WAXY
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WAXY

Palm Desert, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2007 | INDIE | AFM

Palm Desert, California, United States | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 2007
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"Pioneers of the desert’s indie-rock scene reveal a vibe that runs deeper than this month’s Coachella festival"

Trying to understand contemporary music in the High and Low deserts is no easy task. It’s a sound born of the canyons, sand dunes, gated estates, meth labs, utopianism, conservatism, tourism, high design, and hopelessness — a sound deeply informed by the surreal extremes of its environment.

It’s a loose and sprawling tapestry, stitched in an eclectic weave that trips the line between soulfully freewheeling psych rock (War Drum, Golden Animals, Waxy), country-infused Dadaist electronica (Gram Rabbit), and rock as heavy and mysterious as the sonic booms that emanate from the 29 Palms marine base (Vista Chino, Waxy, earthlings?, and Masters of Reality). It’s a sound that exploded into mainstream consciousness after the legendary generator parties of the 1990s that spawned the “Palm Desert sound” or “desert rock,” whose golden children are the multiplatinum Queens of the Stone Age and its offshoot, the Eagles of Death Metal. And in the post-apocalyptic wake of that ’90s desert rock scene, it’s a sound that, like tumbleweed, continues to roll with strange and unpredictable abandon, possessed by a rebel soul that is all its own.

In the last 10 years, the region has emerged as a commuter Mecca for music-obsessed SoCal urbanites. They snake east along Intersate 10 out of Los Angeles, coming for indie-rock shows under the stars at Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown; to find out why country star Gram Parsons loved Joshua Tree so much, he died there (at Joshua Tree Inn); to record at Rancho de la Luna studio in Joshua Tree; and to experience the timeless Palm Springs pool resort weekend at the generation-defining Ace Hotel & Swim Club.

And, of course, they come for the musical flash flood that is Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which rages through Indio each spring, populating the desert with countless satellite parties and mini festivals (Desert Daze, for instance). Goldenvoice’s behemoth festival drops in 150 or so bands from all over the world.

Meanwhile, those in-the-know gather at the Hood in Palm Desert, epicenter of the low desert music scene, either enjoying the invasion to the fullest, or counting the days until the desert life returns to normal.

Palm Springs Life met a few of the people who are defining the music scene in the desert.

Robbie Waldman
Unit A Recording, Palm Springs

Musician and producer Robbie Waldman runs Unit A Recordings, the largest recording studio in Palm Springs. (In true Palm Springs style, it has its own pool.) Formerly Monkey Studios, the 2,800-square-foot space is where many original desert rocks bands recorded in the ’90s. Queens of the Stone Age cut their first record there, for instance. Today, the studio continues to work with musicians rooted in the original scene — like Fasto Jetson, Jesse Hughes (Eagles of Death Metal) and Yawning Man, psych-rock pioneers War Drum and Brooklyn imports Golden Animals, and iconic acts such as Captain & Tennille and Brian Setzer (Stray Cats).

Waldman, also the frontman for Waxy and bassist for War Drum, discusses the history of the desert rock scene, and how a new Low Desert sound — which straddles the heavy rock and hipster psych sounds — is emerging.

"Palm Springs is a small town with a lot of rich kids, a lot of poor kids, and a lot of talented kids with time on their hands — many of whom started playing guitars.

In the early ’90s, I was only about 14 or 15, but the desert generator parties were happening, and they were unbelievable. Bands would play all night in different spots — out in Sky Valley, Indio Hills, or some secret High Desert spot — and they’d play until the generator ran out of gas. You got the sense that your mom and dad didn’t do this. Maybe they had Woodstock or something, but they didn’t have this. This rebel sense of independence, with lots of wind and sand hitting you in the face. There was Kyuss (featuring a young Josh Homme), Fu Manchu, Unsound, Fatso Jetson, and Yawning Man, who I recorded at my studio [in February].

