Interview: Waxflower Say ‘We Might Be Alright’ With Refreshing Debut
Brisbane's Waxflower has been ever-present within the year of 2021, gracing us with singles such as the thoughtful ‘Not Alone’ and the vibrant ‘Food For Your Garden’. All these works however, are culminating to something much bigger- the band’s debut EP, ‘We Might Be Alright’. Set to be harvested on April 16th, the singles have given us a glimpse into the soon-to-be discovered world of Waxflower- one of hope, universality and an incredibly refreshing, Australian sound.
In light of the new EP, we spoke to Waxflower frontman, Tristan Higginson about the processes, the importance of vulnerability, and their feelings toward the reception and arrival of their EP, ‘We Might Be Alright’.
We've seen a lot of love for your tracks already, I think at the forefront of this are the spins from Triple J! What does it feel like to be receiving this support so early on in the release?
It’s always something that is super stressful coming into any release. You obviously have doubts and never want to get your hopes up too much, but you know what you're shooting for. I think having the Triple J premiere for ‘Food’, our lastest single, was super exciting because it was something we had been gunning for for a couple of years now- and it finally came through for ‘Food’, which is one of, well definitely my favorite track from the EP. I know for a couple of other guys in the band, it's up there for them too! It was really validating to get that on Triple J. The release day blew it out of the water too!
We got a couple of Spotify editorial playlist adds which always takes a little bit of the stress off, and on top of that, people were sending through their thoughts on the song. It's assuring because after a while you get in your own head. With ‘Food For Your Garden’, I heard that song just so, so many times as I demoed it a few months before we even thought about recording, so I just listened to it on repeat before we left.
I've been listening to some version of that song- and I would say it would be well up there in terms of the songs I've heard most in my life! It gets to that point that's comparable to when you say a word over and over again and it means nothing- its the same thing kinda with music; you know that at one point in time, you were certain it was a hit, but then you listen to it one thousand times and then you're like
“okay, maybe I have no idea until we put this out and hear what people say”!
But yeah, it's nice that the single is out with this reception.
I hope it sounds a little different on the radio at least!
There’s something weird that happens- maybe it's a complete placebo, but we always think it sounds way better on Spotify! I’m not sure why, it could be the way it’s mastered. But obviously, tuning into Triple J and hearing it on the radio along with Declan Byrne speaking about our band was super, super cool and was of course something we are incredibly thankful for!
“Not Alone” and “Food For Your Garden” were really emotive and vulnerable singles. Does the writing process act as an escapism from the past and a way of letting go, or does this sincerity make the writing and recording process challenging? Does it bring up some past truths?
That's a great question! I guess it's all kind of rooted in personal experience. When I’m writing, I’m not doing so with any real intention of diving into these past experiences and trying to gain perspective- but it kind of happens in the process. Even then, I could write a song and a few weeks later I could find different meanings in it, and I think that is something that is so great about music in general; people can find different meanings in lyrics and in songs. I think for me, songwriting has been a good way of externalizing stuff that I probably would not have externalized in any other way.
I am a pretty introverted guy, so it's kind of weird that I release these songs and play these shows in front of people, singing about my feelings and breakups and stuff like that. It's been super helpful for me and my journey with anxiety. It’s almost like keeping a journal and being allowed to analyse where you were at certain points in time. I think with this EP that we have coming out, it's definitely a little bit more hopeful compared to the previous stuff because it all comes from where I am at the point of time during the music writing process.
I've had a really good couple of years due to the band and some other stuff that’s been happening for me, so it makes sense that a little bit of that positivity has crept in, and less just emo for emo’s sake!
One thing that I’m sure was challenging, and as much as I hate to bring up the ‘C’ word… but how did COVID challenge the band’s dynamic? Did you find yourselves overcoming any obstacles?
It was definitely hard, and it still is hard. We had just signed to Rude, our record label, before everything happened and even in our initial panic it was a slurry of thoughts surrounding what was coming up, but no one really knew how it was going to affect things like international travel and all that sort of thing. We were thinking that we would be heading overseas really soon, I think we were aiming for the start of this year trying to get on tours within the UK and the US, but international travel shut down.
