Normflex, the brand new EP by experimental fusion band Waldo’s Gift, is came out today on all major streaming services. The record is comprised of four brain melting instrumentals that combine a plethora of musical influences, from math rock to avant-jazz. Ahead of the release, we spoke to the band about their creative process, the many venues and artists that Bristol has to offer, and their plans for new music and live performances.
How did you all meet?
We caught eyes across a smokey jam session, in a central Bristol industrial estate.
Your musical style is truly unique. There are echoes of experimental Jazz, electronic music, Black Midi-esque chaos, and more. How would you define your genre of music?
Well thanks! We love all of those things. We usually just say weird sh*t.
You have honed your craft and built your reputation by playing regularly at the Gallimaufry, on Gloucester Road. What are some other good live venues that the city of Bristol has to offer?
Yes, we owe our entire existence to The Gallimaufry and are very lucky to have been given the space to experiment and grow there. Another of our favourites is Trinity Centre, who host a tonne of programmes aimed at engaging all members of the community. There are some incredible new venues opening in Bristol too. Strange Brew offers an amazingly eclectic program of music, art and media.
Last month you released the nauseating video for your new single The Berlin Tuck – Did you have any influence over the creative direction of the shoot? Or did you let director Jack Lilley take the lead?
Jack is an old friend of ours. The initial idea was to make a video parodying those cringey early 00s metal videos you saw on Kerrang and MTV. But after listening to the tune Jack came back with the sort of zombie vibe that definitely fits better with the track. We trusted him fully!
Over the Summer you performed a reworked version of Mezzanine – the iconic album by Massive Attack, perhaps Bristol’s most famous musical export. How much has the musical history of the city influenced your sound?
It’s hard not to be influenced by Bristol’s incredibly rich music history. Of course, Massive Attack, Portishead, Roni Size still inspire today. Not only sonically but also in the punk DIY approach that the city’s scene has always had. We’re hugely influenced by our surroundings and fellow artists in the city. With such a rich live and electronic music scene you’re constantly inspired by what’s around you.
If I’m not mistaken, your name is a reference to a certain Velvet Underground song. However, your music is certainly a far cry from that of Lou Reed and Co. – What’s the story behind that?
Aha, yes, the name is a reference to the Velvet Underground song [The Gift]. However, that’s not how we first came across it. We are all fans of Hudson Mohawke, who has a song on his Hudon’s Heeters EP called Waldo’s Gift. We were in a bit of a rush to name the band before our first gig and were listening to this incredible record, so we just went for it!
Has there been a particular gig that you as a band could identify as your favourite?
We’ve had so many special moments on stage. But perhaps our favourite might just be our headline show at Trinity Centre in Bristol in celebration of this new EP Normflex. It was our first proper show in Bristol in 18 months and we were just overwhelmed by the response and sense of connection
What is your songwriting process? Do you just jam until a song somehow forms itself? Or will someone turn up with specific riffs and structures in mind?
Pre covid everything we wrote was born out of improvisation on stage at The Gallimaufry. We would play for 90 minutes, 100% improvised. Record the set on a Dictaphone and then craft some of those raw ideas into song forms. We did this so much that we developed our own musical language, and our approach is still very rooted in this. We had so many ideas and colours we’re still working out how to put them down on record. But we are constantly inspired by new ideas and playing live again has been incredibly fruitful.
You’ve mentioned a couple of IDM artists, such as Aphex Twin and Floating Points, as influences of yours. Do any of you dabble in DJing or production?
Yes definitely! Harry produces a lot and the three of us hosted a radio show every month over lockdown on Bristol’s SWU FM. Jim recently accidentally signed up for a vinyl DJ set live on air at Rough Trade which was interesting.
The artwork for Normflex, your upcoming EP, is beautifully chaotic, and an accurate visual depiction of your music as I can imagine. Who produced it?
We are so lucky to have an incredible extended Waldo’s family of beautiful musicians and artists. One of those is Holysseus Fly, a wonderful pianist and vocalist as well as visual artist. We used to run a monthly Synesthesia night with her, where we would improvise and Holy would paint our sound to canvas. These paintings were literal visual interpretations of our sound, so we’ve always worked with her for our artwork! You should 100% check out everything she does!
Would you ever consider including vocals in your songs? Or do they not lend themselves to the atmospheric soundscapes that you’re striving to achieve?
Again, we’ve been so lucky to collaborate with so many vocalists in Bristol and beyond. We’ve had so many awe-inspiring performances with Stanlaey, Holysseus Fly, Solomon O.B, MADLY, t l k, China Bowls and many more. We just haven’t collaborated on record just yet. Though that might be changing very soon!
What’s next in the pipeline for Waldo’s Gift? More touring? More music?
Well. We’ve just about got over our first tour since 2019 and it’s given us some serious life! There’s new music on the horizon and we’re writing even more, and more shows in the pipeline for 2022. We just can’t wait to connect with people again!