Providence, Rhode Island trio Way Out create a dizzying mix of arty, post punk the beckons to memories of lost innocence and shattered identity. Consisting of singer and guitarist Derek Knox, drummer Anna Wingfield, and bassist Nick Sadler, the band was founded by Knox in 2012, and became an entity unto itself following the arrival of Wingfield– whose shared love of Wire created an instant bond. Sadler joined when his other musical projects (Daughters and Fang Island) entered a state of indefinite hiatus, leaving him hungry for a new creative outlet.
In 2015, Way Out self-released a four song self-titled cassette/digital EP and followed it with a brief northeastern tour of the United States. 2017 brings a reissue of the EP via Cercle Social, promises of a new EP, and dates with Chameleons Vox and Soft Kill.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Knox to discuss living in Providence, guitar sounds, and betrayal and loss. This is what he told us.
Providence is a scene I’m not sure I’m familiar with. What are its best musical exports in your opinion?
My personal favorite band to come out of Providence is probably the Talking Heads, but besides the fact that they formed here while attending RISD I don’t know that they are very strongly associated with the musical legacy of the city. Providence has a pretty rich musical history that I don’t necessarily feel qualified to speak on, as I only moved here in 2011, but some names that come first to my mind are Lightning Bolt, Arab on Radar, Drop Dead and Daughters. I have always found the overall culture here to be one that encourages experimentation, welcomes deviance, and appreciates challenging art.
This EP was originally released in 2015. What made now the right time to rerelease it?
Basically just having label support from Cercle Social Records. They’re putting out our new EP later this year and they ended up being down to reissue our debut EP in the meantime. We technically released the self-titled EP online at the very end of 2015, but we didn’t have a local release show with physical copies available to purchase until February 2016, so to me it doesn’t feel all that long ago that it came out. We sold out of all our copies, and now rather than having to pay to produce more tapes ourselves with no publicity, we’re fortunate enough to be able to re-release the EP under the banner of CS and with their resources working to hopefully give us some more visibility. We had no promotion the first time around besides our live shows and our bandcamp page (wayoutband.bandcamp.com), but I’m definitely still proud of those songs and the work we put into the recording, so I’m happy to have the opportunity to spread the music to a wider audience.
What would you say were the catalysts that inspired these songs?
I think I was going through some coming-of-age moments at the time I wrote those songs. I know I was dealing with feelings of betrayal and loss and trying to find my center and reclaim my identity at a time when my sense reality felt unwound. I also wrote a lot of it in an unheated, concrete warehouse space in the dead of winter, so that probably contributed to the bleakness of my worldview at the time! But I was also listening to a lot of Wipers, which felt cathartic and inspired me to “go for it” with my approach to songwriting in a way that a lot of the moodier or dreamier bands I was previously listening to did not.
What kind of gear are you using to get that guitar tone. I think of it as the “Killing An Arab” tone?
I play out of a Roland JC-120 guitar amp, which is known for its analog chorus effect. I’m pretty sure The Cure and most other ‘80s bands of that ilk used them at least at some point– I like to call it the goth amp. My favorite thing about it is that it gets loud without breaking up, and you can get this kind of brutally clean, metallic tone. I also use a small assortment effects pedals, but the foundation of my tone is really just that amp, my modified Fender Strat, and some extra EQ for bite. Our live sound has a bit more attack and is less dreamy compared to the recording.
Post-punk is a complex genre with a storied history. Who would you say are the forefathers that informed Way Out?
I personally never really approach songwriting with much sense of genre in mind, but I love the musical aesthetics of goth and post-punk and as Way Out became more and more of a live entity I think a lot of those stylistic choices ended up being what felt natural and took hold. There’s the guitar tone stuff like you mentioned before, but also the sort-of militaristic rhythms, interplay of moving, melodic lines on guitar and bass, and then I guess the fairly dramatic vocal style. I think that kind of sound lends itself well to live performance because of how pared-down and direct the musical elements are. I don’t like seeing a band perform and feeling like I have to meet them halfway in some way, like if you can tell there’s supposed to be a melody but it’s indistinct due to too many parts or effects or just indistinct/non-committal vocals. I like when everything is laid more bare and kicks you in the gut in a way that leaves no question about the power of what you’re witnessing.
Some bands I consider to be in the post-punk realm that are influential to me would be The Cure, Wire, The Chameleons, Wipers, Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Fall, Joy Division and The Smiths (mainly for Johnny Marr). As far as some artists outside that realm that feel relevant to the band, I’d also toss in Nico, Scott Walker, Roxy Music, Television and Bowie. I know Anna and Nick would have their own answers to add as well, but those are some of my personal picks.
Tell me about the forthcoming EP…
We have a new EP called Arc of Descent coming out on later this year on Cercle Social, which we are super psyched on. The music is all finished and recorded, so we are just finishing up the final details necessary for the physical release. It’s coming out on vinyl, so there’s a little bit of a waiting process involved in that. We are currently writing songs for the future as well.
Sadler is also in Daughters and Fang Island, right? What is the musical priority as of late? Is it the Daughters reunion or Way Out?
I think Daughters and Way Out occupy separate but equal parts of Nick’s mind. Obviously Daughters has its whole legacy, but until the recent string of reunion shows they’ve been playing, I’d say Way Out has been his main musical focus. He could probably say more about it than I can though. We all have our own personal pursuits outside of the band, but we all feel passionately about the music and that’s really what keeps us moving forward with it.
Does Way Out have any dates forthcoming/on the books?
We are playing a new punk fest in Providence on July 2 called “Fuck the Fourth” with a lot of great bands, and on September 16 we will be playing in Boston with CHAMELEONS VOX and our friends Soft Kill from Portland, which we are extremely excited about. We’re looking into setting up some traveling around the times of both of those shows, and I’m sure we will have more scattered dates in between, but those are the major dates at the moment. Lately we’ve mainly been focusing on writing and getting the new EP out.
If I ever travel to Providence, what are the can’t miss things that should be on my agenda?
I love Providence but I spend most of my time skateboarding, so a lot of my favorite places probably mean nothing to most people. But Benefit Street on the east side is really beautiful and full of historic architecture, and it’s supposedly pretty haunted. Providence is also known for food and full of too many good spots to mention. I would try to stay for a few days and just wander around if you can, as I think the general atmosphere and experience of living here is the most special thing. Providence is a great balance of exciting city with with a lot of art and small town where you’re always running into friends. I’ve been here six years now and still haven’t wanted to leave.
(Order the EP here: http://cerclesocialrecords.bigcartel.com/product/way-out-self-titled-ep-cs)