Kids didn’t have cell phones or computers in those days, so word of the parties would spread around the Low Desert high schools, and then everyone would head out in a gigantic caravan, 60 cars all following each other to the same spot. And that’s how the whole desert rock scene came about — “desert rock” meaning large landscape and jammy, heavy blues. The music very much reflects the nature of the desert itself in that it’s sincere, it’s beautiful, and it’s also deadly. And it has a lot of depth if you’re willing to dig under the surface.

Right now, I really feel like there’s a psych sound that’s permeating. My eyes have been opened to it from playing in the band War Drum the last couple of years; we’re talking a lot of organs, jamming blues, and garage surf rock. It blends well with the hipster scene — you know, thrift store clothes and your mom and dad’s records. The hipster movement is closely connected to fashion, and if you’re wearing a tie-dye - Palm Springs Life magazine


"Pioneers of the desert’s indie-rock scene reveal a vibe that runs deeper than this month’s Coachella festival"

Trying to understand contemporary music in the High and Low deserts is no easy task. It’s a sound born of the canyons, sand dunes, gated estates, meth labs, utopianism, conservatism, tourism, high design, and hopelessness — a sound deeply informed by the surreal extremes of its environment.

It’s a loose and sprawling tapestry, stitched in an eclectic weave that trips the line between soulfully freewheeling psych rock (War Drum, Golden Animals, Waxy), country-infused Dadaist electronica (Gram Rabbit), and rock as heavy and mysterious as the sonic booms that emanate from the 29 Palms marine base (Vista Chino, Waxy, earthlings?, and Masters of Reality). It’s a sound that exploded into mainstream consciousness after the legendary generator parties of the 1990s that spawned the “Palm Desert sound” or “desert rock,” whose golden children are the multiplatinum Queens of the Stone Age and its offshoot, the Eagles of Death Metal. And in the post-apocalyptic wake of that ’90s desert rock scene, it’s a sound that, like tumbleweed, continues to roll with strange and unpredictable abandon, possessed by a rebel soul that is all its own.

In the last 10 years, the region has emerged as a commuter Mecca for music-obsessed SoCal urbanites. They snake east along Intersate 10 out of Los Angeles, coming for indie-rock shows under the stars at Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown; to find out why country star Gram Parsons loved Joshua Tree so much, he died there (at Joshua Tree Inn); to record at Rancho de la Luna studio in Joshua Tree; and to experience the timeless Palm Springs pool resort weekend at the generation-defining Ace Hotel & Swim Club.

And, of course, they come for the musical flash flood that is Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which rages through Indio each spring, populating the desert with countless satellite parties and mini festivals (Desert Daze, for instance). Goldenvoice’s behemoth festival drops in 150 or so bands from all over the world.

Meanwhile, those in-the-know gather at the Hood in Palm Desert, epicenter of the low desert music scene, either enjoying the invasion to the fullest, or counting the days until the desert life returns to normal.

Palm Springs Life met a few of the people who are defining the music scene in the desert.

Robbie Waldman
Unit A Recording, Palm Springs

Musician and producer Robbie Waldman runs Unit A Recordings, the largest recording studio in Palm Springs. (In true Palm Springs style, it has its own pool.) Formerly Monkey Studios, the 2,800-square-foot space is where many original desert rocks bands recorded in the ’90s. Queens of the Stone Age cut their first record there, for instance. Today, the studio continues to work with musicians rooted in the original scene — like Fasto Jetson, Jesse Hughes (Eagles of Death Metal) and Yawning Man, psych-rock pioneers War Drum and Brooklyn imports Golden Animals, and iconic acts such as Captain & Tennille and Brian Setzer (Stray Cats).

Waldman, also the frontman for Waxy and bassist for War Drum, discusses the history of the desert rock scene, and how a new Low Desert sound — which straddles the heavy rock and hipster psych sounds — is emerging.

"Palm Springs is a small town with a lot of rich kids, a lot of poor kids, and a lot of talented kids with time on their hands — many of whom started playing guitars.

