Moving to a new city to pursue a music career is far from unique. Outfits from smaller towns often hightail it to the "big city" in search of larger markets and music scenes that are more open to different sounds. After all, if things don't work out, you can always just jump in the car and drive back home. But when the move entails jumping continents and flying halfway around the world, the stakes are a little higher.
"It was partly a fresh start, partly because we just felt like the city was right for us musically, and we were right for the city," says Matt, one-half of Wazu. An aggressively catchy electronic duo based in New York City, Wazu pairs irresistible hooks with thunderous distortion. Last October, Matt and his partner, Rizz, packed up their lives in Sydney, Australia and moved to the Big Apple, a decision they're certain will help them pursue their music with greater success.
"We had been spending a good amount of time in L.A., and we just kind of knew that it was time to uproot and move to New York. Obviously musically, it's a really diverse city that's open to a lot of different things."
As you may have noticed, Matt's last name is omitted. He and Rizz conceal their surnames, an attempt at anonymity outside the music they hope will allow them to be more free in their expression.
The couple's move was precipitated by a similar desire for freedom. An earlier outfit the two played with, Captains, came unglued a two years ago while recording in Los Angeles. When their bandmates departed, Matt and Rizz stayed on, living in California for a while before relocating permanently. They know people in New York but not many, which provides a forced isolation that feeds their creative dynamic.
"There's obviously the conventional wisdom that for a rock band, it's guitar-based, with drums and singers," Matt says. "We had started to think about music a little bit differently. It's funny, you have more people in the band and more people to play with, and you feel more restricted. We just thought, 'You treat beats like beats, and you treat bass lines like bass lines, but you don't have to have it played by a bass and drums.'"
In Wazu, Matt plays guitar and Rizz plays synthesizer. But their minimalist approach leads to enormous and exciting conclusions. Grafting Nine Inch Nails' heft to energetic electro-pop that recalls the Faint's finer moments, Wazu's songs are ominous and oppressive, but they move swiftly thanks to eager melodies and ear-worm hooks. "Happy Endings," one of three songs on the band's self-titled EP, exemplifies the technique. Crushing shoegaze riffs collide with head-knocking rhythms in the chorus, bolstering pop-rock power chords with calculated menace.
"We didn't want it to be completely pop, and we didn't want it to be completely nasty," Matt says of the EP's approach, one the duo hopes to expand upon with a debut full-length due this fall. "If there was a sweet melody or something that would catch people's ear in a nice way, then we wanted to contrast that with something that was aggressive and possibly loud."
Wazu with Vess, The Mercies. $5. 9 p.m. Aug. 24. Snug Harbor. www.snugrock.com.