Q&A with The Waxwings

Descent out of madness

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The Waxwings

Sell your Verizon stock. Their cell phones don't work. But in between the seven (SEVEN!) call drops, lawrence.com managed to have a very nice conversation with Dean Fertita from the Waxwings while he was watching a friend sky dive. We don't know who he was waiting for (Thanks again, Verizon), but between "Hello?" and "Did you get that last part?," we managed to talk about the new record ("Let's Make Our Descent"), Detroit, and "the letter."

lawrence.com: Hey, it's lawrence.com. How ya doin'?

Dean Fertita: Hey, good. How are you?

Good. Anybody up in the air yet?

No, I'm just waiting. Its' been a long process here. I didn't realize it took so long to do this.

Are you going up?

Not today.

Have you done it before?

No, I've never done it, but after seeing this I totally want to try it.

Jeez. I've got a few friends that have done like thirty jumps, and I can't even conceive of doing it.

Yeah, it seems pretty terrifying at first, but then, judging by everybody's reaction after, they seem like - I guess it feels, like, really comfortable. I thought it would be like, boom, going down a roller coaster or something. That feeling of stomach and everything. But they're all, "It feels just like you're floating. It's really cool."

It's lunacy. Dominic's not going up is he? [guitarist Dominic Romano's fear of heights is immortalized in the song "Clouded Over" on the Waxwings' second record]

No.

It sounds like we have a similarly rational fear of heights. So you've got a brand new record.

Past Event

The Waxwings / Jon Harrison and the Mood Swing Set

  • Saturday, August 7, 2004, 10:30 p.m.
  • Replay Lounge, 946 Mass., Lawrence
  • 21+ / $2

More

Yep.

It's a very groovy progression of your groovy sound. Do you think Detroit is keeping rock alive while the rest of the country just gets more and more doughy?

Yeah, I feel so fortunate to be around the city at this time. There's a lot of great stuff happening, so it's fun to be a part of it.

With bands like The Go, Electric Six, Dirtbombs, obviously White Stripes - what is it about Detroit that keeps bands making this gritty stuff?

I don't know if part of that is, you know, the blue-collar mentality around here, but there's not a whole lot else to do. Music is such an escape for everybody here. It's just been such an important part of peoples' lives growing up that - And especially that type of thing, like the retro tag or whatever, it's just normal for everybody here. That's what people listen to - '60s, '70s rock 'n' roll and punk and stuff.

Do you guys live in the city proper?

Yeah.

There's a lot said about downtown Detroit and the flight to the suburbs.

We didn't grow up there. And that's kind of true. I think in the last five years or so a lot more people are moving down into the city.

That's gotta be good for kind of centralizing the music scene.

Yeah, kind of.

Are a lot of the clubs located downtown now?

Yeah, and there's only a couple that people play. There's like two or three places that people go to hang out.

Like the Magic Stick?

Yeah, the Magic Stick, the Lager House, and there are some places in Hamtramck.

So are you guys all still living together?

Well, not really. Dominic moved out, he got married. Jim, Kevin, and I, in theory, live together, but I haven't been staying down at the house too much lately. I've been out all the time. Yeah, but we all still live under the same roof. Our stuff is in the same place anyway.

Do you still feel like you're close as a band?

Yeah, absolutely. I don't know if Amy [publicist Amy Lombardi] mentioned this part to you or not, but we will have a lineup change for the tour this summer. Brendan Benson's playing guitar and singin' with us.

Are you guys any more comfortable talking about the split with Bobsled Records and owner Bob Salerno?

Yeah. We're still as confused. I don't think we were ever terribly uncomfortable, other than the fact that we felt like it distracted from the release of the second record, which in turn really never came out - It ended up being more of a bootleg record than an official release, I think.

So the infamous letter from Bob Salerno came before the release of the record?

We got the letter like two days after our record release show in Detroit, and within like two weeks of that it wound up being circulated on the internet and all that stuff. It happened right away, and any momentum that we might have had going in from the first record was pretty much lost, because we just quit talking, basically, after that.

Quit talking to the label?




