For six years, waveform* has been honing their brand of eclectic, dreamy, lo-fi indie rock. On their fifth full-length ANTARCTICA they’ve perfected it. Darting effortlessly between bubbly indie pop (“Lonely,” Marijuana”), alt-country (“In My Drink”), beat-driven college rock (“Ocean”), explosive slowcore (“Firework,” “Antarctica”), and everything in between, it’s the duo’s most varied album yet, and easily their best. I spoke with both members about the collaborative nature of the album, working with their dream label, and how their high school selves would feel about how far they’ve come.
You’ve talked about ANTARCTICA’s writing process having been much more collaborative than in the past. Was that an intentional shift for you two, or was that just the way things came together?
Jarett Denner: I think it was intentional. I think we knew it’d be rewarding to be in the same room writing and recording rather than writing complete songs individually then combining them.
Dan Poppa: It feels weird—sometimes our albums feel like they’re split albums between the two of us.
Were they all written collaboratively?
DP: Moreso recorded collaboratively. While recording, then, sometimes we’d write instrumental parts together. But the lyrics are just written by whoever sings them.
“Freak Me Out” has a co-write from Brendan Dyer of MILLY. How’d that one come to be, and what was his contribution?
DP: We’ve been friends for years. During quarantine he sent me a demo of it, and I made my own for fun, and he said I could keep it. So I sent him one for fun back.
This feels like it’s got much more going on in each song than any of the previous waveform* LPs. Did you go into the writing expecting these songs to sound a certain way?
JD: I think it was a natural synthesis. It had a lot to do with us having all these big changes in our lives. We had a lot more to say as a result, and I think that’s why the songs are packed with more than in the past.
Why did you choose to call this record ANTARCTICA?
DP: It’s an empty, desolate place, metaphorically. It works for that song. Then, mainly, it sounded cool as a title.
JD: That word is powerful. It isn’t possible to verbalize why, really. I also think we knew any art we paired with it would be a juxtaposition. That was interesting. Unless the art was snow, people would be confused.
I’m glad you bring that up, because each waveform* album has art that feels of-a-piece. This one particularly pairs nicely with LAST ROOM’s cover, I think, in that they’re almost monochromatic with a little animal peering out in the corner.
DP: I never thought about that with the animals.
JD: Yeah, both in the bottom right. We found that on a friend’s Instagram, and immediately we knew it worked as one with LAST ROOM. It felt like a negative mirror of that art.
This is your first album out on Run for Cover, with LAST ROOM having been a re-release. Was there any anxiety with this one coming out on an established label?
DP: There would’ve been, but it took us so long to finish the album that we just wanted to put it out. A lot of it was demos we just worked on for a long time.
JD: I don’t think there was anxiety, really, because we feel pretty connected to the people who listen to us. That’s a small group, and those people who’re interested in it, I’m more excited than anything to share it with them. It’s also funny to see the mean YouTube comments we get. People say some dumb shit.
DP: Yeah. They hate the ‘90s VHS filter we used on one of the videos. It cost zero dollars. Joke’s on you.
What is your favorite song of the other person’s?
JD: I think “Clarity” is mine. I’m excited for people to hear it. It’s a perfect Dan song.
DP: Mine’s “Orphan Child.” It’s epic.
Did you intentionally put those two together at the end?
JD: I didn’t realize! I’ve never said “Clarity” is my favorite. “Firework” too, but that one’s already out.
“Orphan Child” definitely is an epic closer. When you wrote that, or first heard it, did you know it was going to be the closer?
JD: I did.
DP: Pretty soon I did.
JD: It started acoustic. The second there were the big drums, though, it became clear it would be the last one.
DP: And when we played it live it was clear. We had the demos, and we chose the tracklist from there. Then whichever demos we choose are the ones that became songs.
“Marijuana,” when I first listened to ANTARCTICA, really surprised me. It’s very different from previous waveform* songs, very catchy, bright, poppy. What do you think accounts for that?
JD: I think when I sent it to Dan, without my asking, he did this Strokes style remix of it. I hadn’t thought anything of it, but it was cool. The method of writing it was so different from anything we’d done.
When you started waveform*, you were in high school, right?
DP: I was about to graduate, but Jarett was a bit younger.
If you went to high school aged Jarett and Dan and played ANTARCTICA for them, what would they think of it?
JD: It’d be my favorite album of all time honestly.
DP: Same. But I’d be confused.
JD: Yeah, if I knew it was me, I’d be confused. Otherwise it’d be my favorite.
DP: When we started I’d never sang.
So this is the purest distillation of waveform* yet then, huh?
JD: I do think that’s true, definitely. A lot of this is things we’ve been trying to do since we started the band.
You can check out waveform*’s excellent new album ANTARCTICA over on Bandcamp!