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>>Melt With You

Waxwings

By Jud Cost

Taken from MAGNET

As with the restaurant business, the failure rate for fledgling rock ’n’ roll bands is downright scary. Dean Fertita – pensive frontman for Detroit’s Waxwings, whose debut album, Low To The Ground (Bobsled), blends the muscular guitar work of Exile On Main Street-era Stones with angelic harmonies worthy of studio cult heroes Curt Boettcher and Gary Usher – seems comfortable with the actuary tables. Fertita also feels right at home these days as part of a vibrant, cross-pollinating Motor City music scene that includes Outrageous Cherry, the Go, the Volebeats and the White Stripes.

Fertita was determined, however, to abandon his comfort zone to get his own band jump-started two years ago. "I booked a solo show at Arlene’s Grocery in New York City," he states. "I just wanted to break out of my shell and build up my self-confidence. I know everybody around Detroit too well, so I made it as uncomfortable a situation for me as possible."

Maybe a little too uncomfortable. "The closer it got to the day I had to leave for New York, the more nervous I got," admits Fertita. Fortunately, two roommates, guitarist Dominic Romano and drummer Jim Edmunds, as well as Kevin Peyok (Fertita’s bass-playing co-worker at a record store called Off The Record), agreed to serve as backup for the East Coast one-off.

The highlight of the charmed weekend for this ad hoc combo-now solidified into the Waxwings’ permanent lineup- was an accidental encounter with one of Fertita’s musical heroes. "We bumped into Elliott Smith playing pinball at a bar car called Max Fish, just around the corner from our gig," says Fertita. "A friend of mine, Brendan Benson had toured with him back in the Heatmiser days, so Elliott agreed to come to our debut. It really added to the whole experience, playing our first show in New York in front of a guy whose records we love."

Fertita fashions his own distinctive material by finding a melody- inspired by 60’s heroes like the Byrds and Neil Young – that matches text from his tattered journal. "I make myself write a page of lyrics every day," says Fertita. "If I could do one thing, I’d like to write books. I can express my thoughts in song lyrics with words I wouldn’t use in conversation."

Fertita, who recently completed a class in existentialist literature, adds, "It’s not reading Franz Kafka and Jean-Paul Sartre that gets song lyrics out of me. It’s probably Henry Miller who does that."

The Waxwings’ current seven-month U.S. tour will also serve as a songwriting crucible. "The road will dictate where our next record goes," says Fertita. "Being able to observe how people live in different parts of the country – and getting away from where I’m most comfortable – will heighten my senses so that I’ll be more productive writing songs."

Such a guileless blend of Albert Camus and Jack Kerouac might be more useful to the Waxwings someday than an all-night laundromat.