Louisville Magazine

JUL 2018

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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60 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 7.18 Carney made several films in high school. One was a PSA about smoking cigarettes. His mother calls it "a classic." "Scott played the guy who smoked and went on the date with the girl," she says. "His hair was all slicked back and he had on a nice shirt. ere's this pretty girl and they were drinking wine in a field at a card table with a nice tablecloth, and he starts coughing. It gets worse and worse. is stuff starts running down his face and, of course, it's chocolate syrup but you think it's blood. He collapses on the plate in front of him and the girl is horrified." Carney says he's drawn to movies and music for the same reason: escapism. "ey both cater to that in different ways," he says. "I think what I take from the movies, in general, is…they are kind of boundless and you can kind of do anything, which is why I like to play with song structure and arrangement." e 2010 Wax Fang concept album e Astronaut was inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey. "e Astronaut has very few words," Carney says. "ere's a lot to be left to the imagination." After graduating high school, Carney went to Pittsburgh in 1998 to study film at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, where he became fond of directors such as Stanley Kubrick, Ingmar Bergman and Terry Gilliam. "My original idea was to make these musical films that were essentially music videos, but the twist would be that the soundtracks were meant to be performed live like in the silent-film era, where a musician would play in the theater accompanying the movie," he says. en he convinced his parents to buy him an 8-track tape recorder for his birthday. Carney would smoke cigarettes and drink coffee while writing for at least an hour every night on his Smith Corona word processor. "In my teens and early 20s, I dated some, but I was single for very long stretches of time — like years at times," he says. "(Writing music) was what I did in my free time. I played the guitar and sang almost every day. I didn't really feel complete if I didn't do that." Songs like "Sound Observations," "Sweet Bloody Murder" and "Bi Polar Bear" began taking shape and eventually made it onto Black & Endless Night, described in a March 2006 Courier-Journal article by Jeffrey Lee Puckett as a combination of "glam rock, pop and surf riffs, with the dreamy ambiance of vintage Brian Eno and David Bowie." "Der Conversationaliste" addresses the loneliness and boredom he was experiencing at the time. Carney sings, "Your chitter-y chatter is building suspense like a drip from a faucet. For now, let me out of this conversation. Let me out of this long small talk." After graduating film school in 2004, Carney returned to Louisville with the intent to re-record the songs he'd made in Pittsburgh and make an album for a "fantasy rock band that could either exist or not exist." With recording equipment he'd accumulated in Pittsburgh, he set up a studio in the empty master bedroom of his childhood home, which his parents had recently put on the market. He was hoping to finish the record there, rent-free, but the house sold three months later. He moved his makeshift studio into the basement of the family's new home near Southeast Christian Church, and finished some of the recordings in his rental house in Old Louisville. Months later, after delays resulting from a couple of cracked ribs from a fall down a flight of stairs, Carney finished tracking the album and was exhausted. He cold-called local recording engineer Kevin Ratterman. "I didn't know about his music — he said he was kind of losing his mind," Ratterman says. He agreed to help Carney work through his frustrations mixing the record but first went to see him play a show at the Water Tower. "It was just him and a pedal. I was just so blown away," Ratterman says. "His voice was so surreal and the lyrics were so good. e music was unlike anything I'd ever heard. Avant-garde and kind of punk-y." Ratterman and Carney quickly became friends while mixing Black & Endless Night in Ratterman's father's funeral home in west Louisville. e two knew the songs needed to be played live and began a conversation about starting a band. Carney asked Ratterman, who had been in the band Elliott, to play drums. ey got their mutual friend Jake Heustis, from the band Cabin, to play bass. In 2005, the release show for Black & Endless Night was set to take place at Uncle Pleasant's (later New Vintage, now a Cuban dance club). Carney was going to play under the name of Scott Carney and Heavy Friends. But he lost his voice the day of the show and was unable to perform. Instead, he sat at a table with handwritten responses on index cards to questions he was sure to be asked about his new band and the album he was selling. e crowd thought it was an artistic performance piece and waited for him to talk. "I make a lot of stupid jokes, but that was not one of them," he says. "I wouldn't cancel my release show." A few months later, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, which was starting its climb to jam-band fame, got his hands on the album. Carney received an email out of the blue from a friend congratulating him on making it into the New York Times. James had mentioned Carney in a story for the paper, and in e Fader. When e Fader followed up to do an official interview with Scott Carney and Heavy Friends, they decided they needed a new name. Carney has always kept a running list of band names and titles for songs and albums. Back then, the list included "Wax Fangs." Carney made it singular, to have a sharper sound like Led Zeppelin. e band name is "sort of an oxymoron. It's threatening but not. It's got this kind of duality," Carney says. (ough the group collectively settled on Wax Fang, Carney says his favorite name at the time was Electric Chariot.) In the fall of 2006, My Morning Jacket invited Wax Fang on a two-week Midwest tour. Carney and Ratterman piled inside Heustis' beat-up blue Ford van, traveling alongside the MMJ tour bus. Carney remembers the band making $500 for each of the 10 shows. At the time, Carney was busing tables at North End Cafe, Ratterman was a self-employed recording engineer and Heustis worked for his dad at NAPA Auto Parts. "We paid for hotel rooms, meals, loss of income — you know, all the stuff people don't consider when you're on the road without financing," Carney says. After the tour, the band hunkered down and started working on La La Land, recording in Memphis' Ardent Studios, where artists like R.E.M., Bob Dylan and the White Stripes have recorded. Carney remembers catching flak for using band money to buy a banana from a gas station while they were on the road. "It was 75 cents, and I was fucking starving because I didn't have any money," he says.

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