  • The infamous letter from Bob Salerno ripping the Waxwings a new one or making himself look like a total jackass. You decide.

Yeah. And they had no intention, or I say they - Bob Salerno had, I don't think, any intention of really pushing the record because they were, I think, having some financial troubles, which is purely speculation on my part. But I think that kind of is why the letter happened in the first place. I think he was trying, more or less, to divert attention from what he was going to be able to for us contractually or whatever by saying, "You guys don't deserve it" or whatever. That's just my opinion on it, and I don't know. I just know that Stereo Total, The Chamber Strings, Adventures in Stereo, and whoever else was part of the label, isn't a part of it anymore.

That letter is amazing.

Yeah. If you haven't seen the whole thing, it's astounding.

Even if you were hurt by it at the time, you've gotta appreciate the out-of-nowhere nature of it.

Yeah, it was completely out of nowhere. I mean, considering the fact that he was hanging out with us 48 hours prior to that, shook our hands when he left, and was like, "Great show, you guys." Then two days later I get this email - not just an email. He also sent it certified mail to the house to make sure that everybody got their own copy. It was just strange behavior. It wasn't professional. (laughs) At all.

And then that record ("Shadows of the Waxwings") got fantastic reviews. "Low to the Ground" (the Waxwings' first record) got good reviews, but you guys were out of nowhere then. The great reviews from the two records could have created, like you say, decent momentum, and then he apparently lost his mind.

Yeah, and I mean that record never really - we don't even consider it being released because so few people know about it or have it.

According to legend, you guys played your first show five days after you formed. How accurate is that?

That's incredibly accurate, actually.

How did that come about?

Well, a friend of mine was trying to encourage me to do a show, I guess to just force myself to write and to get out there and play. And so she booked a show for me in New York. And I was working at a record store with Kevin (Peyok), our bass player, and asked him if he would come along and play guitar with me. He's like, "I got an idea. I'm gonna call Dominic and see if he wants to do it." And I lived with Jim (drummer Jim Edmunds) at the time. It just came together really quickly. We had two practices.

So you guys had two practices and just clicked?

Yep. And we went out there and did that. And actually it was a really fun time. We ended up meeting Elliott Smith. He came to the first show we ever played.

Had any of you played together before?

We had talked about putting a band together. We really hadn't acted upon it. I was just trying to write a bunch of songs, and most of them ended up on the first record.

I read somewhere that you were a "Real World" cast member. Is that true?

No.

But you were in a band with Andre, from the first season.

Yeah, I went to high school with the guy, and we played in like talent show bands and stuff together. (laughs) So there's definitely connection.

The "All Music Guide" has you listed as a fellow cast member.

Yeah, it's like one of those stupid things where you know that people are gonna try to take a shot at you for it, just like being friends with the guy. But yeah, that's no big deal.

Well, he was no Puck anyway. Have you been to Lawrence since touring on "Low to the Ground?"

Yeah, we did get to play through there on "Shadows."

Any thoughts on the Lawrence experience?

Oh yeah, it's like one of our favorite places to go. We stay at the Eldridge, and look forward to it.

That was a great heads up for the stalkers.

Right, right.

So what makes Lawrence one of your favorite places?

Actually, the very first tour we did for "Low to the Ground," I remember we played there on a Monday night, and it was summer time, and we were thinking, you know, college town on a Monday in the summer, it's gonna be pretty dead. So Kevin and I went for a walk, we went back to our hotel room, got a drink, then we came back to the bar and it was packed.

This was the Replay, right?

Yeah, we played at the Replay. There were a lot of people there, and we just loved that whole thing of playing, basically, among the pinball machines, right on the floor next to people, it being such an interactive thing.

Well, the Replay has a stage now. You'll be elevated four to six inches above the crowd. So the intimacy is all gone. Sorry.

(laughs) Oh no.

Well, we're looking forward to having you back. Thanks for taking the time to talk.

Thanks for dealing with the cell phone and all that stuff.

Cool. Get a new cell phone and stay inside the airplane.

I don't know, man. You've gotta try it some time.

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