The David Wax Museum, which plays the High Noon Saloon March 20, melds traditional Mexican son music with indie folk to create something colorful, joyful and slightly exotic. Brimming with dance moves and call-and-response vocals, its 2011 South by Southwest performance was so vibrant that NPR named it one of the best of the fest. I spoke with singer and violinist Suz Slezak about the roots of the Boston band's sound.
How did you get interested in Mexican folk music?
The Mexican element started as something [frontman] David [Wax] brought to the band since he spent a year after college studying Mexican folk music. We've all embraced the new instruments like the quijada, a donkey jawbone, and the leona, a low-pitched guitar. The son tradition gives all of us a new palette of sound to work from, which is exciting from both a songwriting and performance perspective.
How do you go about fusing son with Americana?
Most folk music is meant to be played and sung by people, not professionals, so both Mexican and American folk traditions are rooted in simple chord structures and a lot of repetition. For us, it's about transcending day-to-day experience into something joyful and beautiful and absurd.
How do you make your live show so interactive?
It is not uncommon for us to come into the audience and play face-to-face with our fans. We feel a great connection to people when we sing to them without the protection of the microphones.
I heard that you're performing in China right now. What has that been like?
We've learned to say "donkey jawbone" ("lu, shah bah") and loved getting students out of their seats dancing at the University of Shanghai. And we've eaten more delicious dumplings than we ever imagined!
What's next for you guys?
We're looking forward to a summer of festivals and then releasing a new album in the fall. We chose to donate a portion of our fundraising money to the Farm School because everyone in the band has ties to farming.