Back with a new album, Songs From The Aftermath, after five years in self-imposed exile, Wagons, are headed to Perth for a show at Mojos Bar on 28 September. Around The Sound spoke to Wagons’ front man, Henry Wagons — wayward philosopher, swayed by whisky and the rock and roll lifestyle — and asked why so long between drinks.
When times are tough, thank the good lord for bands like Wagons!
“I was on an ego-maniacal front man goes solo expedition that became bloated and overblown. More importantly the band; we’ve had Wagons as part of our lives for 20 years, so even though my solo journeys and recording in Nashville and so on went for a long time, the break came at a really good time. The rhythm section started breeding. The lead guitarist (Richard Blaze), who is Australia’s leading expert in Parkinson’s disease went to Paris to study deep brain stimulation. The other members of the band were all sort of spreading their own albatross wings. We basically just lived our own lives for the last five years. Now we’ve come back and we’ve got plenty to express, with force.”
That ‘plenty’ is new album, Songs From The Aftermath, which sees Wagons mining a deep vein of emotion while continuing to develop the alt-Americana genre they legitimately lay claim to having invented. The album is 10 tracks of surprisingly upbeat music, given Wagons’ own take on what inspired it.
A lot of these songs are built on facing the apocalypse – the world’s a bit fucked, how do we move forward from here?Henry Wagons
“The state of the world at the moment in a lot of eyes is pretty grim,” Wagons told us. “When you look at the horizon, there’s a lot of burning skyscrapers. We’re faced with this really noisy world full of a lot of people talking loud. I remember reading an interview with Gareth Liddiard (The Drones) where he intimated that now is not the best time to be speaking overtly politically, because there’s so much noise at the moment. I feel like in order to get a political message across, you have to be a little more obtuse about it and, perhaps, a little more creative about it. A lot of these songs are built on facing the apocalypse – the world’s a bit fucked, how do we move forward from here? You can look at it with hope, you can get depressed, but ultimately we have to do a forward roll of some description.”
The drums and rising chord structure that introduce opening track, ‘Keep On Coming Back’ don’t sound immediately apocalyptic and there’s a lot of hope in the melody. The music that carries Wagons’ lyrics has always been an important part of the equation for his band and so it is with new album Songs From The Aftermath. The lyrical content may be trawling through Wagon’s take on the end-of-the-world trope — as in ‘Cockroach’, which is like a track from a modern-day cowboy movie soundtrack where an orange-haired man could be the villain and the narrative vocals tell us, I am the cockroach/You are the cleaner/I feed on your scum/I am the cleaner — but there’s plenty of hope in the music. Album closer ‘Is This The End’, turns things on their head, somewhat. It’s a mournful ballad that marks Wagons’ gratitude for knowing … someone — Is this the end?/Is this the end?/It’s been so good knowing you.
Wagons summed up the album by saying, “We’re just trying to move forward while Rome is burning to see what’s left in the aftermath.” Well, one consequence of the aftermath is an album mighty fine music that reveals plenty that is new on each spin. When times are tough, thank the good lord for bands like Wagons!
Wagons will bring their new album and a heap of the old stuff to Perth when they play Mojos Bar on 28 September. It’s a place their leader recalled with his very own brand of whimsy.
“I can’t wait to get back to that amazing bar. It’s got such history. I feel like the walls are sweating with stories. If those walls could talk, I’d like to sit down with a bottle of whisky and have a night out with one of the Mojos walls. I think it would be a wild night. I’ve seen a lot of great shows there, I’ve played there a whole bunch. I’ve fallen through the stage there, I’ve fallen off the stage…”
Event info here.