Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Spotlight: WAX FANG of Louisville, Kentucky
I've been holding off on posting much lately, in the effort to focus more on cities outside of Ohio. You have no idea how difficult this has been.
Fortunately, my newest "Spotlight" edition focuses on what is sure to become one of your new favorite bands.
Louisville-based WAX FANG caught my ear a few months ago. I'm not even sure how - maybe it was Myspace.
I was immediately struck by the band's unique take on rock. In fact, I read someone who called the music "catchy and surprising." I agree with that.
The music is extremely alive, powerful and invigorating. They have equal parts psychedelic and glam counterparts, but take new twists in dimension with added sounds controlled through loops. The process of recreating the layered and instrumentally diverse tracks was aided by band-mate Kevin Ratterman’s engineering know-how and provided the effects and MIDI triggers needed to reproduce a bigger sound with three players. The theremin is also used to a pleasurable affect. The group is rounded out by bass player Jake Heustis
You hear this shit and you cannot believe it's created by a three-piece. Case in point, give a listen to the tune "The Doctor will see you now," on their Myspace, which is the tune that instantly made me a fan.
I'm very interested in bands that are taking traditional genres (in this case psychedelic rock) and taking it in new directions. It's not as easy as you might think. Bands have been exploring the depths of psychedelic rock since the 1960s.
Wax Fang recently released it's second CD called La La Land to great reviews. Buy it HERE.
A lot of interviews also focus heavily on the fact that singer/songwriter Scott Carney went to high school with fellow Louisville musician Jim James, of My Morning Jacket.
More importantly, I have been wanting to focus on Kentucky and Wax Fang was the first step in that direction.
Carney recently helped me out with an interview to start off the entire process of looking into the music scenes of our "southern" Midwest brethren. It's a whole new link into the Midwest mind-frame.
PEOPLE WITH ANIMAL HEADS: What are some bands from Kentucky that you think more people should know about?
SCOTT CARNEY: Off the top of my head, check out the Slow Break, the Photographic, Pokey LaFarge, the Fervor, Lucky Pineapple, the Phantom Family Halo, Venus Trap, and Whistle Peak.
PWAH: What are some cities in Kentucky, besides Louisville that are doing interesting things...
SC: Other than Lexington, which has a great little music loving community and is home to one of our favorite places to play, the Dame (which, sadly, is closing its doors in June), the only place I can think of is Whitesburg, KY, home of the Appalshop media arts co-op. Check it: www.appalshop.org.
PWAH: Where did you guys grow up and how do you think that has defined your personalities or the type of music you make?
SC: I grew up in a part of Louisville called Hikes Point or, la Point, as I like to call it. "Viva la Point!" I tend to exclaim. There, I was introduced at an early age to the glory and splendor of 1980's hair rock and heavy metal, which made for an easy transition, via hardcore and punk rock, into the post, progressive, and psychedelic rock music that accounts for most of what I listen to nowadays.
PWAH: Historically, what do you think defines the "Louisville sound" or even if you want to look at it from a wider aspect of Kentucky's sound. Ohio is sort of known for deconstructing rock. Indiana seems focused on a more psychedelic folk sound.
SC: I don't necessarily believe that Louisville has a particular sound anymore. In the nineties, the music scene was dominated by a lot of hardcore and post-rock type bands, but there really hasn't been that kind of solidarity since then. Lately, Louisville seems to be suffering from a sort of multiple personality syndrome, in that it lacks a certain singular musical identity. There really aren't two bands that I've heard that really sound the same, which I find exciting because there is lots of very good, very different bands doing their own things, creating their own unique identities. So, that is to say, your guess is as good as mine.
PWAH: When you guys write your songs, is there anything you're trying to convey in terms of theme, or even atmosphere? I guess that is a more complicated way of asking what you guys are hoping to accomplish or say...
SC: I would like to think that our main focus as a band is to explore new frontiers in the realm of rock music. However, so much exploring has already been done in the past, that I feel what we do would more akin to maintaining those far reaching boundaries than expanding them. In that sense, I might consider us more like guardians than pioneers. Rock music has so much potential, creatively speaking, in that as long as there is something that grounds the listener to earth, usually through the rhythm or the vocal melody of the song, you can take it in so many different directions. You have to be careful, though, in choosing your direction, that you don't lose your listener along the way. In the words of Brian Eno, "it has to be seductive." It has to appeal to the emotions as well as the intellect. This is why math rock doesn't do much for me. It has no soul.
PWAH: I always like to ask a band about their experience as a Midwesterner. Is it something you feel a kinship with? How has being from the Midwest defined your music?
SC: I feel like less of a Midwesterner than a Southerner, yet I don't feel much of a kinship with either. Both Southerners and Midwesterners, in a very general sense, tend to be more sheltered, uncultured even, than our neighbors to the North and West (and certainly more so than our European counterparts) resulting in a sort of closed mindedness that I don't relate to. Having said that, it is that very narrow minded world view that I've sought to expand in in my music and is what drew me to the psychedelic movement in the first place: the idea of expanded awareness. For me, it is less about mind altering drugs than it is about opening your mind to new ideas and concepts, for seeing the potential in all things.
In some other tidbits, in case you were wondering what Scott's least favorite songs to take LSD to are, here's a little interview he did with You Ain't No Picasso, HERE.
Here's a nice quote I found from Ratterman too. It's true of most of the Midwest:
“People in Louisville play music because they love it. You know you’re not going to make any money anyway,” says Ratterman.