Latest Flame Records’ Waxeater talks The Wire, “noise-grunge,” bro-ing down with sports bros
“I assume [they think that] being in a band just means, ‘Boston covers at our uncle’s sports bar every third Thursday.’”
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Louisville, Kentucky/Bloomington, Indiana, noise-rock—er, make that “noise-grunge”—trio Waxeater has been doing the heavy roadwork for Milwaukee’s Latest Flame Records since signing to the label in 2010, touring essentially whenever guitarist/screamer Rob Montage can get away from his day job as an English teacher. The band’s new vinyl slab, Baltimore Record, out later this month, adds a fresh element to Wax’s brand of thumping aluminum-guitar scrapery by stringing a theme through its blistering 25 minutes. To wit: The disc is a concept record about the acclaimed HBO crime drama The Wire. In advance of the band blowing the doors off Circle-A Sunday, October 12, with locals Holy Shit!, Montage spoke to The A.V. Club about The Wire, his bassist’s radio gig, and his students’ pop-culture preferences.
The A.V. Club: Where did the idea come from to do a Wire concept album?
Rob Montage: I got into the show late, a couple years after it went off the air. Everyone said to watch it, and I mainlined it in two weeks and thought it was incredible. I once had a weird dream about Omar—that he was going to shoot me but decided not to. I wrote it into the lyrics of a new song about how the threat of that violence could motivate you to do something with your life. That song became “Omar Comin’.” After that, I just started to think, ‘How else could I work my thoughts through the cipher of the show?’”
AVC: So the songs aren’t necessarily about specific episodes, but more a collection of songs “inspired by”?
RM: There are tons of references to characters and events in the show, and the songs lean heavily on the same themes. I mix a lot of characters and quotes that might not relate to each other on the show, but that tie together in the context of the songs. You definitely aren’t getting episode summaries.
AVC: So give us an example for folks who haven’t seen the show. What is “That’s Protestant Whiskey” about, and how does The Wire inform it?
RM: Well, the title comes from the ostensible lead of the show, Detective McNulty. He’s Irish and at some point someone offers him non-Jameson, which he turns down by rebuking it as “Protestant whiskey.” The thing about McNulty is that he’s a fuck-up. A well meaning fuck-up, but a fuck-up, to be sure. The song itself is about how we are also basically well-meaning fuck-ups too, but the consequences are a bit less severe. That bass line is one Elliott [Turton, the bassist] has been dicking around with at practice for like three years and we finally developed it.
AVC: Speaking of Elliott, what’s the story behind him chatting about Waxeater with some sports radio guys?
RM: He works for Clear Channel in Louisville, and a huge part of his job is broadcasting U Of L games and Louisville Bats games [the Cincinnati Reds’ Triple-A affiliate]. I have no idea how he ended up on air with those morning sports-jock clowns, but if you know Elliott, you know he’s no stranger to putting on a massive radio hard-on voice and clowning about everything. Truth be told, I had no idea he had done it until he posted the audio.
AVC: What was your reaction to hearing a pair of sports bros (who likely have no concept of DIY or punk, much less esoteric genres like noise-rock) trying to process him discussing your band? I mean, just the name “Waxeater” sets them off into a barrage of howls.
FM: I mean, it had me rolling, too. I am positive that Ell just rattled off that moniker, “noise-grunge.” It was weird that something as simple as our name would tickle their fancy, but I assume that like most of my students, they assume being in a band just means, “Boston covers at our uncle’s sports bar every third Thursday.”
AVC: Have any of your students discovered your secret identity yet?
RM: Ugh, fucking unfortunately. Most of them couldn’t really give a shit, though. I’m still just the old guy who actually likes books. Plus, I think the stuff we do is a little out of their pay grade.
AVC: Any of them Wire fans? Maybe that would be the hook to get into you guys. Maybe the band Wire?
RM: These kids were born 1998, man. They are familiar with neither Wire. Some appear to be Breaking Bad fans, though. Most of my kids listen to lame programming bass-drop metalcore with four-plus-word band names.