Heather Fortune doesn’t keep things bottled up. The front woman of Oakland, Calif.’s Wax Idols overshares incessantly — she’s up-front online about her work as a dominatrix and recently announced her nuptials via Twitter — and doesn’t shy away from the sort of things that make most up-and-coming musicians clam up.
Sure, she’s had problems with her band, she says, and sometimes people don’t like her. But what’s most refreshing about Fortune, and the band she fronts, which released its second full-length, Discipline + Desire, yesterday, is the way honesty creeps — or sometimes loudly gnashes its way — into the driving, shadowy songs Fortune creates.
“People would compare me to Best Coast and I’d be, like, are you kidding me? I don’t write songs about my fucking cat.”
“I’ve been hugely influenced by a lot of darker music — not any specific genre or era — but the darker aspects of life have bled into my art,” Fortune, in the Midwest for a high-school friend’s funeral, says. “My life has been pretty fucked up in a lot of ways, so it brings me a certain amount of comfort.”
There are the inevitable comparisons to Siouxsie Sioux or 45 Grave or any other female-fronted band with a taste for the macabre, but Fortune’s quick to dismiss being indebted to any one inspiration.
“I think everybody hears what he wants to hear and music clicks with everyone differently,” she says of attempts to pigeonhole her sound. “People would compare me to Best Coast and I’d be, like, are you kidding me? I don’t write songs about my fucking cat. I am never trying to do anything but make a record that I like and that feels right to me. That’s all I care about.”
And Discipline + Desire should certainly feel right. The 10 songs clock in at a little more than half an hour, but manage to suck a listener into a world that’s all Fortune’s. From the chanting that kicks off the opening track “Stare Back” to the haunting guitar sounds on “Stay In,” the album offers a fully formed look into the world Fortune wants to create.
“I had a breakthrough as a guitarist on this record — I was able to just be in the live room, alone in my own sonic vortex, and I had no idea what my part was going to be,” she says. “The bass and the drums would be there, but I’d have no idea what I was going to play. This happened with several songs on the record: I just went in and fucked around until something felt right. We’d get into a rhythm where we didn’t have to speak or discuss anything, I’d just get into a space where things would work.” On “Stay In,” the last song on the record, getting into that space meant enduring corporal pain. “I did really simple open chords and gave them the effect of using whammy bar, but with my body,” she says. “I dipped and pulled the guitar into my chest. I was doing it in this angular was that wasn’t lush at all; it sounded really weird and was really intense because it hurt me physically. But that was all it needed.”
Wax Idols’ Discipline + Desire is out now via Slumberland. Stream it now via Pitchfork.