In the early ’90s, I was only about 14 or 15, but the desert generator parties were happening, and they were unbelievable. Bands would play all night in different spots — out in Sky Valley, Indio Hills, or some secret High Desert spot — and they’d play until the generator ran out of gas. You got the sense that your mom and dad didn’t do this. Maybe they had Woodstock or something, but they didn’t have this. This rebel sense of independence, with lots of wind and sand hitting you in the face. There was Kyuss (featuring a young Josh Homme), Fu Manchu, Unsound, Fatso Jetson, and Yawning Man, who I recorded at my studio [in February].

Kids didn’t have cell phones or computers in those days, so word of the parties would spread around the Low Desert high schools, and then everyone would head out in a gigantic caravan, 60 cars all following each other to the same spot. And that’s how the whole desert rock scene came about — “desert rock” meaning large landscape and jammy, heavy blues. The music very much reflects the nature of the desert itself in that it’s sincere, it’s beautiful, and it’s also deadly. And it has a lot of depth if you’re willing to dig under the surface.

Right now, I really feel like there’s a psych sound that’s permeating. My eyes have been opened to it from playing in the band War Drum the last couple of years; we’re talking a lot of organs, jamming blues, and garage surf rock. It blends well with the hipster scene — you know, thrift store clothes and your mom and dad’s records. The hipster movement is closely connected to fashion, and if you’re wearing a tie-dye - Palm Springs Life magazine


"WAXY is the new desert storm of music"

There is certainly a difference between rock and roll that is coming from the east and rock and roll that is coming from the west. Even more so there is a difference between rock that is coming out of urban areas and rock coming out of the desert. Coming from the Palm Desert of California, WAXY is one of those rare and genuine breeds that are producing desert rock and roll that is completely enjoyable and uplifting. No they aren’t trying too hard to sound different or experimenting with sounds that do not even make sense to the common listener rather they are just keeping things rather simple. With simplicity comes enjoyment and with that comes a musical experience that is memorable. Just like what Robert DeNiro says in the movie Casino, “...things get buried in the desert,” but what he forgot to mention that things also come alive just like rock and roll music from WAXY. FERNTV talks to frontman Robbie Waldman about this great renaissance of rock and roll music in an tough industry that has become truly desensitized.
FERNTV: Please tell us here on FERNTV what WAXY stands for those who are not in the know and the meaning behind the name and why you picked it
Robbie: WAXY stands for Without Any eXplanation whY, because we don't feel the need to explain where our rad name came from. It's one of the biggest mysteries in the desert. But actually, the truth is, WAXY is the name of an old Jewish gangster who used to frequent Spielberg's delicatessen in Brooklyn.
FERNTV: What was your reaction when he first discovered WAXY?
Robbie: WAXY started off as a concept like most bands, as an acoustic Neil Young-inspired eclectic ensemble. One of the original WAXY songs is on this new record, and it's called “What We Were”. But when we finally captured the essence of the WAXY sound, what can I tell you... It was a good feeling.
FERNTV: WAXY is from the southern deserts of California, can you explain how this influences the music of WAXY?
Robbie: If you are a musician the environment you’re in will have a major influence on your perspective. Growing up in the desert was very special. There was an excellent music scene here and some really special musicians that are still playing today, Such as Mario Lalli, Brant Bjork, Josh Homme, Chris Goss, Dave Catching, Alfredo Hernandez, Alain Johannes and so on. The desert created a sort of sound that most call desert rock, and I would say WAXY absolutely falls into that category.
FERNTV: What was it like for the band to tour Europe and how did they react to the music of WAXY?
Robbie: Touring is great. Some musicians live for it, others can’t stand it. We love it. We played shows throughout Europe in March 2013 and this was our seventh time there. We've been able to make a lot of friends and build an extended family and it’s always wonderful to be a part of peoples' lives that we don't see every day.
FERNTV: What is your take on the future of rock and roll and how you see WAXY apart of this?
Robbie: Rock n roll will never die; the same way punk rock will never die. But like any art form it will come in and out of fashion depending on who is doing what. The basic essence of rock n roll to me as far as instrumentation is drums, bass, guitar and vocals. I don't see that ensemble changing any time soon. I feel the future of rock n roll as more collaborative than at any time in its history. You see this all the time with super groups and indie groups. I don’t know a musician today who is not in more than one band and is not multi instrumental. Making records has never been easier in the history of the world, so my hope for the future of rock n roll is a large extended family where we all help each other for a common goal. Self-expression.
FERNTV: Are there any plans of a future album soon for WAXY?
Robbie: WAXY will have a new release by Christmas 2013.
FERNTV: Tell us what it is like to be a part of NXNE this year?
Robbie: This is our first year at NXNE and so far, so rad. So many good musicians! We were invited to play so it feels like we are getting a wonderful welcome. Toronto ha a terrific reputation and is a clear supporter of all the arts. All these conventions/festivals have lots of hustle and bustle but this one seems especially full of talented young and old musicians ready to have a really cool weekend.
FERNTV: If there is an environmental, social, or political issue that WAXY is concerned about...what would that be and why?
Robbie: Animal cruelty and abuse of environment. On the album there is one track called Slowly Erasing that touches on human beings' self destructive behavior. I feel that we lease this planet and it is every generation's duty to pass on a planet that is healthy and vibrant and balanced. That’s what I would like our music to represent.
www.waxy-music.com

