Meeting Waxahatchee Again

It’s an idyllic day in Bristol as the sun shimmers in the River Avon and the clinking of post-work drinks can be heard all through the city; it’s a perfect day to go and experience the sun-kissed-yet-sad sounds of Waxahatchee, touring the phenomenal third release Ivy Tripp. I’m whisked upstairs to a neatly furnished, wood-finished dressing room that belies The Fleece’s dark stone aesthetic and it’s there I meet singer/songwriter Katie Crutchfield and her live band, made up of Keith Spencer, Katherine Simonetti, Ashley Arnwine, and her sister, Allison Crutchfield (who, alongside Keith, plays in a band called Swearin’ when not with Waxahatchee). I’m offered drinks and eventually sit down with Katie as support act Pink Wash’s roaring guitars bleed through the wooden floor during their sound check.

The area around the venue is abuzz and joyful – does the prospect of sharing the personal stories behind her music with all these people affect Katie Crutchfield? Katie takes a minute to consider her answer. “I think at this point I try and remove myself from the way my music’s received. Once I’ve finished writing it, I have the experience of creating music and than I just let these songs go out to the people who want to listen to them… that’s what I do. It just seems totally insane if I think about it too much.” Katie’s point is understandable – the love in the room that blooms as Waxahatchee play their set later on in the night feels very substantial indeed and must be both fulfilling and surreal for Katie and her band. Katie expands: “It can be easy to forget to detach myself though, especially when you’re playing the songs every night. It’s pretty easy to forget that people have gotten attached to these experiences.” As for the live performance itself, do the stories behind these songs arise again on the stage? Katie laughs as she talks to me. “I feel like this is going to be disappointing for some people but in order to play live every night I can’t get too caught up in a subject matter every night – that would be so much to process so frequently. I usually try to focus on singing and just get lost in the performance rather than the subject matter.”  

The band’s booming set is confident, warm and positive, rather than that of a group suffering for their art. Songs from Ivy Tripp take flight before us that night: set opener ‘Under A Rock’ immediately sends sparks; the stop/start riffs of ‘Grey Hair’ slash through the venue; ‘Summer Of Love’ brings a reverent hush over the venue and ‘La Loose’ turns from a drum machine-powered shuffle into a thunderous, uplifting gem. “Our live show is more heavy and intricate due to the nature of Ivy Tripp,” explains Katie. “We try and keep it close to how the songs sound on the record. Our new drummer is so great and loud and heavy that a lot of the songs sound more ‘rock’ by default.” After touring the new album over the world, have the band found audiences discovering live favourites? “I would like to think that ‘La Loose’ is one of them: on the record it’s easy to dance to and we play it with live drums and stuff. ‘Air’ too. There are songs that aren’t played in a traditional way with a conventional band set-up on the record and those are the ones I was more excited and anxious to translate into live arrangements and figure out. I think they turned out pretty cool.” It’s worth noting Katie Crutchfield’s modesty here: “pretty cool” is a massive understatement.

Following the success and following tour of sophomore album Cerulean Salt, has the attention given Katie Crutchfield a greater sense of confidence? Katie ponders and gradually grins as she answers “yeah…probably…I think so. It was a weird experience as this is the first record I’ve ever made in the knowledge that people were anticipating it. When I made Cerulean Salt I couldn’t anticipate the reaction it would get. At first I was worried about it, but I was eventually able to distance myself from other people’s expectations when I was writing it.” Katie takes another second to reflect on that success before continuing. “I just feel like I’m a little older and a little wiser and I know that I’m more meticulous and more of a perfectionist than I used to be which imbues me with a confidence that the end result is going to be better than my last record.” It’s the mix of talent, meticulousness and work ethic that has carried Waxahatchee this far and should continue to do so.

Now that touring Ivy Tripp is well underway, what’s the ideal end result of this album cycle for Waxahatchee? “It has already been very surreal. We played at the London Electric Ballroom the other night, which is the biggest venue we’ve ever played at with the most people we’ve ever been able to bring to one of our performances. It was a big night for the whole band. It was one of my favourites shows that we’ve played as band too; we knew it was a big show and the whole band were excited and we sounded so good on stage. We were all in such high spirits so that was already a huge achievement for us. In the US we’ve played some huge shows too. All the shows have been so much bigger and it feels like such a huge step up for the band.” Despite all the momentum flowing in the undercurrent of this album cycle, Katie is still looking ahead. “At this point, I want to have a sustainable touring cycle and to keep making music… that would be ideal. I’m also looking forward to having some time to write – I can’t wait to write another record.” The drive behind Waxahatchee – evident in their live show – as well as Katie’s songcraft has made it easy for a huge number of people to take this singular, distinctive group to their hearts. Just hearing Katie talk about her next album has already got me excited for the next trip they’ll take us on.

Words by Joseph Fuller