The grind of being out on the road rather frequently and racking up show totals began to show the rewards for Brisbane’s own WAAX. Since its formation back in 2013, the ensemble was racking up accolades including being placed in top bands to see, touring in the United States, and having sets at UNIFY and Splendour In The Grass just to name a few.
Those grandiose moments that were showering down upon WAAX also showcased some sorrow and burden from within. The relationship between lead singer Maz DeVita and her primarily writing partner began to splinter before the debut album Big Grief was announced publicly and released. DeVita mentioned in a press release that this fracture within the group made her contemplate whether or not WAAX would move forward because the agony left her feeling depleted. DeVita became unwavering in allowing herself and WAAX to terminate all that they had created. Guitarist James Gatling joined the fray and soon the ambiance quickly shifted. DeVita found herself shifting her practice within the writing; what was painful and hard soon transitioned into joy and fulfillment.
At Least I’m Free incorporates a slighter newer version of WAAX. Those exhilarating vibes that came along with the introduction of the band have now metamorphosed into a stronger unit internally. Imparting a more ambitious sense, WAAX now feels more revitalized and even more ambitious than ever before. The emotional toll that DeVita has faced head-on is ever-present lyrically within At Least I’m Free along with spine-tingling howls, heart-stopping guitar riffs, and fervent samples and beats.
Can you recall how the band started?
I was determined to start my own band from an early age but didn’t gain the confidence to do so properly until I was about twenty. Super green coming from a small coastal region in Queensland, AUS, I moved to Brisbane (QLD capital) to be closer to university where I was studying Design. I started WAAX with another student I was studying with and his friend. We started jamming and Tom (drums) came along a couple of weeks later; Ewan came along a year later and then James joined about 3 years ago. The lineup has shifted a few times over the years and I think it’s evolved as we have grown up; you work out some relationships within the band don’t work and the process of figuring that out has been a tough ride.
I’m curious as to what the meaning behind the band name is.
I liked one-word band names at the time – like CAN. I just loved WAAX because it was punchy and no bullshit. The ‘double A’ was suggested to me by my uncle so we’d pop up on Google search more effectively. Nothing too wild to say here haha
What would you say were major influences that propelled you to get into music?
I’d definitely say women in music – I was obsessed with Patti Smith, Courtney Love, PJ Harvey, Karen O, and Janis Joplin. I looked up to them so much and just wanted to be them.
For those who are reading and aren’t aware of the music scene in Brisbane, what could you describe it as?
We are all friends – it’s a small community of all types of genres but we’re all super supportive of each other. Guitar music here is some of the best in the world and it makes me sad thinking we might be overlooked.
Mental health has been at the forefront as of late. With some of the past experiences you have experienced, how important is it for you to be an advocate for people to get the help they need?
I have had my own battles with mental health over the years. I feel like it has become a bit of a seasonal topic for the music industry when in reality people have to cope with mental health issues daily. I don’t think people realize this is ongoing; you can’t click your fingers and fix it, it’s a part of life and you have to work with it. I like to advocate for the reality of these issues and I’m not afraid to share with those who will listen and help those who need it.
The band received critical praise and saw large audiences at shows immediately. Did it feel overwhelming at any point?
When we are deep in grind mode it’s hard to notice. I love playing to big crowds so that doesn’t necessarily overwhelm me – it’s more the industry and social media that overwhelms me.
At Least I’m Free seemingly feels that it’s the band’s most personal. Would you agree?
I would agree, yes. It is 100% lived experience and maybe a bit TOO personal. Apologies in advance to my exes.
What led you to bring back the production team behind your debut album years ago?
We loved working with them previously so it was an easy choice; they are like our band dads.
During the writing and recording of the new album, what were some of the goals you were wanting to reach?
We wanted to have no rules and just do whatever felt right. The goal was to make a record and that’s it – however, it was created was left to how we felt at the time.
What would you say are the band’s most favorite tracks of the new album?
My personal favourites are “Beam Me Up” and “No Doz.” I think as a band our favourites are “Read Receipts” and “Whoever.”
Speaking of “No Doz”, K. Flay contributed to writing the track. How did this collab come about?
My team did a cold call on every email address they had and K.Flay came back saying she loved our band and wanted to get in the kitchen. It was so fun and easy – we clicked creatively immediately.
Another track, “Dangerous,” was co-written by Linda Perry. I can imagine that this was a huge highlight of your musical career.
Yeah, it honestly was one of the scariest most, incredible moments of my career. I was in awe the whole time and saw my actual potential for the first time. I felt seen and that’s all you can ask for.
One of the band’s strengths seems to be the deep relationship between you and the crowd. How important is it for you to get that connection immediately?
This is the most important thing for us out of all the aspects of being an artist. I came into this game wanting to connect and be a performer and I’m so thankful to be able to do that and have a true emotional connection with audiences.
What should we expect to see coming up from the band?
We are wanting to see the world again!! I am moving to LA next year to expand the future of our band and am hoping to tour in the US and UK/Europe.
At Least I’m Free is out now via Dew Process.
Photo Courtesy: Finn Mullen and Isabella Rae-Argo