There’s something going on in New Zealand. Our small and rainy neighbour teetering on the end of the Earth is nonchalantly (and without nearly enough fan fare) producing a slew of sophisticated alternative acts – Opposite Sex, Womb, Mermaidens, Polyester, Mint Chicks, Lawrence Arabia and Onono to name a few.
Out of this diverse brood, Wax Chattels make an immediate impression with their abrasive and metallic sound (created with a marked absence of guitars). Taking sly cues from Suicide-era Alan Vega, gothic icons Bauhaus, and the squall of Throbbing Gristle, Wax Chattels have built an original and recognisable idiom with their darkwave-tinged electronica.
Meet Wax Chattels, a band hell bent on driving a worm of raucous clatter into your head. Dance your deeply held fears and existential woe away. It’s dark – no one can see you.
We recently spoke to Peter, vocalist and keyboardist of the Auckland based trio, his perkiness belying the band’s unsmiling and coolly intimidating appearance. They’ve just returned from a sprawling tour around the US, bringing their doomy racket into many a bar, basement, bike store, and house party.
Peter, along with bassist/vocalist Amanda and drummer Tom, clearly enjoyed their downtime, where they went into “full tourist mode” on the few days they had off.
Wax Chattels are now eagerly anticipating their maiden voyage to Australia, where they will be playing BIGSOUND in September. In its seventeenth year, BIGSOUND prides itself on the dual purpose of being a music festival and a conference, where people in the business and talented newbies can have the opportunity to talk shop. It will be a good opportunity for the po-faced and monochrome Chattels to bask in some of Queensland’s Vitamin D.
“At BIGSOUND I’m keen to catch Arse (friends of ours have been raving about them),” Peter shared, “East Brunswick All Girls Choir, The Chats and that beautiful quartet The Beths.”
He insists on the band’s preference for live performance, where they mix morbid feedback and shrill bass lines with lyrics that are elegantly world weary – note the millennial cynicism to be found on the track Facebook, or on Shrinkage which begins with the slightly ominous “I am Eros”;
Best remembered, past encounters
Elusive, hypothetical, regrettable
But I am no connoisseur
Shrinkage may occur
Indeed, sometimes the lyrics are hard to decipher, but the listener will be able to discern “much trepidation” in “houses that smell of meat” and “bed bugs in my room”.
One can easily imagine these tunes were first scribbled down in dank Auckland share houses, festering with vermin either real or imagined. The lyrics provide a sense of claustrophobia; their self-titled debut album is tight, cohesive and very accomplished for a band in its infancy.
“The show is confrontational, immersive and cathartic…”, says Peter, trying to contain his mirth “But really, I’ve never seen it, only played it. So you tell me?”
If proof were needed, listen to Career – then imagine bobbing along to it at a sweaty, beer sodden gig. The track opens to monk-like swirling drones and organs before descending into a thrashing cymbals and pounding pedals. Amanda bemoans a love gone awry, all before everything cascades into a vacuum of feedback jumping off the walls, laser sharp keyboard beams slicing through the air.
If this sounds appealing, polish your buckled boots and keep an offering of belladonna handy.
Catch Wax Chattels touring Australia this September:
Sat 1 Sep – Grace Darling, Melbourne
Sun 2 Sep – King Street Crawl – Leadbelly, Sydney
Wed 5 Sep – BIGSOUND – The Foundry, Brisbane
Thurs 6 Sep – BIGSOUND – The Elephant Hotel, Brisbane
Fri 7 Sep – The Bearded Lady, Brisbane
Grab your tickets to BIGSOUND here.
On September 24-30 Happy Mag will celebrate our inaugural NZ Week, shining a light on the best music, arts and culture New Zealand has to offer. Find out more here.