Crushable Interview: David Wax Museum is Here to Bring You Sun After Sandy

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Tempting as it was to headbang to “Rock You Like a Hurricane” during Frankenstorm, while playing “hoax or no hoax” with all the epic disaster Instagram uploads floating around the internet, I was listening to something different. Something that made me think of sunny days and the kind of really cool spontaneous gazebo parties that only happen in movies.

This magical music came courtesy of David Wax Museum, whose playfully unique sound defies genre. Their songs carry influences of Mexican folk music, including the use of a traditional percussion instrument made from the jawbone of a donkey. They also have strong roots in Americana, and even a little bluegrass flavor. But after just a few minutes of listening them, you’ll stop trying to categorize David Wax Museum, because you can’t help but be swept away by their spirited sound. Their new album Knock Knock Get Up is out now, and you’ll want to add it to your must-listen list.

The band is busy touring the world and building their already strong international fan base, but we had the chance to chat with band member Suz Slezak via email to learn a little bit more about David Wax Museum. Read on to find out how this fiddle player was convinced to start making music with a donkey jawbone, and to check out a few of the band’s music videos.

Crushable: How did you guys start making music together?

Suz Slezak: David had just gotten back from his year in Mexico studying Mexican folk music and was looking for musicians to start a band. A mutual friend knew I was playing the fiddle in some old time bands around Boston and put us in touch. David convinced me to find a donkey jawbone and we never looked back! We started the band in Oct. 2007, so this fall is the five-year anniversary of David Wax Museum.

What is your songwriting process like as a band?

David is the songwriter in the band, though I've begun to do a fair bit of editing along the way. Once he brings a song to the group, we all chip in ideas for arrangements and harmonies. A lot also happens in the studio thanks to Sam Kassirer, the incredible producer we've worked with for the past two records.

What genre would you say your music belongs to?

We made up the term “Mexo-Americana” and that's actually stuck around. We feel like we have one foot in American folk, one foot in indie rock, one foot in Mexican son, and our other five feet? Well, you'll have to come to a show and hear for yourself!

What has been your best live performance experience?

Oh gosh, maybe playing the main stage at the Newport Folk Festival, or having Bela Fleck sit in with us at Mountain Stage, or Andrew Bird whistling on “Yes, Maria, Yes,” or playing for an auditorium full of Chinese college kids at the University of Shanghai. The list could go on. Experiencing magical and memorable live performances is why we're in this business, so grateful that I can't choose one “best” moment.

If you could have anyone make a cameo in one of your music videos, who would it be?

I'm not good with these kinds of hypotheticals, but I just asked the guys in the band and they say Bill Murray.

How have the internet and social media contributed to your development as a band?

The internet has helped enormously. The fact that we can write a newsletter once a month to over 10,000 fans that we've made these past five years is a huge gift. These wonderful fans helped us win the contest to play at the Newport Folk Festival that first year, contributed over $35,000 towards our new record, and house and feed us along the way.

What's one venue or city you'd like to play that you haven't yet?

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco

What's on the horizon for you? Where will we see you next?

You'll see us at a town near you since we'll be continuing to hit the pavement for the foreseeable.

For more on David Wax Museum, check out their website.