Despite the less than pleasant circumstances, the intergalactic cosmic punks WACO have enjoyed quite the year. Composed of Jak Hutchcraft (Vocals, Guitars), Tom Pallet (Guitars, Vocals), James Robinson (Bass, Vocals) and Welshy (Drums, Vocals), the quartet broke traditions and conventions once again in late summer with the release of their second full length Hope Rituals. Full of urgently required optimism and buoyancy, the album saw the group joyously straying further from the path of dull conformity by spiritually infusing their already madcap sound with prominent prog, pop, blues and psyche elements.
As attested by all those who have enjoyed it thus far, it's successful experiment in bubbly sonic splicing that wonderfully embodies their ever upbeat outlook whilst being a perfect tribute to their late bassist Chris Cowely. With the record out now via Venn Records, the foursome got in touch not only to break down Hope Rituals track by track, but to premiere their hyperactive new video for ‘Physio’, which you can view below!
Jak: "I wrote the bare bones of this tune on my keyboard in the middle of 2019. We jammed it at each other’s houses and in the practise room, but I feel we really made it special when we got in the studio and could take some time with the sounds we were creating. It’s an emotional tune about trying to rebuild my life after the traumatic loss of our bassist Chris, but to me it doesn’t feel wholly sad. The feelings I tried to channel and convey were ones of loss, frustration, absolution, rebirth and reflection. We tried to bring a bit of an Elvis Costello/Joe Jackson vibe in the second verse - we love their music! We decided to have this as the album opener mainly because of the opening lyrics “Welcome to the new age, a time of great change” and because the intro feels gently optimistic."
James: "There’s an unwritten rule that track 2 on your album better be a whopper, so we front-loaded Hope Rituals with our catchiest bit of radio rock. We also chose to make ‘Good Days’ the lead single to spread some positivity in what was shaping up to be an unsettling year. Once we had the twisty intro riff, the words fell into place pretty quickly. To switch things up a bit, we added a breakdown that was half Killers-era Iron Maiden and half 2112-era Rush, and finished with a big singalong outro to give New Found Glory a run for their money. We really want to play this live."
Learn To Live Again
Welshy: "I’ve always wanted us to do a disco song. The musicianship in the genre, especially the rhythm section, is some of pop music’s finest and ‘Macho Man’ by The Village People is right there at the top for me. Definitely a big inspiration for this track. Most bands would tremble at the word ‘disco’ but this is WACO after all and a territory we’ve yet to conquer. Jak sent over a demo of a ballad that he’d recorded of just him and a piano along with a message ‘hey, you might finally be able to have your disco song’. He was half joking, but I wasn’t. WACO were going to have a disco song on this record! Naturally, a lot of country and western influences made its way into the track as well. We were probably listening to The Highwaymen at the time which I’m sure sublimely influenced the music video as well. Our producer Steve Sears went to town (well, Bruce Grove, Tottenham) and got some amazingly wild sounds out of the guitars. It doesn’t sound like anything else we’ve recorded. One of my faves on the album."
Tom: "This was a track that took many twists and turns in its writing and production and turned out to be one of my favourites. When we demo’d this it was starting to sound like an eighties Joe Jackson B-side (in a good way) but when finishing the arrangement we realised it was the perfect song for a little light and shade. It was a lot of fun adding heavy guitars, slide and some of those early ‘Tallica low harmonies into the pot!"
James: "I get Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino vibes off this tune. Zero gravity Elton John loungecore."
Dark Before The Dawn
Tom: "One of the most fun aspects about making this track was it’s free flow jam band structure. This all started with a clipped drum beat, a repetitive guitar riff and some fire in Jak’s belly. From a musical perspective we tried hard not to try too hard on this one and keeping it loose ’n’ real was the name of the game here. Throw in some discordant atonal noises, James’ fuzzed out bass and the stage is set for some words. Jak’s lyrics on this one have to be some of my all time faves, a feverish call to arms to stop and pay attention to the world around you. Proper makes you think, doesn’t it?"
