Clean slate

Hal­i­fax four-piece Wash­ing Ma­chine goes deep with ’80s-lean­ing tones and lots of heart.


Wash­ing Ma­chine re­lease w/Booji Boys, Sur­veil­lance, Va­lerie Thurs­day, April 5, 10pm The Sea­horse Tav­ern, 2037 Got­tin­gen Street $7

Noel Mac­don­ald would never say it, but

Walk It Back, his first record with the new-wave in­spired band Wash­ing Ma­chine, feels like a big deal. Mac­don­ald has been play­ing in the lo­cal scene for years—with Moon, Long Week­ends and Don Lovely, to name some—but says Walk It Back is dif­fer­ent. With his other projects rel­a­tively dor­mant, Mac­don­ald saw an op­por­tu­nity to “in­dulge [him­self] in the process of mak­ing a record.” He wrote, mixed and fi­nanced the record on his own, and many of its songs stem from places of vul­ner­a­bil­ity deeper than ones he’s mined be­fore.

“I’ve never re­ally done it this way be­fore,” he says. “I was writ­ing mu­sic for bands that didn’t quite work out… so I thought, ‘I’m gonna go into the stu­dio with some folks who I know who can at least com­mit to go­ing and record­ing.’”

He be­gan record­ing with drum­mer Nathan Doucet and bassist Matt McQuaid, who laid down a rhythm sec­tion for Mac­don­ald to build his post-punk and power-pop songs atop. Now, nearly two years af­ter be­gin­ning the record, Mac­don­ald and the rest of Wash­ing Ma­chine—Tom Burke, Dy­lan Chew and Cody Goo­goo round out the live band—are cel­e­brat­ing with a record re­lease show at the Sea­horse on April 5 with Booji Boys, Sur­veil­lance and Va­lerie.

Walk It Back sounds gor­geous, its slip­pery gui­tar leads and force­ful rhythms in­debted to ’80s bands like the Smiths and Martha and the Muffins. Mac­don­ald’s own record­ing process was soli­tary and metic­u­lous—he de­scribes hours spent fi­ness­ing lyrics and gui­tar tones and re­calls a week­end spent record­ing vo­cals at a pal’s cot­tage un­til his neck mus­cles ached.

In con­ver­sa­tion, there’s some­thing in­nocu­ously tongue-in-cheek to how Mac­don­ald speaks about his project. He has a deep aware­ness of how pre­tense and ar­ti­fice in­ter­act with the work of mu­si­cians, and ac­knowl­edges the hunger many feel to as­cribe nar­ra­tives to records and the artists be­hind them.

He might not name it ex­plic­itly, but his think­ing about the record feels like an os­cil­la­tion be­tween the per­sonal im­por­tance of this project and the rel­a­tive mun­dan­ity of an in­die-rock record in 2018.

Sure, Walk It Back is an­other record of Hal­i­fax in­die rock; it’s also a fully felt, beau­ti­ful al­bum that feels like one of the most ex­cit­ing lo­cal re­leases in re­cent mem­ory. At its core, how­ever, this record is an ob­ject of deep per­sonal sig­nif­i­cance and vul­ner­a­bil­ity for Mac­don­ald.

“When we per­form, I re­ally do want to feel the full im­pact of what the song means to me,” he says. “These songs mean so much to me.”


“These songs mean so much to me,” says Mac­don­ald (third from left).

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