Henry: I don’t vape for the record.
Ah, I see. The world has suddenly made just a little more sense. Do tell us where we can get the single and hey, mention your December gig and its rather unique venue.
Gavin: Single is out now on Catch 21 Records via all the usual digital retailers and there will be a few limited edition slime green 7” for sale at our shows. The xmas party is something we’re really excited for. It’s on Dec the 11th and we’re taking over the old shoe factory in Norwich with a lot of friend’s bands including Floral Image, Pleasureinc and Aphra to name a few and it’s gonna be massive. Tickets are on sale now on eventbrite.
Fantastic, and I have a lot of time for Floral Image. Thank you so much for a meaty conversation fellas. May your single continue to do well!
Nathan: Cheers John!
Paul: Nice to meet you thanks for your efforts.
Gavin: Cheers again john x appreciate your time and views x
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