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“We really went through a lot to get this done”: WAAX chat their debut album

In August, WAAX released their debut full-length album Big Grief. It was a significant moment for the band for a number of reasons, but ultimately, it was the culmination of years of slogging it out in the Australian music industry.

The Brisbane band released their first EP, Holy Sick, in 2015. Since then, they’ve maintained a relentless, unwavering touring schedule, and dropped another EP. They’ve also gone through lineup changes and their fair share of turmoil within the band. That’s why the release of their debut record felt so important—a concrete thing that they could hold in their hands to prove it was all worth it.

On the day before they released the album, we caught up with the band to chat all about it, working with Bernard Fanning, and all the activities you could potentially do while listening to their music.

Photos: Charlie Hardy

“It’s been this really weird, windy, traumatic, but wonderful road”: on the eve of releasing their debut album, we caught up with WAAX for a chat.

HAPPY: You’ve just wrapped up your I Am tour… have you been playing much material from the new record?

MAZ: Yeah, little bits.

HAPPY: How have they been going down?

GRIFF: Really good actually. The mosh might be a little less intense during the song, but the response aterwards has been really good.

HAPPY: How do you generally measure the success of a song live?

MAZ: I think it’s all about engagement. You definitely don’t want to look down and see someone talking to their mate.

EWAN: A lot of the time it’s really not tangible. Sometimes there’s just a vibe in the room, and you can tell if people are into something. There’s a feeling.

HAPPY: Well, right now, we are on the eve of your album release… how does it feel being in this moment right now?

MAZ: I don’t even have any words. It’s so weird. I feel like I’m going to cry. We really went through a lot to get this done, and the band’s really gone through a lot. It’s been this really weird, windy, traumatic, but wonderful road.

GRIFF: I really can’t wait to let it out into the world and let it live.

MAZ: Yeah, it needs to be with the people. It’s done its job for us.

HAPPY: When did you finish the album? How long have you been sitting on it?

TOM: January, I think. January it went to mastering.

MAZ: Yeah, so we sat on it for a number of months, for a number ofr reasons. The singles were going really well, so that was great. There was also some turbulence in the band. There was a lineup change, which was a difficult period for us. Now we’re finally at a place where we’re comfortable with everything. We’re really ready for it to come out.

HAPPY: The way I hear people talk about albums, is that when they’re writing and recording it, it belongs to them… but the moment they release it, it no longer does. Do you think this is true?

MAZ: I totally agree with that. That’s exactly it.

EWAN: That’s the whole ‘death of the author’ thing. It doesn’t matter what you wrote, people will take it for they will, and place their own lives upon it.

HAPPY: So what’s that process of letting go like? Are you ready for it?

MAZ: Oh, I’m so ready. We’ve been sitting on it for so long, so I just want it to be out. It’s been a long road, and there’s nothing I want more right now than for everyone to have it and enjoy it.

HAPPY: As you said, it has been a long time coming. The first EP came out four years ago now. Was there a specific point in time when you decided to launch into the full-length album?

MAZ: Yeah, well, the initial idea was to make an album after the first EP… but we decided to do a second one because we were really still trying to nail our sound. We were still trying to grow. By doing that, it gave us an opportunity to really hone in on what we’re about. It helped us build out base as well. Through that EP, we built a really solid base, and because of that, we were able to do a full-length album. So I’m really happy with the trajectory we chose. It’s made us really apprecuative of the process and really comfortable.

HAPPY: From what we’ve heard of the record so far, lyrically, it’s all been very direct and open. How does that kind of lyrical content impact the process of letting your music go?

MAZ: Well, I always write from whatever it is I’m feeling, and I’ve always been quite a direct writer. I don’t really fluff around. That’s just how I operate. Everyone has their own way of doing things, and that’s just what comes natural to me.

HAPPY: You worked a lot with Bernard Fanning for the new record as well… how did that come about?

TOM: We got an email from him. Through our label, someone got in contact with him and showed him our stuff, then he just reached out. It was this really lovely message saying that he thinks what we’re doing is great, and that if we wanted come and hang out then we should. It kind of just grew from there. At first, we were thinking “imagine if we can get him in on this,” but I think he was always thinking the same thing.When we got to the studio, he was just there.

MAZ: “Anyone for some tea?” That’s what he said.

HAPPY: Were there notable things you felt you picked up from having him around?

MAZ: He taught me, from a songwriting perspective, to let go of my inhibitions. To explore the things I wouldn’t normally explore, and to say the things I’d normally be a little too shy to say. He’s always come from the opinion that your first idea is your best one, so when I’d come through and show him something with an air of doubt, he’d say “don’t doubt yourself. Go for it. This is what you’re about.” So it was really nice to have someone of that caliber telling us to absolutely go for it.

HAPPY: When you first launched into the record, was there a mission statement of what you wanted to do? Did you set out to achieve any particular thing?

MAZ: I wanted it to be really colourful, and I wanted it to ebb and flow.

JAMES: On the music side, I really wanted it to match the emotion you were setting up with the songs.

GRIFF: Yeah, to provide a really solid foundation, so that you could get your message out on top of that.

MAZ: yeah, and I really just wanted to showcase what the band was capable of. With an EP you’re a bit limited, but with an album you can really take the listener on a journey. That sounds lame, but you know what I mean.

HAPPY: Well now that it’s all done, do you feel like you’ve achieved what you first set out to do when you started this record?

MAZ: Yes, 100%. I think we really gave everything we could. We really worked our asses of, and we really went through a lot of shit to get here. So I’m gonna say a red-hot yes.

GRIFF: I think we even exceeded my expectations. I would’ve been really happy with anyone we did, but I’m really proud of this.

HAPPY: And now that it’s finally coming out, what do you hope other people get from it?

MAZ: I hope that they find moments of empowerment. Whatever they want, really. They can lift weights while listening to it, or they can surf while listening to it. I could list so many activities.

GRIFF: Whether they’re blasting from their room or their car, wherever, as long as they’re enjoying it.

JAMES: If it could make someone’s day a little less shit, that’d be nice.

Big Grief is available now. Listen above.

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October 10, 2019