Image: Wax Chattels – supplied.
Author: Melody Menu
Angular and unforgiving, the dark and dissonant sounds of Wax Chattels’ self-titled debut album are a stark reminder that it isn’t always sunny in New Zealand. Edging toward the more experimental and distorted end of the Flying Nun label, Wax Chattels have become known for their relentless noise-rock crafted from a barrage of bass, keyboard and drums.
The Auckland-based trio – made up of Amanda Cheng, Peter Ruddell and Tom Leggett – originally met while studying jazz, and have brought this disciplined approach to their music. Their frenetic intensity and controlled chaos has drawn comparisons to fellow-NZ act Die! Die! Die!, whereas tracks like ‘In My Mouth’ recall the rhythmic catharsis of The Veils’ Finn Andrews.
Sometime during a packed US touring schedule, Amanda, Peter and Tom take some time out to talk through their debut album, the intensity of their live shows, and being inspired by their surroundings.
Melody Menu: How did Wax Chattels come about?
Wax Chattels: The three of us met each other at university where we all studied Jazz Performance in Auckland, playing in each other’s bands (though never all together!). Peter went to go live in Japan afterwards, and Amanda in Ireland, and then we reconnected back in NZ, running into each other at a Viet Cong (now Preoccupations) show at the Kings Arms. We started writing a few songs together with a drum machine, then got Tom involved and it worked really well – so that was that!
What was it like recording your debut album over just two nights?
Tiring. But it was kind of like just doing a really focused show – recording in a dark confined space late at night. It also meant that we didn’t labour over adding layers or additional instrument parts, keeping the album as a reflection of the live performance.
How has your jazz training influenced the album?
We’re all very methodical in our approach to playing in general, which is something that definitely came out of the hours you need to put in while studying jazz. We’re also quite critical about our parts, throwing away ideas that don’t work and latching on to things that do.
What’s your creative process like?
Some of the songs on the album came out of the initial writing sessions which Amanda and Peter worked on before bringing them to Tom. But in general the writing begins with one of us bringing an idea to the rehearsal space to be fleshed out by the band – could be lyrics, a melody, a rhythmic structure, or a demo track.
The tracks come across as incredibly cathartic, how does it feel to play them live?
It’s physically intense playing these songs live, but there is definitely catharsis in it. Sometimes it can be emotionally draining to play a set, but quite often the endorphins kick in and there is just a joy in performing in front of people who care.
How has your setting of Auckland influenced the album?
It’s pretty difficult to get away from your location when you create something. For us, Karangahape Road is all through this album. We recorded the album in a couple of different locations on K Road, and play regularly in a number of venues there too. It’s our home.
Who are your favourite Flying Nun labelmates?
Dog Power, who were only recently added to Flying Nun, are definitely worth checking out. Same with Indi, who has been creating amazing music for a number of years now.
What about some non-Flying Nun acts that you have met on your travels?
Warm Drag, who we played a number of shows with on the West Coast of the US. Raiden Freeman, who recently put out an incredible LP on Prison Tapes. Carla Geneve from Perth who we saw play at Bigsound, and is simply an amazing musician.
You’ve released your debut album, have toured extensively, and are currently touring the US. What’s next for Wax Chattels?
Not extensively enough! We’re yet to make it over to Europe, and would love make it back over to Asia and Australia (two places we’ve only been to once before). After that we’ll be getting stuck into album two.
Wax Chattels is out now.