David Wax Museum psyched for Newport Folk Festival

, Contributing Writer

Dubbed by a producer as “Mexo-American Dance Rock”, the music of David Wax Museum is difficult to describe. Sometimes it sounds like indie roots-rock; other times it’s more zydeco tinged with Mexican folk rhythms. Whatever you want to try to call ’em, David Wax Museum have the catchiest tunes north of the Rio Grande.

David Wax and Suz Slezak are taking their eclectic show on the road to the 2011 Newport Folk Festival this weekend. We asked David about the music that inspires them, what it was like to be drawn as a cartoon in the New Yorker, and why “Mexo-American Dance Rock” is an inadequate way to describe their music.

Boston Music Spotlight (BMS): Your 2010 appearance at the Newport Folk Festival was a pretty big tipping point for you guys. What do you have planned for this year?

David Wax (DW): Well, our line-up is quite different this year. The current touring line-up includes our longtime collaborators Greg Glassman (drums, requinto, electric guitar) and Alec Spiegelman (baritone sax, clarinet). We will also have some special guests to help fill out the sound. And maybe there will even be some guests who we don’t even know about yet, friends at the festival we reconnect with on Saturday and invite to join us.

BMS: The term “indie-folk” is often used to describe your sound – a descriptor that is woefully inadequate for what you actually do. How would you best categorize your sound?

DW: Sam Kassirer who produced Everything Is Saved once referred to the music as Mexo-American Dance Rock (or something to that effect). We try to embrace a lot with our sound and so it’s hard to say it’s just Mexo-American Dance Rock because a lot of songs don’t fall into that category – ballads like “Wait for Me” and “Look What You’ve Done to Me.” We’ve been batting Mexo-Americana around for awhile and that seems to fit but most people outside of the music industry don’t know what you’re talking about when you say you play Americana music. It’s not a term I ever used or really heard until I moved back to Boston in 2007. At the time, it seemed like everyone was playing some version of “Americana” music. And now we’re Boston’s Americana Artist of the Year.  So we’ve been embraced under that category and are rolling with it.

BMS: What instruments, besides guitars and your infamous donkey jawbone, are indispensible to your music?

DW: Fiddle and jarana are essential to our sound. We never go to a gig without those two instruments.

BMS:  Your latest record feels extremely authentic and, for lack of a better word, organic – both in the way it was produced and the songs themselves. Was this a natural extension of the musical styles that inspired you?

DW: Yes.  Suz, Jordan Wax (my cousin who was with us the whole time we made the record), and I all have a real passion for old-school folk music, field recordings, and world music recordings (often in the field recording vein), so it makes sense that the record took on some of those qualities. Sam Kassirer did a brilliant job of purposefully shaping an organic record that sounded like it could all have happened on one night. He really picked up quickly on the musical styles we are inspired by and thought about how to integrate those into the record.

BMS: South by Southwest (SXSW) is fairly notorious as a clusterfuck of the music industry and thousands of musicians. What was it like to get the accolades that you did for your 2011 performance there from magazines like TIME?

DW: We were really astounded. We went to SXSW with extremely low expectations about what would come out of it, so that made the positive press all the more incredible to us. With any show, you just have to learn how to put blinders on, not care who’s there or who’s not and play as honestly and best you can. That’s how we approached SXSW. It’s wonderful that people responded to what we were doing. And most importantly for us, we made some real fans at SXSW. There are so many serious music fans who now go to SXSW to soak it all up. We didn’t expect that non-industry people would even be there.

BMS: Neither of you are from Boston but you both met here. Do you carry any Boston pride around with you?

DW: Boston has been so great to us. It’s where we all met, and it was the perfect place to cut our teeth. There’s such a big and sophisticated audience for folk music, lots of opportunities to play good venues, and an abundance of stellar musicians. It’ll always be the band’s home base, and we’ve proud of that.

BMS: It is so cool that you were drawn as a New Yorker cartoon! Who do you want to draw you next?

DW: I love the illustrations of the New York Review of Books. It would be wild to appear in there someday.

BMS: You have collaborated or toured with a number of well-known artists and bands. Is there someone or a group with whom you’d love to collaborate?

DW: We just met one of my long-time heroes Will Oldham (Bonnie “Prince” Billy). He sang with us on one song, and it was just sensational for me to hear him sing a song of mine. I would love to do some project with him down the line. Such a beautiful songwriter and a helluva singer.

BMS: What’s on the horizon for The Museum?

DW: Well, I’m working on the songs for the next record. We’ve just started demoing again with Sam Kassirer and are going to get back into the studio in January. Until then it’s just touring, touring, and more touring. We feel so blessed to have all the opportunities we have to play great venues and festivals and community events and universities in the States, Canada, and Europe.

If you’re lucky enough to have tickets to the sold-out Newport Folk Festival, you can catch David Wax Museum on Sunday, July 31st at 11:30am. Visit www.DavidWaxMuseum.com for more information about the band and upcoming tour dates around the US and New England.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: PART THREE: Minute-by-Minute Guide for Sunday at the 2011 Newport Folk Festival « grass clippings – Piles of Americana & bluegrass news, reviews and festivals

Leave a Reply