After being kicked out of a few too many bands, Heather Fedewa transformed herself into Hether Fortune and launched Wax Idols, a pop-punk outfit named after a Bob Dylan track about flesh-colored, glow-in-the-dark Christs. Wax Idols’ first full-length record, No Future, released this past December, is what Fortune describes as her “attempt to reconcile punk with the fact that I really, really hate pop.” For all her disparagement, though, pop forms the backbone of Fortune’s music, which combines catchy melodies and dark, glittering hooks with lyrics about death, loss of religious faith, and paranoia. She’s a workaholic, but as a committed punk, she’s her own boss. In short, Wax Idols is all Fortune.
She sent her last lineup packing when they began to “want the band to belong to them,” Fortune said. Indeed, her Facebook page affirms she is employed as Wax Idol’s “Master of the Universe.” In No Future, she plays “vox, guitar, drums, piano, whatever else you think you hear.” On the track “All Too Human“ she plays every instrument. She also takes credit for the album’s cover — a hand-drawn image of what looks like mechanical parts and a melted clock. In her spare time, she “controls” a ‘zine called Orgazm Addict, infuriates a few people with provocative blog posts, and has a gig as a dominatrix. Right now she’s touring with her other band, Blasted Canyons, who recently performed at SXSW.
Ask Fortune about SXSW and she’ll describe it as a “festival for drunk people.” Ask her about the Bay Area music scene and she’ll tell you it bores her. Take a journey to her Tumblr page, and you’ll see Fortune in her underwear, her arms stretched out, crucifixion-style. “I have no interest in seeming mysterious,” she said. “People are always like, ‘I can’t believe she said that.’ It’s hilarious to me that people get so shocked when I post a picture of chains, whips, or masturbation. It’s life.”
Her music is unabashedly honest. In true punk-rock tradition Fortune pairs lean riffs with vocals that drip attitude. When she sings the addictively catchy I-I, I-I love you chorus of her song “Gold Sneakers” (written about a recently deceased lover) you’ll want to dance, despite the mournful sentiment. Onstage she is the vision of a post-punk goddess; at her last show at the Knockout she spit her melodies at the crowd with illicit fervor, dressed in a black silk kimono and sporting an old-school rock ‘n’ roll mullet.
Fortune needs to be in total and complete control when it comes to her music. “I have a rule that no one in Wax Idols is allowed to be drunk, high, or fucked-up during a show,” she said. “It’s not that I’m against drugs or alcohol or anything. I just need to be in control.” When she was dropped from the band Hunx and His Punx, she said it was because she was too serious. She said she’s been labeled an unapproachable ice queen by sound techs and stagehands because she’s focused on perfecting the sound quality and less intent on making idle pre-show banter.
“I haven’t really been listening to any music lately,” Fortune said, which sounded odd coming from a professional musician. But she is focused on not letting other bands influence her sound while she composes. That said, Fortune isn’t above paying homage to her influences. She recently performed a cover of Christian Death’s “Romeo’s Distress” with Terry Malts guitarist Corey Cunningham.
Fortune’s Last Drop, to be released as a seven-inch by Suicide Squeeze Records on May 8, is about dark subjects like punishment, control, and — tellingly — Fortune’s childhood. “There’s lot of bands that just write about love — every time,” she said. “I’ve written a couple of songs about love, because I’m not going to censor myself, but I like to write about a lot of different things that are important to me.” In her super-catchy “Dead Like Me,” Fortune sings: Dead like you! Dead like me! Her equally direct song “Dilno” is about an urgent desire for sex — or, as Fortune puts it, “owning your own sexuality in a way that isn’t cliché.”
Fortune has some strict rules, but she doesn’t want to place any limitations on Wax Idols’ future, save perhaps for the slogan on her Facebook page: “No gimmicks. No bullshit. No future.” She also will absolutely never play a shoegaze ballad.