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January 2013

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David Wax Museum Interview — ‘Knock Knock Get Up’

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I requested an interview with David Wax Museum immediately after watching their video for “Harder Before It Gets Easier.” The memorable masterpiece is the first single off their latest record, entitled, ‘Knock Knock Get Up.’ Their unique sound is relatively difficult to describe, but David Wax coined the catchy term, “Mexo-Americana” and it has since stuck. The band’s core members include Wax and Suz Slezak, who are currently touring the new record. I’m told by my friend who saw their show in Santa Monica that it’s one of the “best live performances [he’s] ever seen.” The very kind Suz Slezak took the time to graciously answer all of my nosey questions. Read below.

Can you take me through the making of your video for “Harder Before It Gets Easier”? It looked intense.

We wanted something bright and fun. [Our producer and his partner] asked us if we were okay with face paint, but we had no idea that we’d be completely covered for three days. We were game, though. The funniest part was walking outside and interacting with people on the street.

I know you’ve worked with the same producer for two records. Can you tell me a little about his influence?

He talks about wanting The David Wax Museum to sound more like The David Wax Museum. For the past two records he’s made our sound unique. He’s had a hand in bringing our stage energy to our records.

The donkey jawbone has become a staple in your live acts, and I know David initially suggested that you learn to play the instrument for percussion. Did he have any idea it would become such an integral part of your brand?

I don’t think so. When we started the band, I was just playing fiddle. But it didn’t work on the songs with a more Mexican sound. We looked into some Mexican instruments, and the jawbone was a pretty inexpensive purchase that we knew would add something we were missing.

You are really great about connecting with your fans. Is there any part of you that would like to hand over the business side so you could focus solely on music?

No way. What I love about being in a band is that it involves running a business. Thinking about artwork, videos, and all the other pieces that come along with this are what keeps me going.

I read that your parents were very encouraging of your musical pursuit. Had you not had that encouragement, do you think you would have found your way down the same path?

It’s different for everyone. For me, music was a basic part of our life. We had to practice our instruments every day before breakfast. It was a regimented part of our day.

There’s a song on this record called, “Wondrous Love.” Is that about someone in particular?

David doesn’t talk about what his songs are about. There’s a sense that a lot of art comes from a deeper, bigger place, rather than being about a certain person.

Do you test out your new material during your live performances? Are you ever surprised with the audience’s reaction?

It’s album by album. For ‘Knock Knock Get Up,’ we actually didn’t play a lot of the songs live. We wanted the record to be exciting and new for our fans. But audiences don’t realize how much they are a part of the music. What they give back with their energy is a huge part of what we give out.

You guys have been at this for a long time. Today’s music is so much about a slow growth. Did you ever get impatient about your success?

That’s a great question. No one has been honest enough to ask that. We’ve definitely had ups and downs. We see this as a long-term career choice. David and I aren’t teenagers. We made this choice after doing other things in our life, and we take it very seriously. When you’re a musician, you’re putting your heart and soul in front of people every night. It’s really important not to give up.

Watch below to see their video for “Harder Before It Gets Easier,” and click HERE to catch the band on tour.

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