The as-yet-untitled new WAAX album, due for release in the early months of 2022, is shit.
That’s not our opinion – we haven’t even heard the album (although we certainly can’t wait to) – but that’s what frontwoman Maz DeVita herself told us… Well, more specifically, she told us it was like a shit – which doesn’t sound like the best way to hype everyone up for an album you’ve spent two years chipping away at, but don’t worry, it’ll all make sense later on.
The enigmatic Brisbanites are obviously super proud of WAAX 2: Electric Boogaloo. After all, it’s been a long, oftentimes turbulent journey to get here. When they released their debut full-length back in 2019 – the punchy, poignant and polychromatic Big Grief – they did so not long after booting out one of the album’s chief songwriters (even worse, he was ousted during its pre-release campaign). And then once Big Grief did hit shelves, after several internal delays, the band’s national tour in support of it got knocked back due to COVID, then knocked back again, and again, and then cancelled altogether.
Needless to say, WAAX have been through some shit over the past two years. But not only did they power through it all and come out the other side stronger, they did so with a whole new album. We don’t know all too much about the disc – we don’t know what it’s called, when it’ll come out, or even what its cover looks like – but what we do know makes it sound pretty insane. We know that WAAX recorded it with the dynamic duo of Bernard Fanning (of Powderfinger fame) and Nick DiDia (whose catalogue also features the likes of Pearl Jam, The Offspring and Rage Against The Machine), who also helped the quartet bring Big Grief to life.
We also know that it’ll sound nothing like Big Grief – or anything else WAAX have done before, really. DeVita teases a whole sound for the band, full of colour and quirkiness; there’ll be heavy stuff, light stuff, and all kinds of stuff in-between. Hell, when BLUNT cracks a joke about the band making a hyperpop track, DeVita laughs it off as though she’s trying not to spoil the surprise that WAAX have in fact written a hyperpop track. The band’s latest single, ‘Most Hated Girl’ – a callback to the heavier, more grungy tracks that WAAX cut their teeth on – is just “the tip of the iceberg”.
Alongside newcomer guitarist James Gatling, we caught up with DeVita to riff on LP2, ‘Most Hated Girl’, and what to expect from WAAX’s appearance at the 2022 UNIFY Gathering.
Do you see ‘Most Hated Girl’ as a continuation of the Big Grief cycle, or is it more like the next chapter in the WAAX story altogether?
Maz: It feels like a bridge from Big Grief to our next endeavours, which we’ve been working on for the last 18 months. We wanted to have a track that kind of harks back to our earlier stuff, but also kind of leans into what’s still to come. It’s a bit of both.
When I listened to it for the first time, I was actually kind of surprised at how heavy it is. It almost feels like a throwback to the Holy Sick EP.
Maz: Right… Yeah, I can kind of hear that. It’s interesting – it’s probably one of the heaviest songs that we’ve got at the moment. We’re definitely experimenting with sounds and songwriting and things like that. But we wanted to come right out there with something really loud and exciting and fun, y’know?
James: We want to get people back onboard, and then push the boat out and be like, “Ha, you’re stuck with us now!”
And then obviously, thematically speaking, this song is very heavy-hitting, very straightforward, it doesn’t beat around the bush. I wanna go back to where it started, being in your parents garage and finding your old diary – what was going through your mind when you came across that?
Maz: I was definitely in a weird headspace, suddenly having so much time on my hands. It was during the first lockdown and I was staying with my parents for a while and reconnecting with then. We decided to clean out the garage one day, and yeah, I found this old diary that I had when I was 16, and I read through it, and it made me laugh. I thought, “Wow, not much has changed, fundamentally.” And I guess this kind of experience was weirdly potent – I was going through a bit of self-reflection, and I just wanted to kind of explore what has changed.
When I was younger, I was fairly sure that everyone hated me. I felt like a bit of a social outcast, and as I’ve grown up, I’ve realised that was all in my head; y’know, “according to me”. It was a pretty basic idea, but when the lyrics and melody came to me, I was definitely in a very heightened emotional state, and I was like, “Okay, I’m ready to write.”
James: I guess for you though, when you were 16 and you had all these thoughts, the only thing you could do was write them in a journal. But what you do with those thoughts now is put them into a song. That’s just your way of journalling in 2021.
So you’re not just bridging the WAAX of old and the WAAX of new, but also the Maz of old and the Maz of new.
Maz: Yeah! It’s weird… It’s weird looking back, y’know? I think for the most part of my 20s, I didn’t really look back – I was always looking forward, and I’m kind of getting to that age now where I feel comfortable looking back and trying to figure myself out more, become more aware of myself and more conscious as a person.
“It’s nice that [James] was finally able to be a part of the process. Because it feels like he always should have been in the band, y’know?”
Was this track the catalyst for album #2?
Maz: It was definitely part of it, y’know?
James: Yeah, it wasn’t the song that started the writing phase, or the process of Maz and I writing together and all that sort of stuff, but it definitely was the song that felt right for right now – it’s the right song to put forward first, as the first step in this new direction. Other songs came before it, but this one seemed like the best one to say, “Hey, we’re back!”
So is it very indicative of what we can expect from the rest of the album?
Maz: It’s definitely just the tip of the iceberg. I think stylistically, our new stuff is very different. It’s really fun though – [all of the songs] have a common thread, they’re all quirky and fun and exciting. [‘Most Hated Girl’] is just a small piece of a larger puzzle that’s, like, a lot more colourful and nuanced.
Fuck yeah, I can’t wait for the hyperpop WAAX track!
Maz: [Laughs] I’ll try anything at this point, mate!
Heading back into the studio with Nick and Bernard, was it just like “round two”, or did you go into this next record with a bit of a different headspace?
