By Brittany Moura
WTBU’s Brittany Moura chatted with The Wants’ Madison Velding-VanDam ahead of the release of Container, the band’s debut album. Container will be out on March 13 via Council Records, and is available for pre-order on Bandcamp here.
Q: To me, your music is disco for modern vampires. I don’t know what that constitutes but it resonates with me. Did you set out for this band to be so groovy?
Madison Velding-VanDam (MVV): Absolutely. We’re very influenced and inspired by Detroit techno and German minimal techno and the danceable elements of early post-punk.
Q: Does the music you create with BODEGA inspire the sounds with the wants and vice versa? Are the processes of creation similar?
MVV: The Wants and BODEGA are completely distinct projects in vision and process. The Wants are heavily focused on building songs via long term experimentation — a process of self-production integral to our sound — whereas BODEGA is a live band that has cut records with fully live takes, which aims to capture the excitement of the show.
Q: What are your favorite lyrics you’ve written for The Wants?
MVV: My favorite lyrics are from ”Container” and “Ape Trap”, which lean more into our seething sense of humor: “I’m craving science fiction, so I’ll no longer do your dishes, while I beat my head on the wall of my ape trap”.
Q: You are a New York City band, but when I first heard you guys (without knowing who you were), I assumed you were a part of the resurgence of great post-punk coming out of the UK. Are you inspired by what’s going on over there?
MVV: We’re certainly inspired by the great acts to come out of the UK in the late 70’s early 80’s, notably Gang of Four and most Factory Records acts. We weren’t entirely aware of the contemporary UK scene until we started spending more time there, but yes — now I feel more connected to the resurgence of high energy UK bands than what’s happening in the New York scene.
Q: When I listen to music, my brain usually sets the song into a movie scene I’ve scene and a lot of your music, especially Clearly a Crisis, puts me in the mode of films like Christiane F. and Wings of Desire, which are both films dealing with insufferable feelings of loss and emotion, but also rich in appreciation for counterculture. Do you take inspiration from films? Is music making also a cinematic experience for you?
MVV: Wim Wenders’ “Wings of Desire” is one of my favorite movies. The club scene of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ performance is one of cinema’s greatest encapsulations of live music’s raw power. For our debut album, Container, we were inspired more by photography than the moving image (though definitely photography imbued with theatrics and cinematic narrative). The work of Jo Ann Callis, Alec Soth, and Jimmy Desana are few photographers whose works we were particularly drawn to. The videos and stills for the album have all been a collaboration with Madison Carroll, Philadelphia-born photographer.
Q: Is it all the more important that this music is being made in the sociopolitical timeframe of the now?
MVV: I don’t think there’s an easy answer to this question, or even an answer at all. While Container is very much a reflection on a specific time and place in our country, it’s a very intimately personal one which I think alludes to more universal and timeless human anxieties which have always and probably will always persist. The album, for me, was a return to my home state of Michigan and the surrounding rust-belt states that currently occupy a particularly strained part of the American psyche. My father, who was a small business owner in this area his whole life, died of complications related to opioid addiction at the start of this year. His triumphs and struggles echo those of many both nationally and globally. He occupied a kind of gray area — wasn’t a Republican nor a Democrat, and he thought the “world was getting better”, but that he was not to be a part of that better world, navigating the existential anxieties that come with that feeling.
Q: What do you want people, listeners, to take away from your music, if anything at all?
MVV: In form, maybe that it eludes easy compartmentalization/genre. As far as a message, I hope our listeners are pushed towards new feelings and perspectives.
Q: Finally, what are your favorite songs of 2020 so far?
MVV: P.E. (Pill Eaters) put out their debut record Person on Wharf Cat Records, which is full of gems. Bambara’s Stray, also out on Wharf Cat, is another great record, with “Serafina” a stand-out track.