At the same time, I think we were really, really lucky as we were able to record. We maybe wouldn't have the EP coming out as soon as we do if we had gone touring and that sort of stuff. I guess that's the silver lining for us, we got to record the EP and it's all coming to fruition now and stuff is starting to open back up- even though I’m currently in lockdown in Brisbane- and that came out of nowhere. We were having standing shows and stuff like that, and then there was a case of community transmission, and it was downhill from there. But at least there's the premise of vaccinations rolling out now- so it’s not just complete doom.
Give me that sweet, sweet vaccine, please! Put it in me!
But it's definitely been challenging, but I think we made the most of it and we try not to dwell on the stuff that could've been, but make the most of what we can action. We turned those experiences into an EP and we’re super proud of the results!
Speaking of not dwelling on the past- you recently released your music video for ‘Food For Your Garden’! It’s so vibrant and comforting- how was the process of filming this, how did it work with your creative vision?
I’m so happy with how the video came out! When we were coming into recording that song, we knew the song was super fun and poppy, and maybe a little bit different in terms thematically compared to some of our previous stuff. I know most of our music videos have always leant towards the darker side and I think me and Nick, our guitarist who also shoots all of our videos and basically does all of the thinking and planning, we were on the same page there of wanting something different and making something a bit more colourful, vibrant and fun. He sought out and we hired a nursery in Brisbane and they were so kind. They let us move stuff around to set up all our equipment. It was just a really fun day and a stress-free shoot for the most part.
Everything seemed to work… there's usually something that goes wrong!
We did like one or two takes of the drums- we do our best to make sure that the drums aren't obnoxious, you don't actually have the kick drum pedal hitting the drum, you don't hit the cymbals and you have heads covering a lot of the equipment, but it's still kinda loud.
The nursery was actually right next door to an apartment complex and after two drum takes, this one person was just yelling out; “that's enough for one day”! So we just got drums done, turned everything down and it was fine. I’m super happy with how it came out. It’s very fitting to the song and that’s something that makes me the happiest.
I'm glad to hear that, and I expect the nursery sales to boom after this!
Yeah, I’m sure there will be a Waxflower bump to turn over the profits!
On that same wavelength, you’ve created this really comfortable, wholesome video, but a lot of your songs also radiate this comfort and good energy. How do you as a vocalist and your instrumentalist band mates find a balance between being vulnerable and honest, but still creating a poppy and fun song that gets into people’s heads?
I think it all stems back to the sort of music I grew up listening to. I was raised on MySpace music. I used to sit next to my brother when he was on the computer and watch him find new bands and go through the Top 8 of bands he liked. Some of my favourite bands growing up were The Maine and the Summer Set, and all of these pop-rock bands. A lot of my song-writing has been very pop-centred, and I definitely tried to dip my toes in the more emo side of things, but I’ll never be Basement or Citizen or anything like that. I tried, but the pop stuff has been ingrained in me. I think in terms of the lyricism contrasting that, I think one of the things that really bugs me about super poppy music is them doubling up on it with the vocals and lyrics. I like to balance it out when it comes to super poppy instrumental with a darker lyricism.
That being said, we are leaning more away from getting super dark within the current stuff, especially ‘Food’ which is a little bit silly- of course it's looking through some of the experiences we have been through but with a different perspective and lens of not just being emo all the way through and to have a little tongue-in-cheek! It’s a better reflection of my personality. If people didn't know me and just saw me in the band, a lot of our promos make us look super sad, but we are really silly guys and I'm super silly, and I'm getting more comfortable letting that into the music. It’s less compartmentalising and putting my personality into silos of happiness that switches to broodiness when I'm in Waxflower- just trying to merge these two things into one.
It definitely makes for a refreshing listen, and classes the band as something quite new and dynamic! ‘Food For Your Garden’ and ‘Not Alone’ were very big tastes of what the EP has to offer. Would you say the rest of the songs are on the same spectrum as these, or is there a twist we should be expecting?
Thematically, they're all along the same wavelength of reflecting on past experiences that might have been negative and finding a bit of optimism in them- a least comparatively to some of the stuff we have written before. I think lyrically, there's a song on the EP called ‘Fake Frown’ which is a little bit of a change up for us compared to the two singles, it is more of a straight down the middle rock song- there's not too much happening production wise and it is a little bit heavier comparatively.