“...so my hope for the future of rock n’ roll is a large extended family where we all help each other for a common - FERN TV


"Without Any eXplanation whY"

My first peek at WAXY, the psychedelic, desert rock band, headed by local rocker and entrepreneur, Robbie Owen, was at the Date Shed. They were opening for Duff McKagan’s band Loaded. I found it to be powerfully soulful, and heartfelt and awesomely loud. Watching Robbie play was like watching someone travel transcendentally to another dimension. Eyes closed, music pouring out from his guitar as naturally as if he could play it in his sleep. I’m not sure that he was aware at first, that the music brought Duff (known mostly as the bass player from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Guns and Roses) out of the artist’s room to check him out until after he finished playing his song. I watched as Robbie looked up to find Duff giving him a seriously approving nod. The very gracious player thanked Duff over the mic for coming out and giving them a listen.
Waxy has been getting nods from locals and fellow musicians for the better part of the past decade. What started out as a three piece acoustic in the styles of rock greats Neil Young, Bob Dylan and early Springsteen, eventually morphed into a the magical sound and energy becoming known worldwide as “desert rock roots”, a formula that only our southern California low and high deserts seem to produce at its unique best. A revolving door of talented artists have graced the stage as members of Waxy, thus growing its founder and front man musically and emotionally, which has played a part in the unique, transient and unpredictable goodness that Waxy has become known and loved for. The only things completely predictable are the bands sincerity, soul and volume.
Appearances can definitely be deceiving. WAXY’s fan page warns, “Do not be fooled – WAXY may look like hard rocking desert mother___s, but inside us, reside the tender hearts of tiny newborn kittens.” I can’t confirm the “hearts of tiny newborn kittens” description, but WAXY, and especially their founder Robbie, definitely fit the hard rock look and sound criteria. One might never venture to picture Robbie Owens donning a USC cap and gown, but there’s got to be a picture of it somewhere, as he attended and graduated from the prestigious school on a partial tennis scholarship. As homegrown as it gets here in the desert, Robbie grew up a typical country club kid playing golf and tennis. “I kind of got into music late. I played piano at a young age, around 7, but hated it. I couldn’t find the joy in music. I really didn’t start playing guitar till I was about 14. That’s when I saw ‘Janie’s Got a Gun’ on MTV and saw Joe Perry on a Les Paul solid body electric guitar. I saw Jimmy Hendrix on a Les Paul. Jimmy Page and Bob Marley were all playing a Les Paul. I said, ‘Dad, I don’t know what that is, but I want one.’ My dad and I have been collecting guitars ever since.”
With school and tennis both ending at the same time, Robbie went into business for himself. “When I graduated from school, I took over the old A&R Recording Studio here in the desert. That’s when I first got into making music. I went from tennis strings to guitar strings. I just really jumped into it with the little bit of base knowledge that I had. I did a lot of reading, studying and got some help from friends. After going through those initial growing pains, I realized that I knew what I was doing, and that I had the ability to approach it from a musical side more than a techy side.” Now called Unit-A Recording and Art, the studio is located by the Palm Springs Airport. “The recording studio world is always changing,” shared Robbie. “People are doing so much from home. I’m a mid-level recording studio. If you want to make a record with a timeless quality that really does sound good, I can get you there. For example, somebody might say, ‘that’s a really good song, but I wish it was recorded better, you can come to a place like mine, and I can help get you over that hump. I’ve got a nice sounding drum room, and I’ve got a lot of toys to choose from: four drum kits, dozens of guitars, a piano, a bunch of different mics and amps… it’s kind of like a musician’s man cave. I love the recording process, and am very at home in the studio.” Robbie’s Unit-A studio has the capacity to record both digitally or on analog. “I’ve got a Pro Tools HD3 system, which is pretty much state of the art now. I’ve got an old 2” tape machine and an old analog console that I love, as well as a bunch of outboard gear.” With 3000 square feet, there’s plenty of room to get creative.
After six years of recording music produced solely for the purpose of having something to sell at their shows, WAXY fans are now enjoying the band’s first official album. The self-titled album is what Robbie describes as “the first album I always wanted to make. I’m very proud of the new record.” I, personally, can’t stop listening to it. It’s extremely well produced, passionate, not in the least bit commercial, yet still universally appealing within its genre and scope. It’s quite a find to come ac - CV Weekly


