by: Annamarya Scaccia
Even though they’ve only been an outfit for little over two years, WAZU has received a lot of prodigious buzz in the blogosphere, securing spots at CMJ 2010 and Toronto Indie Week 2010. But while the electroindustro-meets-grimy glam duo—that is guitarist/producer/lyricist/vocalist Matt and vocalist/synth player Rizz—may have started their trek as WAZU in late 2010 after moving to New York from their Sydney, Australia hometown, they’re no strangers to life as musicians. After all, while living in Sydney, the pair performed in different acts in the experimental and avant-garde scene in the Down Under city during the mid-2000s. And all that experience has paid off—currently recording their three-track EP (due January 2012) and full-length debut (due May 2012) with Kevin McMahon (Titus Andronicus, Real Estate, Swans, the Walkmen), WAZU is quickly climbing the sonic ladder, consuming all the pop culture America has to offer along the way.
Was there a culture and music shock after moving to New York City from Sydney, Australia?
Musically, we played around some real crazy experimental and performance art stuff in Sydney, so there wasn’t too much of a shock there but culturally, Australia is more middle-of-the-road than a lot of places. It’s like a huge suburb, and everyone’s racing to breed and become boring. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still home, but New York, and the US in general, is like 50,000 different types of things for everyone, all turned up to 11. We’re pop culture junkies, so we love it. You see more TV, junk food, money, poverty, DIY, underground, mainstream, highbrow, lowbrow. For someone from another country, this place is LOADED with things to take in.
What are the differences between the Sydney and New York scenes?
The “traditional” venue scene in Sydney kinda died in the 2000s. The laws and regulations meant it was a lot easier for venues to have poker machines in them than live music. A lot of the time you felt like you were competing with pokies and football games. That, and the whole “huge suburb” thing lead to us creating new scenes that side-stepped the music venues and were self-sufficient. Even though people bitch about NYC venues closing, this city will always have great live music venues and people can do it either way. Even if traditional venues go up and down, there are always a lot of DIY scenes, and people are always improvising.
Are there some pros to the New York scene you wish existed in Sydney?
New York does DIY better. There’s probably not much that Sydney has that New York doesn’t have, to be honest. It’s like a bigger brother.
Have you found more success playing as WAZU in the New York scene than you had playing in different bands in the Sydney scene?
They’re different. For the most part, we weren’t WAZU when we were playing around Sydney and Australia, so it’s hard to compare the two. We spent some time getting to know ourselves and what we wanted to do musically in Australia and it was an experimentation process too – we’ve been able to pursue the fruits of that here. Also, because we’re further from home, and we don’t have many people we know around, it feels like a bigger deal when good and bad things happen, and the extremes are much wider.
You’re recording your EP and full-length debut with Kevin McMahon (Titus Andronicus, the Walkmen). What is it like working with him?
He’s like a mad scientist. He has this old barn that [was] converted into a studio up in New Paltz. Some of the gear he has I’ve never seen in my life. It was pretty focusing to get out of the city, go upstate and have nothing but the creative process to worry about. Also, there’s something about the construction of a barn that reminds you there are no shortcuts to lasting work.
How has he influenced your sound and process?
For the most part, he helped facilitate what we wanted to do. We had our songs sorted out before going into the studio, so the focus was on getting things right sonically. Being able to experiment with different types of gear was great. He gave our beats a lot of space, warmth and physicality. And he’s a nice guy, so that helps.