The lyrics on that are some of the most I'm proud of on the EP- it’s a song that follows all the stuff going on with my anxiety and was capturing a moment when I was leaning into it and letting go of the wheel. That song is turning against the whole theme of optimism, it’s the oldest song from the EP as well- and the EP isn't organized sequentially but if it was, it would probably be the first song, followed by ‘Not Alone’ as the sequel; the turning point and coming back around. The closer, ‘We Might Be Alright’ is probably the most optimistic song. There’s an arc across the songs that isn't captured in the tracklist, but it's definitely there in some sequence. It will be interesting to see if people pick up on it!
You briefly touched on this question earlier but I am intrigued to know more- you said ‘Food For Your Garden’ was one of your favourite Waxflower songs. When did you realise this- was it during the writing, recording or performing stages?
It was a few months before we were supposed to go down and record what is now the EP, and I was super stressed as I always am before recording because you want to go in the studio with the best songs possible, especially when we only get to do it like once a year. There’s a lot of pressure with the fact we live in Brisbane and our producer lives in Sydney, so we have one shot to go down there and do it. It was during the middle of the pandemic and I was stuck home working which was good because it gave me more time to write, but also gave me more time to stress out- I would be sitting down trying to work and there was a guitar next to me and I would think “I don't know if I have the songs''. I usually create everything on an acoustic guitar and then bring it across later.
I had the verse and I really liked the way it was going- the lyrics were different to the stuff we had done before and it was a bit more playful. I wrote the chorus and at the time I was living with Dan, our drummer. I called him in and asked him to listen. We sat down and I played him the verse and the chorus and he said; “I really like the verse…”.
So I was like “Shit, I have to rewrite the chorus!”
He was right, what ended up being the chorus is so much better than the original, I rewrote the chorus when I was almost asleep at a friends place and I shot out of bed and went to the bathroom, mumbling into my phone.
I think I realised it was my favourite song so far when I had it on repeat and kept listening to it and slamming it, thinking in my head “this is probably the coolest song I've ever written”- I just couldn't get enough of it. Now I've heard it so many times- but even then, I listen to it and just feel extremely proud of it!
We don't often get to see into the processes of what makes an artist love their song so it's definitely cool to hear!
I think another part of it too is that I write so many songs that I don't like! So when something actually does stand out to you, it's almost like a huge sigh of relief. Half of songwriting is writing something, being happy about it for a day, and then having to top that- constantly moving the bar higher and hoping you can reach it again.
This might be a bit of a touchy subject considering your current lockdown, but we saw you guys announce your listening party for April 15th (fingers crossed it can go ahead)! The event is so much more than an EP, what made you guys feel so inclined to hold such a fan-oriented spectacle like this?
I think one of the things we've enjoyed most about being a band is forming a little community surrounding us including our friends and people who have supported us. People have shown a genuine internet in the band and have made art and stuff like that! I think it's more of a big celebration of not only us as the band, but everyone around us and what we have all accomplished over the last couple of years.
We've been playing the single game for a while, but the way I and many other people listen to music is through bodies of work like EP’s and albums, that is something I've always wanted to do with the band. Now, if any, is a great time to celebrate. We’re having some bands from Brisbane come in and play songs in their fashion, my brother (also known as the 5th member of Waxflower), is coming in with his clothing brand’s pop-up shop as well as a photo exhibition. We haven't done anything like this before, so it's set to be an interesting night!
Can any non-Brisbane fans expect to see the EP on the road?
We are looking at announcing tour dates soon! They keep getting pushed back, but I think it’s basically locked in now! We’re so keen to get out there. It was just over a year ago that we did our first headline tour, and we've played a couple of shows since then but nothing super substantial. It will be really exciting to go interstate again, and getting in the car with the guys and going across state lines. That's the best part about being in this band- being able to spend time with the guys and it's like a little holiday every time we get to play somewhere! The thing we love the most is playing live and I didnt expect as many people to care about this band so it's certainly something we don't take for granted. Whenever we get these opportunities to get out of Brisbane, it's really exciting!
To finish, if there is one major takeaway from the EP you hope people take with them, what would it be?
I think I can only speak for myself! I always like not being too specific when it comes to the sort of stuff because one of the things I love about music is everyone can find their own meaning in it. But the underlying current running through this EP is looking through negative experiences that you had through a more positive lens, and coming to terms with the fact that things might work out in the end, even though two years ago you thought you were going to die. It's more of a representation of where I stand now and I think that optimism is probably needed at the moment considering the current state of the world, not that we’re here to save the world! It's something that I've liked hearing in music, rather than dwelling!
Waxflower's debut EP We Might be Alright is out Friday 16th April
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