Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Peanut Gallery: Sounds
Hello Lex! How did Waxlimbs first start up?
It was just me messing with recording software. I didn’t know anything about how to write music, and if I had tried it in the past, the results were regrettable. I bought some software in 2010 and somehow, things just clicked (with harmony at least). I started making loads of weird ambient electronic stuff, and over time things got a little higher in production value until I picked up bass, started singing, and the like.
Who joins you in Waxlimbs now? Where does the name come from, and does it have an underlying meaning?
We’re myself, Paul Geldart, Olivia Cox and Will Jarvis. I came up with the name when I was a teen and just kind of ran with it for a long time. I think it probably had something to do with how I saw myself in the eyes of others, and pretty naturally, a character seemed to emerge after a while. I’m having fun with it.
It seems like the Waxlimbs persona, which we see in album artwork and all your fascinating stage masks, is quite clever for you, the band and the music itself. As it came from within you, what does the Waxlimbs character personally represent? How does that translate with the entire band? And how did the masks come to fruition? I love them! Quite angular, sharp, deadly, and beautiful…
Thanks, we’ve worked hard on the look and feel, so that’s nice to hear. For me, this character occupies the space of a bad dream turned good. There’s this aspect of body horror, of mutation, unwanted changes that I am really taken by. The character is less a monster than a representation of becoming in-tune with your mutations, your ugliness. It’s a way of embracing the things I don’t like about myself. It’s very dramatic, but it just seemed to evolve that way subconsciously, rather than it having been a conscious creative decision on my part.
The band acts as a filter for everyone to get at this part of themselves and to try writing music that might activate those kinds of emotions within ourselves. Everyone in Waxlimbs has their own projects, but can contribute something unique to this in pursuit of catharsis.
The masks were just something I made to combat stage fright early-on, and I didn’t realize how important they would become in the grand scheme of the project. None of us really need them to ward off stage fright anymore, but they’ve become so important to the lore we’re building that they might be here to stay. I’ve been mulling over the designs for a while and am working on the next generation now.
With this subconscious transformative emotive entity embodying Waxlimbs, how would you describe the style of music you write? What has shaped your music over the years? Who are your musical influences?
The music tends to be moody and introspective, sometimes angry. It started out more ambient and spacey, but has shifted into the world of songwriting. When I started the project, I couldn’t play any instruments, so now that I’m a bassist and more of a singer, things have changed a lot, and I think for the better.
I think listing influences can be a bit dangerous. If someone listens to us they’ll most likely hear familiar things, and that’s as much as I’d like to say.
How do you compose your songs?
I usually write a bunch of demos and bring them to the table, and the band decides which to develop into finished songs. I personally get a lot of ideas when I’m going for a walk or showering. It’s a race to record the idea and get it down before losing the spirit of it.
I have those struggling instances as well, coming up with a grand musical idea and keeping it alive in my head until I can note it down physically before it disappears.
Thus far, you have released two full-length albums: 2017’s For Science! and last year's The Autumn Bell. Can you give us some juicy insight into each album’s creation? Do both of these albums follow a concept? How do they differ from one another in themes, instrumentation, attitude, etc?
For Science! had more of a rag-tag recording process. It was mostly myself and Paul coming up with the tunes and thinking of Olivia and Will more as guests. This meant the album was more electronic sounding, less band-like. After that album, they joined the band fully and were more integrated into the writing process. The Autumn Bell was the first record where we wrote it as a group of people, instead of just myself and Paul with features. I just see the two albums as different points in our development. It’s like two bands to me.
Both records follow concepts, albeit loose ones. For Science! was about creating monsters, morbid curiosity, and the like. The Autumn Bell was about massive changes that happen to its characters, and how those changes affect them. Hence the geological strata in the texture of the figure’s skin on the album cover.
Waxlimbs just released a new single ‘Earth is Unmade’, several months after The Autumn Bell. Talk to us about the context of the song. And why so soon after the album?
That song kind of just happened, like it had to come out. We’ve been trying to write heavier, faster music because that’s mostly what we like to listen to, but our roots firmly sit in dreamy, ethereal stuff. The tune was the result of a group of poems I wrote one day in the summer. I got lost in tracking a demo with my acoustic guitar, and Will came in with his beautiful voice. The first take melted me; I couldn’t believe how perfectly his vocals fit.
We put the song out soon after the album because we’re tired of waiting to release music. We don’t have a big enough audience to spend all this time planning big releases, and it feels better for us as artists to put things out when they’re done, not months or years after.
The masks add a striking impressionable and memorable visual component to your live gigs. Would you categorize your performances as theatrical? Does each member have their own persona on stage through their personalized masks that works into each song?
Our live show is theatrical. We put on characters in a few ways, namely the way we move, the way we sing, and so forth. It’s just a great vehicle to get out of your head onstage, you know? The masks and the lights really help to forget about your inhibitions and your reservations about acting strange or being dramatic. It’s very freeing.
Whether everybody in the band takes on a persona, I can’t say. I know that I have one, but it’s different for each of us.
I believe you produce and engage your own lighting arrays, am I correct?
Yep. Paul and I work in lighting design and build our own LED light rigs. I cannot emphasize how much better this has made the live act, for the audience but also for us.
In what ways does the lighting make the performance better?
It turns the space into a part of the performance. Our music and stage persona is so oriented around immersion, masks and all that, and the lights serve to further that experience.
Would you consider adding other visuals augmentations to the Waxlimbs’ live show?
Absolutely. One of the great things about being in this band is that we can push ourselves to create something that’s more than just the music. It gives the project life outside of the studio and adds a dimension of “realism” to the work that keeps us excited about it.
What are your thoughts on Toronto’s music scene? Has the band fared well in the city?
I love Toronto, and there are amazing bands in the scene here. With the steady loss of venues, it has been hard to maintain a live presence, but things are slowly starting to change for us. It just depends on how you spend your time. If you’re a studio project, the studio is the focus, and live bands, of course, focus on the stage. We’re somewhere in between and learning how to switch gears on the fly.
How did Waxlimbs come to be part of the Splendid Industries human_family? What do you hope will come about from this weird musical community?
Tyson asked us to join, and we love the idea of a community specific to experimental music. Hopefully we make more friends and find more music we love through it.
What can we expect in the future from Waxlimbs in the new year… and new decade?
Lots more music, released often. More shows. More scandalous stage outfits.
Upcoming performance dates:
Saturday February 8th: Guelph, ON - Jesse Alarcon Presents: The Jailbirds, Animal Boy & Waxlimbs at ANAF, Guelph