Wax Mannequin Orchard and Ire

Wax Mannequin Orchard and Ire
Previous albums hinted at the masterful genius Wax Mannequin was capable of but Orchard & Ire is the glorious bloody document of Canada’s champion of DIY making good. Retaining all his endearing idiosyncrasies while amping up the rock’n’roll bombast and polishing the wistful beauty of his folkier side, Wax has distilled his quirky essence into a boldly potent musical statement. Early album tracks like "Animals Jump” and "Price Paid” deliver fist-pumping adrenalin, the latter containing some of the most adept rock drumming an ear is likely to hear all year, with Aidan Campbell’s inventive and exuberant patterns pushing the boundaries of human ability. Careful pacing finds the rockier numbers scattered amongst more gentle fare, including the expertly plucked hypnotic guitar of "You and All Your Friends,” and album highlight "Almost Everyone,” a sparse, melody-driven, ego-fighting anthem. All the songs are vividly painted with deceptively simple levels of lyrical absurdities filtering the underlying social satire. Presenting songs that seem simple at first but reveal delightful nuance to the attentive listener is but one of Orchard & Ire’s many strengths and Wax’s ultimate gift as a songwriter. By training his inner animal enough to let it run free with his muse, Wax Mannequin has given birth to a brilliant bestial gem of audio mythology.

Was Orchard & Ire always the intention or did Ire blossom after your initial Orchard EP?
We recorded all of the bed tracks at a semi-abandoned studio in the middle of a frozen apple orchard. I had wanted to call the record Orchard for a while, so it was a happy accident situation when we found the place. I worked on the songs for a long time and we released the first six on an EP a while ago. Then we re-worked these onto the final record and added the rest of the songs.

To what would you attribute the increased ferocity of this new album?
It’s because of my shredded voice and Aidan Campbell’s baffling drumming. Steve Rizun engineered the album and he’s good at bringing out the hugeness of things. A little too good for his own good.

Did you work with a full band for the song writing process or just the recording?
I wrote all of the songs but Aidan, Mark and Adam contributed lots. With my previous full band record I was pretty exacting but this time I gave the other guys a lot of room to work and develop parts. I’m pretty happy with how it happened. It was like a breeding organism.

There seems to be less obvious humour in this album. Do you think that may help some listeners appreciate the serious side of your poetic metaphors?
I suppose so. I still think that some people might think this record is pretty fucking funny. They’ll still be wrong.

How is the album title connected to the narrative of the songs?
It’s partly a fighting record. Some of the songs are about crushing. There are also songs about blossoming. [There are] soft songs and hard songs. I have always written in these two opposite modes and struggled with how to use both sides of what I do in the live and recorded settings. These days I’ve pretty much figured it out. This is the result.

Is the animal-heavy them at all inspired by George Orwell’s Animal Farm?
Not really. It mostly has to do with how they are looking at you in the night time, how they are wise and how they secretly know what’s about to happen.

In your most animal loaded album no animal sounds are vocalised. Have you retired the "meow” or is it just how the songs happened?
I didn’t consciously retire the "meows.” "Meow” sounds made a good instrument for solo melodies during my one-man shows, so I went with it for a while. Some made their way onto my last record. These days I use other synth instruments, or scratchy vocal noises. There is actually a quiet screechy sound at the end of one of the songs on the new record. This can be thought of as the sound of someone, or something, suffering.

How important is satire to your artistic approach?
It’s in there but I try not to get caught up in it. I write the songs and play them night after night. It stops mattering whether or not things are funny or dead sad.

The concept has stretched over two albums now. What is "The Price” and how has it been paid?
I’m not really sure. I felt like I laid a curse upon myself singing that song night after night. It’s about how there is more price to be paid and whatnot. I wrote the sequel to end the curse. It seems to be paying off.

How does the "president of indie rock” feel being aligned with Infinite Heat?
Infinite Heat is fantastic. Mike is great at music, stores and writing; Steph is great at drawing pictures and making web sites. That’s pretty much all you need from a label. They have been doing this stuff with Sonic Unyon for years, so it seemed obvious that they should start their own label. We’re having a nice time.

How involved are you with the album art? It seems very appropriate for the music.
My friend Lee Stringle did the paintings that I used for the record. I’m not sure if the work was based directly on the music at all. I think he and I just happen to have similar ideas about things. He did a lot of images for the cartoon video for "The Price.”

It’s great to hear recorded versions of "Almost Everyone” and "Robot, Master and Lady.” How important is it to road test songs before recording them?
Things definitely ripen on the road. I usually end up touring new songs quite a bit before recording them, not always though. A couple of the songs on the record are things we just played around with in the studio. [There are] lots of crafted things and some spontaneous things.

I detect a greater cohesion of styles on this album; the beautiful progressive folk quirks and the bombastic rock seem comfortably at play. Do you feel Orchard and Ire is the most accurately you’ve turned your thoughts and feelings into sounds?
Good. Thanks. I wanted to cover a lot of sonic ground with this record but I definitely intended the songs to "fit” together, to work together lyrically and sonically even though they are musically very different. I always have an idea of things going into the studio. It definitely ended up sounding different than I expected, which is pretty normal, but I am pretty darn happy with what we ended up with.

What sort of inspiring situations or people have you encountered during your travels?
I’m constantly inspired, humbled and horrified on the road. There is an old guy in Thunder Bay with, like, 30 elaborate birdhouses on tall, painted polls in his yard. An oil company in New Brunswick has bought out pretty much all of the province’s small and independent media sources. A mechanic in Sault Ste. Marie spent two hours fixing the broken van that Jenny Omnichord and I were travelling in. He didn’t charge us a thing and he gave us oil for the road. This was the morning after we were treated like third class citizens by the deluded owner of the music venue we played at. Hundreds of square kilometres of the BC forests are dead because of a beetle that won’t die in the warm winters they’ve been having. I found a giant sea turtle dead by the side of the road two hours outside of Sudbury when our van died, then I found a fighting action Ninja Turtle figure ten feet away from it. That kept me going. Right now I’m in Newfoundland where they keep feeding me all the booze and pasta I can handle. (Infinite Heat)