Interview with vocalist/guitarist Hether Fortune | By Tim Anderl | Photo by Jacki Vitetta
If there is a single common inevitability for human beings, it’s that we’re all on a collision course with mortality. For their fourth album, Happy Ending, Oakland, California’s Wax Idols offer an exploration of the abstraction and finality of death by spinning it through philosophical, political, and personal perspectives.
“[The idea] occurred to me rather suddenly while we were in the van on tour two summers ago,” vocalist and guitarist Hether Fortune recalls. “At first, it was sort of just this funny, tongue-in-cheek idea that came to me—I was probably stoned, I can’t remember. We all started riffing on the concept and cracking jokes about how we could have songs called ‘Congratulations’ that are about not having to be alive anymore.”
“Needless to say, we have a pretty dark sense of humor as a band,” she adds. “I think that’s something that happens to people who have lived through a lot of messed up shit and/or who have dealt with depression, which we all have. Over time, the album became, at first, much more abstract and conceptual and, then, incredibly visceral and personal. It was a strange journey.”
On Happy Ending—set for release via the band’s own Etruscan Gold label on May 16—the quartet’s sound carries a darkwave and post-punk aesthetic while integrating more classic pop hooks. Fortune, whose contribution is at the center, acts as Wax Idols’ songwriter, arranger, producer, vocalist, and guitarist, while also contributing bass and organ. That said, the other members’ contributions are equally critical.
Additionally, Monte Vallier also provides a crucial piece of the puzzle. “He has been the engineer and co-producer on every Wax Idols full-length, as well as every single and 7”, aside from the first 7” for ‘All Too Human,’” Fortune relates. “I can’t even imagine making a Wax Idols record without him now. We call him the ‘dad’ of the band. He is very Zen and wise, extremely accommodating creatively. His presence is never imposing or demanding, and yet, he manages to become totally indispensable as a collaborator when he’s working with the right sort of people who can operate on his level.”
“Very few men have been able to create a working environment wherein I feel completely safe, comfortable, and respected,” she notes. “I wish I could throw millions of dollars at him. He’s absolutely brilliant and one of the kindest, most generous humans I’ve ever known.”
Despite tackling the heavy subject of death with such artistic confidence, Fortune isn’t quite sure what actually happens when one’s time is up. “I have no idea [what happens when someone dies],” she says. “I feel like I’ve been living on loop for thousands of years, but that’s a story for another day. Making this album was my way of trying to process all of the post-death possibilities and scenarios, both for the living and the departed. I do believe in the transference of energy after a person or any living thing dies, though. Make of that what you will.”
She is, however, certain of the ways she hopes Wax Idols’ music will be remembered. “I spend my life chasing immortality via art,” Fortune admits. “That’s what we’re all doing, and anyone who says otherwise is full of shit. I suppose I want my work to speak for itself when I’m gone and to tell a story that is reflective of who I was—the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
“As far as the way I am remembered by the people who actually knew [and] know me, I hope I’ve been able to enrich or impact their lives in some way so that, when I’m gone, they will still have whatever I was able to give them,” she concludes. “I’ve always tried to live in my truth no matter the cost in order to be somebody who makes my mother proud, somebody who is an example of both strength and vulnerability, particularly for my younger siblings. No matter what happens to me or when, I know they’ll carry bits of my spirit with them always. Maybe some other people will too.”