ARTIST SPOTLIGHTS: Joe Crockett, Mark Waldoch & the Hallelujah Ward

Singer-songwriter Joe Crockett and the band Mark Waldoch & the Hallelujah Ward joined Nashville-based dream pop/post-punk quartet Palm Ghosts for a delightful night at X-Ray Arcade on Sunday.

Joe Crockett is known as the frontman of dark indie rock band Rx Drugs as well as for psychedelic Americana band The Championship. His set Sunday consisted of songs from various records of each band, even bringing Waldoch up to join him for the last two. Crockett shares a bit about Rx Drugs’ new album “Broken By Design” from earlier this year.

“It was a weird one. We started recording that in maybe 2017, and it was one of those records where we were just kind of chipping away at it as it went along. Then I would have each guy individually come in and lay down their parts. As a band we haven’t played those songs together yet. Then COVID happened so I put it on the shelf for a minute, and then once things started to look like they were getting better we decided to release it.”

He explains the record’s title.

“It was me stealing a Belle & Sebastian lyric, but they don’t say “broken by design” – they say something similar but I thought it was clever.”

Crockett shares what he’s focusing on now.

“I’m brushing up on solo stuff; I’m trying to figure out how to get the band together, and it’s a bit tougher than I thought with everyone’s schedules. A couple of the dudes have kids that aren’t old enough to be left by themselves. So I’ve been brushing up on the old songs but I haven’t written anything new. I’ve actually been making a movie for the past year.”

A movie, he says! Crockett elaborates.

“I’m wrapping up shooting it in a couple weeks and then it’s a matter of getting all the edits done and finalizing all the music and stuff like that. As far as what I’m gonna do with it, I’m not sure…maybe straight to VHS. It’s about a lady trying to unravel the mystery about her husband’s death. In my mind I’m approaching it like David Lynch but I think it’d be more like a movie he directed so that Mystery Science Theater could make fun of it. It’s obviously low-budget so I kind of played into that.”

Mark Waldoch & the Hallelujah Ward is a trio that currently features Jason Todd on bass and Dan Didier on drums behind Waldoch. Their eclectic sound contains elements of psychedelic rock, electronica, and eccentric pop; this was their first show with said lineup. Waldoch explains how the project came to be what it is now.

“It started years ago. Originally it was Dan and a guy named James Sauer, but James and his girlfriend decided to move away; he’s never lived anywhere else plus his girlfriend got a new job so he needed to go do his thing. We played a show on WMSE’s Local Live and Jason Todd was watching. He just called me and was like “hey man, if you want somebody to play with you, I’ll take a stab at it” and I was like “dude, are you kidding me?” because I’ve put him on a pedestal for the past fifteen-twenty years; he’s played in so many bands and can play so many instruments…he shows up to rehearse and charted every song out just from listening on a radio program – it was amazing. I’m very lucky to have Dan in my sphere too; he’s the best drummer around for this kind of stuff.”

He shares where “the Hallelujah Ward” comes from.

“I just liked the way it sounded. It’s sort of a happy place for crazy people, dealing with my depression and anxiety (laughs). Some of the songs we played I couldn’t even write during the pandemic; I took the time practicing guitar and learning how to play synths and do other things with instruments, and to keep myself busy I’d record other people. Two of our songs are co-written with a guy named Charlie Bee, who I used to be in a band with in the early 2000’s.”

A year ago the band released a music video for their song “86,000” directed by Angelus Bailey.

“Angelus has been a longtime friend and he contacted me and asked if I wanted to work with him on something. I had recorded that song and played everything on it except some bass parts, and I did it entirely in the studio with William Ryan Gardiner, who produces under the name This Random Machine. That recorded version is very different from what this Hallelujah Ward is doing. It’s called “86,000” because that’s how many heartbeats the average person has in a day. I told Angelus he could do whatever he wanted to do and he said he’d come film me walking around, and it was strange because the morning we were gonna go out and film stuff he said that LUXI wanted to shoot with him too so he suggested we all just go walk around and shoot together for both her video and for mine…we ended up having cameos in each other’s videos. That was a really fun day; we filmed it on some train tracks behind Cermak and then also in the Seminary Woods and the cemetery near there, and then did some stuff on the roof of Boone and Crockett where I work.”

That all said, Waldoch is gearing up to start recording their material.

“The next stage is to start demoing and tracking the songs. I’ve got people that I’d love to have mix it but I’m really interested in just running the whole gambit; we’re gonna track a song on our own and then send it to several different people and see what happens. What works best is what we’ll do more of the songs with. At this point we’re gonna demo things at rehearsal and add a lot more parts to the songs. We’re basically spending the rest of fall and winter making our first record, but we’re waiting until we have a whole bunch of songs done before we release anything. I haven’t been this excited to be in a band for a long time.”

By the way, X-Ray Arcade has delicious pizza bagels.

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