Louisville, Kentucky-based psyche-rock trio Wax Fang is Scott Carney, Kevin Ratterman and Jacob Heustis. They’ve toured with likes of Spoon and My Morning Jacket. They’ve recorded in the likes of Ardent Studios and in a funeral home. DIY to the bone, they released La La Land last year via their own label, Don’t Panic Records. Lead singer/songwriter Scott Carney took a few minutes to answer some questions for our Writer of the Week interview.
Who are your favorite singers, past and present? And when/how did you start singing?
I started singing when I was very young, too young to remember really. I used to sing myself to sleep at night, much to the chagrin of my sister, who slept in the next room. I would learn songs I saw on MTV and heard on the radio and when I was sent to bed, I would swing myself violently back and forth, slamming my face into my pillow to the tempo of whatever song I was singing and I would just belt it out until I had no energy left and I fell asleep. Where there weren’t words, I would imitate the guitar or keyboard melody with my voice. I did this for an embarrassingly long time. I think my sister still holds it against me.
Some of my favorite singers, past and present, are: Frankie Valli, Roy Orbison, Dion DiMucci, Sam Cooke, John Lennon, Neil Young, Brian Ferry, Mark E. Smith, Jim James, Antony Hegarty and Matt Pelham, to name a few.
When you’re writing, are you working through the vocal and guitar arrangements at the same time? How does this process work for you?
Sometimes. Every song sort of dictates to me how it wants to be written. Some songs start with a lyric and/or vocal melody, some with a guitar line. Many songs began with a drum beat and/or a bass line. It all depends on the type of song I’m writing. I don’t write in any sort of linear fashion. I’m always bouncing around from song to song. I am also usually producing and arranging in my head as I write. You might say I have trouble focusing. I work in this way until I have a group of songs that are close to being finished and then I force myself to go through them one at a time until they are done.
Could you describe the impetus behind your songwriting on La La Land?
Hmmm… it’s hard to say. I was almost an entirely different person then. I was very depressed at the time, a heavy drinker, having serious anxiety issues and I think, more than anything else, music was therapy for me. Musically speaking, I tried to write things that made me happy, things that were simple and enjoyable to play. It was essentially escapism. That might explain why so many of the songs on that album were written in the major key and revolve primarily around the three chord theory. On the other hand, I was counter balancing this light and fluffy music with lyrics that reflected my anxieties at the time.
Who are some songwriters who inspire you?
Off the top of my head… Neil Young, Robert Pollard, John Lennon, Lou Reed, Stephen Malkmus, Bob Dylan, Beck Hansen, Brian Wilson, Frank Black, John Fogerty, Kurt Cobain, David Bowie, Roger Waters, Tom Waits, Andrew Rieger (Elf Power). The list goes on…
Do you write on your guitar? How do you keep track of your ideas for songs?
Yes, I write primarily on the guitar, though, lately, I’ve been writing on the piano quite a bit. In the past, I’ve kept track of ideas either in a notebook, in some crude form, or just in my head. I recently started recording ideas into my cell phone. It sounds awful, but it serves its purpose.
What gear do you use to record demos? And live?
At the moment, I’m either working at home, tracking through a small Mackie board to an ADAT, or at a friend’s place, through his TL Audio board and some borrowed Motu converters into a PC computer setup running Nuendo. The few live recordings we’ve done have been made with pieces of our drummer, Kevin Ratterman’s, studio (the Funeral Home), his PC setup, those same Motu converters I mentioned earlier and whatever gear is at venue we’re playing.
Name your top five albums of the moment.
1. The Features, Some Kind of Salvation
2. Gavin Bryars, The Sinking of the Titanic
3. Neil Young, On the Beach
4. Patto, Patto
5. Penguin Café Orchestra, Penguin Café Orchestra