WAAX: Australia’s most electrifyingpunk band
“I want to be the voice that I couldn’t hear when I was young.”
It’s a simple yet powerful statement from Maz De Vita, lead singer of Australia’s most electrifying punk band, Waax. And yet, if you look at the way the Brisbane five-piece’s career has evolved throughout the years, it articulates everything perfectly.
When they emerged in the mid-teens, Waax’s early singles,‘I For An Eye’ and ‘Wisdom Teeth,’ were tinged with the DIY tape hiss and violent, jagged edges you’d expect from a fresh, fierce band. They roared with an intensity and controlled chaos that had been distinctly missing from Australian music for years. The music was brutal, the energy frenetic, and above it all wailed De Vita, barking and biting with both unbridled passion and a subtle, melodic flow to her voice that made you want to scream along one second and sing along the next. It was loud and it was brash – but like mostpunk acts in their formative stages it was angry at the world in general – at concepts, ideas and politics at large.
Then came 2017’s Wild & Weak EP – a new line-up, a more mature sound, and this time a new songwriting lens. The focus of the lyric was set inward, and for the first time De Vita took to task her internal struggles as an exercise in catharsis.
“The first EP was very external,” De Vita explains.“The second EP was very internal but very current. It was very in the now. I just had to let all those feelings out.”
The result was an undeniably huge creative leap forward. Singles ‘Same Same,’ ‘This Everything,’ and the EP’s title track, saw fans connect with Waax in a way like never before. As a direct result, their popularity grew exponentially, as did their fearsome reputation as a live band. Relentless touring only reinforced that growth, as radio stepped up to the plate and carried these honest and ruthless new tunes across the globe. Now we land where we are today, at the feet of the release of thenext phase of their career and the immense new single ‘Labrador.’
It doesn’t take long upon listening to realise that once again you’re in brand-new Waax territory in ‘Labrador.’The song starts off gradually, easing its foot onto the accelerator as stabbing guitar notes and echoey drums next door subtly build the momentum. Above all else, the focus is drawn squarely to De Vita’s concentrated vocals, sounding smoother and yet more emotionally raw than ever. It’s the lyrics though, that you really need to pay attention to.
“This song is the first time I’ve ever spoken very candidly about my past,” De Vita elaborates.“The title is named after the suburb where I spent a lot of time when I was in my late teens and it’s wherea significant relationship ended. Basically,the song underpins the way I felt around the time. I feel like this was the time I beganto struggle with depression and when I was about 18, I was diagnosed with anorexia. When my relationship ended, I didn’t really write music for a couple of years, I smashed my guitar. I felt kind of worthless. I clung to self-deprecation, I felt safe there. I had people around me that said I wouldn’t amount to anything musically and I thought ‘you were right all along, you’re better than me. I’m never enough.’”
It’s admittedly a brave step for someone who’s already got such a strong reputation as a performer that puts it all on the line. However, it’s indicative of just how far she and her band have come since their early days. They’ve always had the walk… now they’re prepared to have the talk.
“It’s taken me a long, long, long time to be open about this part of my life. For a long time, I couldn’t even talk about it – but I’m ready to start.”
It’s not always an easy listen either. Lines like, “I’ve been binging / I’ve been purging / I’ll be skinny / At least that’s something,” stab you right in the heart. They’re sonically reinforced by the band at large – Chris Antolak and Ewan Birtwelltrading guitar parts, Tom ‘Griff’ Griffin locking down the bassline and Tom Bloomfield keeping it all tight on drums – only adds to the power of the song, particularly when everything explodes at the chorus and it bares its teeth with the signature Waax aggression you knew was always bubbling below the surface. And again, it’s all tapping into those emotions and nerve-endings De Vita finally feels free to embrace, and behind her, her bandmates feed into that strength and push it forward.
“We operate on raw emotion,” says De Vita. “From the way that I perform to the way the guys go as well, it’s all about feeling and I definitely I find that I like to emote with as many people in the crowd as possible. I’m not playing at an audience – I want them to be as immersed in the experience as I am. I just want them to feel what we feel. I guess we’re pretty emotional in the way we carry ourselves.”
I think it’s safe to assume then that a young Maz De Vita would think a song like ‘Labrador’ is pretty fucking excellent.
“I’ve been angry / I’ve been changing…”
They’re the opening two lines to Waax’s barnstorming new single ‘Labrador,’ and in those brief lines they somehow almost perfectly sum up their entire career to date.
The intro is almost delicate, with just De Vita’s vocals, stabby guitar notes and echoey drums next door. Then the song come
This song is the first time I’ve ever spoken very candidly about my past. So, I guess a lot of what we’re writing seems to draw from experiences of the past rather than the current, which is what makes it different from the last EP.
The first EP, the next EP, and I guess this one is assessing how did I get here? It’s a bit of a prelude to the second EP, and all the events that lead up to that mental breakdown I had for Wild & Weak, if that makes sense.
Their animal magnetism was obvious from the outset and it leads to them quickly winning over fans – whether that was disenfranchised rock fans seemingly drowning in a sea of EDM, through to major alt-radio outlets like triple j and 4ZZZ, all the way through to local rock royalty in Bernard Fanning.
Fanning would go on to help the band elevate themselves to the next level with the release of last year’s Wild & Weak EP.