WAAX have shared two new singles – an emotive pop ballad titled ‘Dangerous’, and a snarling punk anthem titled ‘Help Me Hell’ – alongside the reveal of their second full-length effort, ‘At Least I’m Free’.
‘Dangerous’ marks a significant departure from the band’s usual sound, driven by cold, melancholic grand piano chords, warbling synths and subtle, but impactful strings. It evokes the heartfelt headiness of ‘90s pop-rock balladry, thanks in part to the talents of former 4 Non Blondes frontwoman Linda Perry, who WAAX’s Marie ‘Maz’ DeVita co-wrote the song with.
‘Help Me Hell’, on the other hand, recalls the gruff, hardcore-adjacent bite of WAAX’s earlier material, bursting with crunchy, down-tuned guitars and explosive drums. DeVita’s tenor on this track is vicious and abrasive, as she passionately yells the chorus: “Help me hell, fuck, my life still sucks / I can’t be somebody to love / It’s not my fault, it’s just how I was taught.”
Both songs arrived on streaming services last night (April 5), following their premiere on triple j’s Good Nights program. A music video, combining both tracks, was also released. Directed by Phoebe Faye, it opens with DeVita, donning a suit and sitting at a spotlit piano flanked with plants, singing pensively to ‘Dangerous’ as the camera follows her in slow-motion.
When the video pivots to ‘Help Me Hell’, DeVita throws off her blazer and runs into another room, where, flanked by flashing red strobes, she and her bandmates jam out with the convulsive energy of WAAX’s typical live show.
Take a look at the video for ‘Dangerous’ and ‘Help Me Hell’ below:
In a press release, DeVita said the songwriting process for ‘Dangerous’ marked “one of the most wild experiences of my life”. She explained: “I had talked to the [label] team about planning a writing trip over in LA in late 2019, so naturally everyone reached out to anyone they could think of. I don’t know what the universe was doing during that time, but an email found its way to Linda Perry, and she listened to our music.
“She requested to set up a writing session right away – and I was literally speechless. She told me she saw something in me, like a real darkness in my voice. Next thing I knew I was in an Uber on my way to her studio absolutely shitting myself. She was and still is the most remarkable human being I have ever had to privilege to meet.”
DeVita went on to say that ‘Help Me Hell’ was one of the first songs she and guitarist James Gatling wrote for ‘At Least I’m Free’, endeavouring to deliver something “straight to the point” with “minimal chords, simple lyrics and no BS”.
The pair wrote it in one session, DeVita said, with its narrative angle coming from a personal place. “I felt during that time that no matter what I tried my life was not changing, the same patterns were emerging, and I felt frustrated,” she continued. “I always had this feeling of hitting my head on the ceiling trying to get the fuck out.”
On the decision to release ‘Dangerous’ and ‘Help Me Hell’ in tandem, DeVita explained that ‘At Least I’m Free’ is defined by its “duality and extremes”, so the band “thought it would be best to give fans a taste of what’s to come. The highest highs and lowest lows. No in-betweens. BUCKLE UP.”
‘At Least I’m Free’ is set for release on August 5 via Dew Process / Universal, with pre-orders open now on WAAX’s webstore. As with its predecessor, 2019’s ‘Big Grief’, the new album was co-produced by former Powderfinger frontman Bernard Fanning and Bruce Springsteen collaborator Nick DiDia.
As well as ‘Dangerous’ and ‘Help Me Hell’, the 11-track effort will feature previous single ‘Most Hated Girl’, which landed last September as the band’s first new material in over two years. Last week saw ‘Most Hated Girl’ win the Rock category at the 2022 Queensland Music Awards, with the band beating out Ball Park Music, Hallie and Hope D.
Have a look at the cover art and track-listing for ‘At Least I’m Free’ below:
1. ‘Mermaid Beach’
2. ‘Read Receipts’
3. ‘A Man Like Me’
4. ‘No Doz’
5. ‘Most Hated Girl’
6. ‘Beam Me Up’
8. ‘Jeff On The Streets’
9. ‘Help Me Hell’
10. ‘Same Bitch’
Fans will be able to hear tracks from the forthcoming album live when WAAX embark on a national headline tour next week, kicking off in Melbourne on Thursday April 14. They’ll see the week out with shows in Ballarat and Geelong, before taking to stages in Brisbane, Byron Bay, Hobart, Adelaide, Sydney, Canberra, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast. Tickets for all 11 shows can be found here.