Hether Fortune of Wax Idols on Goth Fans and Justin Bieber

Wax Idols is making an appearance at Glob on Friday, October 23. The band has long been the outlet for songwriter and lead vocalist Hether Fortune, who started the band while she was living in the San Francisco area. Initially, the band was often described as garage rock, but there was always something darker and moodier to Fortune's songwriting that suggested that the project might have more roots in post-punk. By the time of 2013's Discipline and Desire, there was no mistaking Wax Idols as a garage or psychedelic rock band in that sense. Live, the group seemed like an especially ferocious and noisier Siouxsie & The Banshees, with Fortune proving to be a commanding and intimidating figure as the lead singer.

The new Wax Idols album, American Tragic, finds Fortune taking a bold new step in her evolution as an artist by going away from the guitar-driven songwriting of her earlier efforts. Writing the songs mostly on bass and synthesizer has given the music a greater efficiency, allowing the intensely emotional content of the album to build tension. Because of this unconventional approach, the songs hit with real force in a way that might not have been possible without the spareness of the compositions.

Fortune conceived of the album in a cinematic way that was informed by the aesthetic, according to Fortune of “film noir meets cheesy horror or '80s sci-fi.” In another era, some might consider the music goth, but it is influenced at least as much by the mainstream pop that Fortune makes no bones about loving.

“I am pretty goth and my bandmates certainly are,” says Fortune. “I definitely grew up listening to the Cure and Joy Division. So there is absolutely an element of the Goth subculture in everything I do, because it's a part of who I am. But I don't feel like I'm part of the goth scene. I have a lot of friends who are, and I feel like I can go in and out of that world, but I don't feel confined by that. I don't feel that's where I belong or where I'll stay or that's what I do. There's a lot more to me and to the music and there a lot of different influences I pull from, like this really mainstream pop music to old blues stuff. I'm just a music lover and there is a lot of music I'm interested in that doesn't fit under the goth umbrella.

“Although I will say that the Goth fan base or demographic that we do reach, I love them. Goth fans are the best. The two best fans to have are goth fans and metal fans. They're super devoted, they'll buy all the stuff and know all the words. And they're super informed and dedicated to their bands. I in no way turn my nose up at the goths. I love the goths, and I have been one oftentimes myself throughout my life. But I don't think it would be accurate to pigeonhole Wax Idols as a goth project.”

In interviews, Fortune is open about her appreciation of Beyoncé, but her love of mainstream pop extends into areas those who have seen her own powerful and often dark music live might not guess.

“I'm really into the new Justin Bieber,” says Fortune. “I also really love Drake. There's all kinds of mainstream pop I'm into. Even though I'm not into Taylor Swift overall but that 'Blank Space' song is amazing. I love pop music and always have. I'm not shy about it at all. The first concert I ever went to was N*Sync and Brittney Spears. I'm still a devoted Justin Timberlake fan. That's why I think you could never pigeonhole Wax Idols as a goth band. A true goth would not be listening to N*Sync.”

Witness Wax Idols in action this Friday, October 23 at Glob (3551 Brighton Blvd.) with Them Are Us Too, American Culture and Tetra. The show is at 9 p.m.. The suggested donation for the show is $6 and it is an all-ages event.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.