Maz: Definitely a different headspace. When we went back into the studio, I’d had a lot more experience with being a recording artist, and also just as a songwriter, and so I wasn’t so… Y’know, when we were making the first record, I was really shaky to show Bernard my songs, because he’s fucking Bernard Fanning. I would be like, “Oh my God, he’s going to think I’m ridiculous!” I had so much imposter syndrome. But this time around, y’know, I’ve kind of learnt that I know what I’m doing. It’s like, “Okay, I’ve earned my space, I deserve to be here.” And with James as well, it’s nice that he was finally able to be a part of the process. Because it feels like he always should have been in the band, y’know?
Well that’s the other thing, there was that James Gatling-sized elephant in the room. What was that dynamic like?
James: Obviously I didn’t know what it was like previously, but for me, it felt really good. Because I’ve been playing with the band for two years now, like, from the release of the album and all of the shows since then, and then through COVID and all that stuff. So going into the studio and being able to showcase what we’d been working on, and what we’ve become as a unit, was really exciting. And obviously with these guys being super comfortable around Nick and Bernie, it wasn’t as daunting as it seemed. It all kind of clicked together, and it was just an incredible experience.
It does feel kind of awkward asking this while you’re in the room, James, but Maz, what did he bring to the fold that you found was unique for WAAX?
Maz: James brought literally everything, from the artistry to just the dynamic in the band. He’s brought a whole new energy to everything, and his a natural ability for melody and technical skill is just awesome. I can’t wait for everyone to hear more of our tracks where his playing really shines. He’s got a really interesting take on chords and things like that as well. Every time we write together, we talk about us being like two kites, we kind of go off on our own paths and then somehow we tangle up… And then we somehow end up with a song [laughs]. It’s a very fluid kind of process. Unless we already have an idea to work from, we don’t really go into a session with any expectations – we just see what happens.
James: We kind of just hang out and talk, and see if each other is doing okay. We’ll go, “What have you been listening to?” And then that will just naturally evolve into playing some music and just throwing some ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks. And when it sticks, it sticks – al dente!
I remember the last time you guys played UNIFY, it was a hot minute before Big Grief came out, but we got to hear, like, half of the record. What are the odds we might get to hear some more of the new stuff at UNIFY 2022?
Maz: Yeah, I reckon we’ll play a couple of newies!
Maz: We’re itching to! There’s just so much we want to show everyone! Imagine sitting on something for 18 months and not being able to tell anybody about it. It’s like taking the biggest shit of your life.
James: Please don’t print that.
Maz: PRINT IT!
James: “This album was like taking a shit.”
Maz: We’ve been holding in this baby for a while. It’s time to let it free [laughs].
Jesus, mate! Who are you personally most keen to see at UNIFY ‘22?
Maz and James (in unison): Short Stack!
Maz: I knew you were going to say it! Yeah, we’re pretty keen to see Short Stack. Bugs are going to be there as well, and they’re like our best mates. And Teenage Joans, they’re good mates too. Teen Jesus And The Jean Teasers… Amity, obviously – we were supposed to go on tour with them, which was an interesting combo, but, like, we were here for it! Yeah, it’s going to be really fun. I feel like the lineup this time around is a little bit lighter than usual. But that’s a good thing, y’know? They’re diversifying a little bit!
So obviously WAAX played UNIFY in 2019 – what drew you guys back for next year?
Maz: First and foremost, we just want to play anything! Like, we’re just ready to go – get us on a stage, y’know? We’re taking anything we can get at this point. But also, y’know, we’re really excited about the lineup, and I’m keen to see how they do it this time around. We really enjoyed it last time, it was really loose, and it’s one of the more memorable sets I’ve ever played. There was a guy dressed in a Gumby costume… I remember it oddly well considering how many drinks I had… I was under the drum riser for a minute…
“First and foremost, we just want to play anything! Like, we’re just ready to go – get us on a stage, y’know?”
I was literally just about to bring that up! It was like halfway through a song, too – you just got on all fours and crawled under there.
Maz: Yeah! And then I was, like, there. I was like, “Oh shit, how do I get out of here?” I had to army-crawl my way out, and then I was like, “Why did I do that!?” There were a lot of things going through my head in that moment [laughs].
The best part about that was Ewan looking around for you and then being like, “What the fuck are you doing there?”
Maz: I was thinking the same thing! I was like, “What the fuck am I doing?”
What was your highlight of the festival?
Maz: Onstage, definitely getting under the drum riser [laughs]. Offstage, it was a real party. That was the year Crowbar had a bar backstage, which was really nice. We’re really good friends with them, so it was really nice to hang out with them in a different setting. The bands were great… Yeah, it’s always a great time! I went there last year as well, because I did a song with Jenna from Tonight Alive. I’m very familiar with UNIFY and I really enjoy it, so I’m super stoked for next year.
For someone who hasn’t been to the Gathering before, what would be your advice for getting the most out of the weekend?
Maz: Pace yourself, and bring gumboots. Seriously, it do be muddy out there! But yeah, y’know, go at a steady pace, because it’s big the whole time, and maybe bring some earplugs. Protect yourself, wear sunscreen, eat lots of food…
What is, in your expert opinion, the ultimate festival food? And if you could choose a food truck to serve any cuisine in the world at UNIFY 2022, what would you pick?
Maz: Vegan! They have Govindas at Splendour and that’s always good, I always look forward to my Govindas feed. I think I would want a really solid, wholesome vegan option.
James: At the end of Splendour, I always treat myself to a lángos. It’s like a Hungarian bread topped with cream cheese and… Cheese [laughs]. And other cheeses. Brilliant stuff.
UNIFY Gathering 2022
The Amity Affliction
Dream On Dreamer
The Last Martyr
Teen Jesus & The Jean Teasers
+ More to be announced