"Without Any eXplanation whY"

My first peek at WAXY, the psychedelic, desert rock band, headed by local rocker and entrepreneur, Robbie Owen, was at the Date Shed. They were opening for Duff McKagan’s band Loaded. I found it to be powerfully soulful, and heartfelt and awesomely loud. Watching Robbie play was like watching someone travel transcendentally to another dimension. Eyes closed, music pouring out from his guitar as naturally as if he could play it in his sleep. I’m not sure that he was aware at first, that the music brought Duff (known mostly as the bass player from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Guns and Roses) out of the artist’s room to check him out until after he finished playing his song. I watched as Robbie looked up to find Duff giving him a seriously approving nod. The very gracious player thanked Duff over the mic for coming out and giving them a listen.
Waxy has been getting nods from locals and fellow musicians for the better part of the past decade. What started out as a three piece acoustic in the styles of rock greats Neil Young, Bob Dylan and early Springsteen, eventually morphed into a the magical sound and energy becoming known worldwide as “desert rock roots”, a formula that only our southern California low and high deserts seem to produce at its unique best. A revolving door of talented artists have graced the stage as members of Waxy, thus growing its founder and front man musically and emotionally, which has played a part in the unique, transient and unpredictable goodness that Waxy has become known and loved for. The only things completely predictable are the bands sincerity, soul and volume.
Appearances can definitely be deceiving. WAXY’s fan page warns, “Do not be fooled – WAXY may look like hard rocking desert mother___s, but inside us, reside the tender hearts of tiny newborn kittens.” I can’t confirm the “hearts of tiny newborn kittens” description, but WAXY, and especially their founder Robbie, definitely fit the hard rock look and sound criteria. One might never venture to picture Robbie Owens donning a USC cap and gown, but there’s got to be a picture of it somewhere, as he attended and graduated from the prestigious school on a partial tennis scholarship. As homegrown as it gets here in the desert, Robbie grew up a typical country club kid playing golf and tennis. “I kind of got into music late. I played piano at a young age, around 7, but hated it. I couldn’t find the joy in music. I really didn’t start playing guitar till I was about 14. That’s when I saw ‘Janie’s Got a Gun’ on MTV and saw Joe Perry on a Les Paul solid body electric guitar. I saw Jimmy Hendrix on a Les Paul. Jimmy Page and Bob Marley were all playing a Les Paul. I said, ‘Dad, I don’t know what that is, but I want one.’ My dad and I have been collecting guitars ever since.”
With school and tennis both ending at the same time, Robbie went into business for himself. “When I graduated from school, I took over the old A&R Recording Studio here in the desert. That’s when I first got into making music. I went from tennis strings to guitar strings. I just really jumped into it with the little bit of base knowledge that I had. I did a lot of reading, studying and got some help from friends. After going through those initial growing pains, I realized that I knew what I was doing, and that I had the ability to approach it from a musical side more than a techy side.” Now called Unit-A Recording and Art, the studio is located by the Palm Springs Airport. “The recording studio world is always changing,” shared Robbie. “People are doing so much from home. I’m a mid-level recording studio. If you want to make a record with a timeless quality that really does sound good, I can get you there. For example, somebody might say, ‘that’s a really good song, but I wish it was recorded better, you can come to a place like mine, and I can help get you over that hump. I’ve got a nice sounding drum room, and I’ve got a lot of toys to choose from: four drum kits, dozens of guitars, a piano, a bunch of different mics and amps… it’s kind of like a musician’s man cave. I love the recording process, and am very at home in the studio.” Robbie’s Unit-A studio has the capacity to record both digitally or on analog. “I’ve got a Pro Tools HD3 system, which is pretty much state of the art now. I’ve got an old 2” tape machine and an old analog console that I love, as well as a bunch of outboard gear.” With 3000 square feet, there’s plenty of room to get creative.
After six years of recording music produced solely for the purpose of having something to sell at their shows, WAXY fans are now enjoying the band’s first official album. The self-titled album is what Robbie describes as “the first album I always wanted to make. I’m very proud of the new record.” I, personally, can’t stop listening to it. It’s extremely well produced, passionate, not in the least bit commercial, yet still universally appealing within its genre and scope. It’s quite a find to come ac - CV Weekly


