Who Are…Wax Idols

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 11.03.11 in Who Is...?s

File under: Raw girl punk that doesn't skimp on hooks or shadowy art

For fans of: Dum Dum Girls, Best Coast, Elastica, Jesus And Mary Chain, and Wire

From: Oakland, California

Personae: Hether Fortune (vocals, guitars, drums, piano)

While Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino radiates all the sunny musical signposts of her native Los Angeles — specifically, surf guitar riffs and beach-buoyant harmonies — Wax Idols’ Oakland transplant Hether Fortune sings, writes and generates a sound that references several decades of dark British alt-rock, albeit with a contemporary DIY spirit. Like other buzzy Bay Area bands, Fortune and her supporting players prove that punk and pop can still come together without going corporate.

eMusic’s Barry Walters caught up with Fortune as her band’s current live incarnation was making its way from the deserts of Marfa, Texas — where James Dean’s final film, Giant, was shot and Wax Idols had played the night before — to the state’s other artistic outpost, Austin. “We haven’t been pulled over yet,” she deadpans.

On the childhood that turned Heather Fedawa into Hether Fortune:

I was born in Lansing, Michigan, and lived there until I was about eight. Then we moved north to this crappy village called Perrinton with a graduating class of about 40. I hated pretty much everybody within a 20-mile radius, except for a small handful of weirdos. I just sat in my room, listened to music, read books and did yoga. I’ve only just turned 24 and my mom had me at a young age, so my uncle was 17 when I was born and a big influence on me. He was a drummer and really into Nirvana and Sonic Youth, so he bought me my first CDs and gave me his old drum set when I was 10. I moved out of my mother’s house when I was 16 and was living in my biological father’s basement for a few months, but he’s a dick, so then I moved to a punk house in Detroit and I’ve been on my own ever since.

On her brief spell with confrontational queer-led punk band Hunx and His Punx:

I was living with [Hunx frontman] Seth’s former boyfriend Alex, a brilliant singer/performer as well. I was actually demoing [pre-album Wax Idols single] “All Too Human” when Seth came into my room and told me he was turning Hunx into an all-girl band, and he wanted me to play guitar. We did a short tour with Girls and Smith Westerns in early 2010, and every time we stopped anywhere we had to find the nearest thrift store; the van was stuffed with bags of costumes and stage props. We played all sorts of borderline-mean tour games, and there was weird, ridiculous, funny shit happening all the time. I wrote a lot of the guitar parts on Too Young to Be in Love, but got kicked out before they recorded it. I was in a sour mood because a close friend of mine had just died, but they did a really good job of making me laugh despite my anger at the world.

On how she became a Wax Idol:

I’m a really big Bob Dylan fan: In times of emotional crisis, my thoughts will become Bob Dylan lyrics. I was in bed and stoned, and the line in “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” about flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark went through my head, and I immediately thought of Wax Idols. I Googled it, and it had never been used as a band name, so I took it. Apparently there are plenty of religious connotations that I wasn’t aware of, which is awesome. I got banned from a church because of being in a band called Wax Idols.

On Wax Idols’ solo/band status:

It started as a solo project and it is a solo project, more or less. With my last lineup [the one that shares some instrumental duties on No Future], I had a couple of the girls from the Splinters and this [bassist] Paul. After six months, I started loosening the reigns. That didn’t work out, but with my current lineup, they totally understand that it’s very much my band and my vision, and they’re helping me achieve what I want to achieve in a live setting. If we continue to work well together, we could end up a normal band where we all write and record together. I would actually prefer that, but it has to feel right. It’s my baby; I can’t let just anybody have it.

On not giving a damn about her bad reputation:

I’m pretty straightforward and direct, but there’s a lot about me that maybe isn’t as easy to pick up on or understand. The most common misconception is that I’m this terrible bitch. I’m very intense; I know what I want and I don’t take any shit from anyone, but I feel pretty confident on saying that I’m a good friend and a good person and I’ve helped many people in their time of need, strangers, just because that’s how I am. I’m definitely not as mean as people think I am.

On the most surprising thing she could say about herself:

I used to be a cheerleader. I was really good at it (laughs). My mom was a cheerleader, a real ’80s popular girl, so she wanted me to be like that, naturally, as her first-born and only daughter at the time. I enjoyed it to a certain extent, mostly to keep my mom happy, but once I got to middle school I was done.