Folk husband-and-wife duo David Wax and Suz Slezak are the brains behind David Wax Museum, a self-described “Mexo-Americana” band based out of Charlottesville, Virginia.
“It’s challenging now to answer what kind of band we are,” explained Suz. “Our first response is, it’s folk music, but it feels a little harder to fit in that box now, which we like. And we’ve always felt like we had one foot in a couple of different worlds.”
The duo’s sound is distinctly marked by the Mexican influences that made them famous, both in style, content, and instrumentation.
“It’s still really a central part of what’s inspiring the songwriting,” David said. “And the instrumentation is heavily influenced by Mexican folk. It’s jaranas from Veracruz and the Huasteca region, and the huapanguera, which is a large guitar from the Huasteca region as well.”
Creating music for 14 years, seven of those years with a growing family, David and Suz are professionals in the game. In 2019, it seems they had hit their stride, booking appearances on CBS This Morning: Saturday, three distinct features on NPR’s World Cafe, a Tiny Desk Concert even performing at the wedding of Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg and his husband Chasten.
It was the COVID-19 pandemic that forced them to take a much-needed pause, providing a chance to renew their creativity in March 2020. Suz, who “grew up homeschooled, playing the fiddle, singing rounds, and drinking raw milk fresh from her family’s homestead farm,” encouraged wholesome, renewing, and simple activities like planting “the first real garden of the indie rocker couple’s nomadic adult lives,” which helped the couple get in touch with their roots again.
“Our children (ages 4 and 7) have toured in 43 states, seven countries and fallen asleep on countless disgusting green room floors,” said Suz. “Now that we’ve been home a year, I’m not sure they even remember what tour is!”
“As Suz trellised cucumbers and butternut squash, and quilted with their kids, David quickly converted their cramped, dormered attic room into an intimate performance space.”
To fulfill their desire for performance while simultaneously complying with the federal and state pandemic regulations, the duo took to the internet, performing on the “live-stream stages of Facebook/Instagram/YouTube Live and Zoom.”
During this period of isolation and restriction, the couple’s music-making flourished. They created four D.I.Y. albums. The first is called Euphoric Ouroboric, displaying “the emotion and experience of diving headfirst into the digital tools of remote recording” and the “jubilant dialogue with the self,” explains David.
“‘Ouroboric’ comes from the mythological ouroboros snake that eats its own tail,” David elaborates. “I often felt like there was something self-referential and all-consuming about learning to record and edit myself. But, at the same time, I was having such a blast rediscovering my love for being ‘in the studio.’”
A highlight of the album is “Ghost of Summer,” a reimagining of the traditional Mexican folk song “El Coconito.” David Wax Museum’s retelling is “a cautionary tale about navigating a summer in quarantine with small children.”
“We did our best to impart the joys of the season despite the circumstances, but I sometimes felt like we were living in a poor carbon copy version of summer,” explains Wax.
Appearances on the album range from John Hadfield, Anthony da Costa, Emily Hope Price, and Philip Mayer, alongside guests from previous albums: Danilo Henriquez on trumpet and drums and “David’s cousin and former Wax Museum member Jordan Wax” on accordion.
In March of 2022, Suz released her first solo project, Our Wings May Be Featherless. It digs into intense emotion and pain, from dealing with the death of a close friend, the fear that comes with motherhood, and her struggles with mental health.
“Straightening out my own life had meant looking manic depression in the face, not hiding from it anymore, accepting treatment and making sense of it as best I can,” said Suz. “For me, writing [Beautiful Mess] was a form of healing- a way of coming to terms with a brain that’s been reeling, sometimes out of control, my whole adult life.”
As COVID-19 slows and venues begin to return to normal, the duo is already on tour again. With nearly nightly shows, they are traveling up and down the East Coast, spreading their bountiful music to eager crowds. You can catch them on tour through October 3. Get tickets for their shows here.
Jaci Jedrych is a World Politics student at The Catholic University in Washington, D.C. She loves going to concerts and exploring different genres, and has a passion for arts and news writing.
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