Jak: We’d been listening to Foxy Shazam and their self-titled album around the time of writing this tune. We love their bold and unabashed approach to pop/rock song writing and their sheer flamboyance. The original lyrics for this were about the difficulties that some women face in trying to survive in this sexist and oppressive world. After some deliberation I decided that that didn’t feel right - it wasn’t my story to tell or my experience to sing about, so we changed it and I’m really glad we did. I think this has a real 80s AOR feel to it - something I can imagine blasting out of a Trans Am on a sunny day. It’s maybe our most accessible/’radio friendly’ tune and I think it shows another side to what we can do. Marina Demetriadis sang backing vocals on this, she’s an incredibly talented singer and artist. Check out her jewellery here!"
Jak: "I spend a lot of my time on this earth listening to fast hardcore and punk music and wanted to bring some of that to this record. I was listening to a lot of Government Warning and Youth of Today at the time and was inspired to write a rager that would be fun to play live. Steve added some really strange electronic sounds too, using a Nine of Swords Satanic Fuzz Ritual fuzz box. The lyrics are about feeling frantic and unhealthy, and needing to connect with my body. Exercise, yoga and meditation really help us WACO lads keep our minds clear and make the most of the precious life we’ve been given. We started playing this song live at a few gigs at the end of 2019 and people went wild for it! Maybe we’ll play it at the next WACO gig you go to..."
Watch The Skies
Welshy: "Pop punk runs through our veins. We can’t escape it no matter how hard we try. I sent this one to the band thinking it’d be too pop punk for WACO but everyone dug it. Tommy put some sick licks over the top and transformed the tune immensely. There’s not too many short tracks on the album but this one came really naturally and there was no reason for it to be any longer. The original lyrics were silly and written off the cuff about aliens with the intent that Jak would change them. But this is WACO, and we love aliens, so a lot of them were kept. We all still love pop punk and we are all still constantly watching the skies. The truth is out there."
Great White Wall of Voodoo
James: "When I was 17, me and my mates would pile into a Vauxhall Corsa and play Barely Legal by The Hives really loud. It shaped my taste for loud, clean-ish guitars, and the riffs in this are a big nod to Nicholaus Arson and Vigilante Carlstroem. We want people to dance as well as mosh, so there’s a new-wavey bassline in the verses too. The ‘great white wall of voodoo’ is surf slang for a massive wave, but I see it as a metaphor for whatever you find sublime and scary."
James: We wanted Hope Rituals to work as an album you could enjoy all the way through. It’s a journey, with ups and downs, loud and quiet bits. ‘If’, with its minimal arrangement and acoustic instrumentation, is one of the reflective, calm points. The lyrics put a romantic spin on the album’s themes of impermanence, change and growth. It’s the calm before the storm of the finale, and we hope it sounds a bit like Tom Petty and Warren Zevon. Coincidentally, Steve had us listening to The Bluetones a bit in the studio, and their track ‘If’ is a classic."
A New Future
Welshy: Wow. Where to start with this one? A seven minute prog odyssey. 'Catbrain' is probably my favourite song on our first album and I wanted to take things up another level. I’m actually not a fan of long songs but I do love a song that takes you on a journey. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is one of the oldest songs I remember from my childhood so that’s probably to blame. I love 70s prog too like Rush, Yes and Genesis and the voyages some of their stuff takes you on. So in true Neil Peart style, I wrote a short sci-fi story about someone living on a dying planet who wants to get off (I’m sure a lot of us can relate). I sent a very basic demo to Jak while he was on holiday in Tenerife along with the story and what different parts of the song correlate to the narrative and within a few days he’d come up with these wacky words. The original subject matter was quite cynical but Jak always finds a way to inject positivity into anything he touches. Tom and James added their magic too and we created a beast of a finale to what we hope is an optimistic ending to not only the track but album as a whole. The beautiful voice of our friend Alexina once again guests and adds a graceful ending to the record. Can we change our fate? Here’s to hoping…"
Hope Rituals is out now via Venn Records.