Fanning Waax- ing lyrical after ‘ gate- crashing’ debut
Waax frontwoman Maz DeVita and her bandmates were blown away when they received an unexpected email from Bernard Fanning.
The former Powderfinger frontman and award-winning solo artist dropped them a note to tell them how excited he was they were going to record their album at the La Cueva Studios in Byron Bay he co-owns with respected producer Nick DiDia.
“Bernie sent us an email saying he was so excited about us coming to the studio and he really liked the band. Oh cool, Bernard Fanning. We’d never met him before … wow, this is happening. What does this all mean?” frontwoman Maz DeVita says.
“We joked about it, saying how funny would it be if he co-produced the record?”
The punk quintet had been in discussions with DiDia to produce their single Labrador as an experiment with a view to booking him to helm their record. But when they got to the studio, there was Fanning sitting in the corner.
“We did ask him to stick around. It ended up being the first co-producing thing Bernie and Nick did and we did feel really special,” DeVita says.
One of the most eagerly anticipated debut records
to be released in Australia this year, Big Grief peaked at No.11 on the ARIA album charts, a significant achievement for an independent punk band in a streaming era dominated by r&b and pop.
DeVita says Fanning proved pivotal in helping her record her vocals, finding new melodic colours in her powerful classic rock voice which can send fans into a frenzy with its visceral growl.
Fanning says DeVita’s singing and the rock muscle of her bandmates was evident in the demos he and DiDia listened to before signing on to the project. That power was a compelling reason behind him “gatecrashing” that first studio session.
“Obviously you can hear the power in the band and in her voice,” he says. “I haven’t heard anyone really scream like that probably ever. It’s not metal and it’s too melodic to be punk. She has got her own thing but she also has all the attributes of Chrissie Hynde, overt and tough and sassy.
“And I’m a sucker for a melodic rock band.”
Both signed to Dew Process, the independent label established by Powderfinger manager and Splendour In The Grass co-founder Paul Piticco, Fanning and DeVita share a passion for music with a message, with Big Grief’s songs addressing everything from her battle with body image to dealing with anxiety.
“Maz has something to say,” Fanning says. “She’s very eloquent and has this
confidence with a bit of a fragile skeleton around it.”
DeVita’s vulnerability, even as she screams out her pain on stage, has connected with thousands of rock fans around Australia and word-of-mouth about them continues to bubble overseas. She has been a vocal campaigner for safe spaces at gigs and creating an environment in venues where female fans and members of the LGBTQ community can confidently enjoy a position in the front rows.
So she and her bandmates — and many of Waax fans — were appalled when she was “aggressively groped” while singing from the front row barricade at the Cambridge Hotel in Newcastle in April.
DeVita and the band called out the inappropriate behaviour in a passionate social media post: “You wouldn’t grope someone in the grocery store, on the bus or in your workplace. So what makes this situation any different? What am I to you? Last I checked I’m a f...ing human who deserves the right to her own body and the right to work in a safe environment,” she posted.
The hotel examined security camera footage and identified the man responsible and he has been banned from the venue for life.
DeVita says they have also instituted other measures to educate punters on respecting artists and other fans at gigs and, along with cameras from the stage aimed at the audience, she would encourage other venues to follow suit.
“Our tour manager briefs everyone about what we expect from the venue and security and there has been a change in the behaviour at our shows,” she says.
WAAX PERFORMS AT YOURS AND OWLS FESTIVAL, WOLLONGONG ON OCTOBER 5 AND 6, AND OUT OF BOUNDS FESTIVAL, SYDNEY ON JANUARY 18
“She also has all the attributes of Chrissie Hynde, overt and tough and sassy
Bernard Fanning with Waax frontwoman ntwoman Maz z DeVita.