New Zealand’s post-punk Wax Chattels hit the U.S.

Members of New Zealand post-punk trio Wax Chattels don’t claim to be familiar with the intricate government policies of their new prime minister, Jacinda Ardern. But keyboardist-vocalist Peter Ruddell says enthusiastically, “She gets my vote!” He hasn’t met the leader, but last year she showed up to announce the Auckland festival the band was playing, then stayed to catch a good portion of its set. “At the time, she was pregnant and surrounded by four bodyguards, but she attended a Wax Chattels gig, so we have got to give her some props,” he says.

You guys swore off guitar and employ a keyboard-bass-twin-drum-kit assault instead?

I guess it all started with this vintage organ that I had used on some records with other bands. It’s this old ‘70s Yamaha suitcase organ, kind of like what The Doors used, and I just fell in love with it and wanted to start a band with that. It’s got a great sound, and you patch that through a couple of amps and it’s just huge.

And you all first met while studying jazz performance in college? What was that exactly?

Ha! It was a school of music, actually, but you could do jazz courses. So performance specializing in jazz was really just something to sharpen you up and get some general musicality flowing out of you. But I admit, the idea of having, say, an improvisation class is very strange, in theory. But in reality, there was so much I learned from it, all about different techniques and approaches.

How awesome was it to have your self-titled debut snatched up by legendary New Zealand imprint Flying Nun?

When we first started, me and Amanda (Cheng, bassist) were always talking about dream labels, and mine was Flying Nun, hers was (New York’s) Captured Tracks. So we both got our wishes granted. We were playing another festival in Auckland, and the head of Captured Tracks happened to be over there doing a DJ set. So he came over, saw a couple of songs, then sent us an email that night saying we should meet up for coffee. But he had one of the main people from Flying Nun with him, and coffee turned into lunch as they talked about how they wanted to co-sign us. So we were definitely in the right place at the right time.

And you had no other careers planned?

Well, I’ve still got a pretty chill day job. I work as an English language teacher for a university program, all for international adult students coming to New Zealand. It basically takes up 20 hours a week, and then I can focus on music the rest of the time.

Wax Chattels
Where: Oakland Secret, 577 Fifth St., Oakland
When: 8 p.m. July 17
Tickets: $5
Contact: (510) 277-5166,

Tom Lanham

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