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Bio

WAXY represents the new sound of the California desert, their sophomore album, Without Any eXplanation whY, featuring contributions from desert rock icons John Garcia (Kyuss), Mario Lalli (Fatso Jetson), Jesse Hughes (Eagles of Death Metal), and Gary Arse (Yawning Man).

Recorded at Unit A(formerly Monkey Studios), legendary desert rock recording facility where Queens of the Stone Age laid down their first album, Without Any eXplanation whY is the labor of love of WAXY front man and songwriter Robbie Waldman, Palm Desert-raised musician who came of age during the legendary generator parties of the 1990s in the desert, parties which gave birth to bands like Kyuss, Fatso Jetson, Eagles of Death metal and Queens of the Stone Age. Hometown publication Palm Springs Life recently heralded WAXY as being at the center of the new desert rock sound, a sound that has a more feminine side to it, with female harmonies and beautiful piano and keyboards, explains Waldman. Its the yin and yang that WAXY embraces.

WAXYs sound pays homage to its desert roots while embracing the softer, psychedelic sounds that are emanating from these dusty plains. The awe inspiring voodoo dissonance of Black Sabbath, the freaky "whoa" of The Velvet Underground and the cosmic density of Jimmy Page's guitar--these are the very building blocks of modern rock n roll, and we are informed by those legends. We consider ourselves contemporary though, because we take those influences and reconstitute them, merging them the desert rock sound and the heartbreaks and passions of our lives. The result is this seething sonic explosion we like to call WAXY.

WAXY just returned from a month-long tour of Europe and are planning a string of North American dates in support of Without Any eXplanation whY. Standout tracks on the album include Slowly Erasing, with lyrical content touching on the way humans are destroying the planet. I am socially conscious, partially because I have seen how the desert has changed over the years thanks to gambling and irresponsible use of the land. The video for Slowly Erasing was shot at a geodesic dome just outside Joshua Tree, under the Milky Way.

Band Members