Before Wax Fang could finish recording Victory Laps, their fourth full-length album, Scott Carney had to, more or less, relearn to sing. A few days prior to tracking vocals, Carney’s air conditioning went out, and a friend had an extra window unit, but it had some black mold on it.
“Not knowing any better, I took it into my bathtub and took some bleach and hot water and started cleaning it off, and just breathed that shit in,” he said. “And man, I got… I don’t know if you’ve ever had a neurological problem, where you walk into a room, and you don’t remember what you were doing, but stuff like that started happening. I basically lost my ability to sing and had to work through that. That was a large part of what took so long. That probably took about a year.”
Victory Laps, the follow-up to 2014’s dark concept record, The Astronaut, is a dense, song-focused record that maintains Wax Fang’s standard theatrical feel, while leaning into some experimental, electronic-type production ideas. While Carney was recovering, Wax Fang — which now includes bassist Corey McAfee, keyboardist Zach Driscoll and drummer Dave Chale — continued to chip away on the album. At first, there was a lot of trial and error.
“It didn’t help that some of the vocal melodies on this record are some of the more elaborate that I’ve ever written,” Carney said. “We also made the mistake in the demoing process of picking the wrong keys of songs, thinking that I could sing it down the road, so we would record a whole track in a key, and I couldn’t do it, so we had to go back and re-track the whole song.”
But, then, through what seems like a lot of patience and rearranging, the songs over time led them to new creative territory. You can hear it in a song such as the album’s opener “Pusher,” a shimmering, shifting and intense anthem about rising above those who try to force-feed the masses a belief system. With different parts that sound like they were reworked, edited and matched together, it results in a six-minute whirlwind, sounding unlike anything they’ve ever done, but still unequivocally Wax Fang.
“It was one of the songs that spawned early on in the process, when it was wide open, and we didn’t know what we were doing,” McAfee said, referring to weekend trips to a cabin where they brainstormed early blueprints for Victory Laps. “It was pure creativity. But, because it was so out there, we kind of hit a wall with it. It was funny because when new songs would come in, others would kind of get dropped off, and then we’d go back to ‘Pusher’ because we kept hitting a wall with it, until we had a breakthrough. We sat on it for three years.”
“Pusher” also acts as a statement, one that says Victory Laps is different from their previous material, since it lacks a long intro, is driven by electronics and is, in general, structured in a less traditional rock format than usual. But, at the same time, that statement also says that this isn’t a complete deviation from their style, as “Pusher” is still the sort of emotionally-driven juggernaut that’s marked many of the cornerstones of the band’s timespan.
“Another thing I like about it too, is that there’s only about 20 seconds of guitar stuff in it,” Carney added. “Which I think we’re known as a guitar-heavy rock band, but that song is still very much a rock song, even though it’s driven by a barrage of synthesizers, that makes it, arguably, with the second song, probably the rocking-ist songs on the record.”
Where Wax Fang’s previous release, The Astronaut, had a 16-minute opening track and told a concise, focused story, Victory Laps is a stream-of-consciousness record that follows a series of whims, from reflections of the current political climate, to breakup songs that weren’t even thought of as breakup songs until after they were written and recorded.
“There was a narrative to The Astronaut,” Carney said. “There was a script to follow, so to speak. With the new album, there was just kind of a blank canvass. There was nothing to adhere to. We could do whatever we wanted. Some people are good at having a formula and following that formula — having a sound. I guess I kind of realized, at a certain point, that the only thing that ties the Wax Fang cannon together is the sound of my voice, which doesn’t necessarily stay the same from one album to the next, but, other than that, the music can be whatever we feel like.”