Music — Those Who Wait

Those Who Wait

by Seth Hoy

Waiting for Those Who Wait


Experimental indie band plays New Hampshire for the first time


It’s a general rule of thumb in the music business that to be successful — and this may be a stretch — you should make music that people like, if not love. The up-and-coming experimental progressive indie rock band, Those Who Wait, just happens to command such a crowd.  

But what happens if people don’t like their music? Well, Those Who Wait would tell them to first, shut up, and then to just stop listening to it. When you’re married to music, no one can set you asunder.

“It’s the music we like,” lead vocalist and guitarist Whit “Michael” Whitaker said. “That’s what it comes down to when we put out a record. If everyone hates us, well, at least we love it.”

The Boston-based trio was formed after  Whitaker, Dave Sheaffer (bass and piano) and Mark Pozzo (drums) graduated from Berklee School of Music in 2002.

All three came from different bands and labels to create a triumvirate of melancholy known as Those Who Wait. Those Who Wait will play New Hampshire for the first time at Milly’s Tavern in Manchester on Friday, Jan. 21 at 8 p.m. and in Nashua at Drifters on Wednesday, Jan. 26 at 8 p.m.

Their lugubrious sound is somewhat reminiscent of the late Elliot Smith, minus the stabbing of the heart incident. Their lyrics are dark and pensive in an introspective way while their experimental melodies hint at Björk and Frou Frou. So it’s not so much “I want to kill myself” as it is “why do other people kill themselves?” mixed with soft vocals and slow melodies. Those Who Wait describe their more upbeat songs as “if Hum, Wilco, Jimmy Eat World and Björk got whiskey-drunk and made sweet love with no morning after regrets.”

“We definitely lean toward dark things,” Whitaker said. “We always joke, saying that our songs would be played during the credits of a horror movie. We all love zombie movies. We love darker imagery — that’s just what we like.”

With influences like Cave-In, Sunny Day Real Estate, Elliot Smith, Nick Drake, Aerogramme and other woebegone bands, it’s no wonder their songs are heavy-hearted. But according to Whitaker, the extent of their influences goes far beyond these.

“Our influences are all over the place,” Whitaker said. “It’s not really a genre thing — we love all good music. The biggest flaw a band can have is only having a handful of influences. We’ll play a riff and say that sounds like a certain band, but there’s never a song that sounds like anyone but us. Our intention was to go out and sound like someone else. Like our live performances differ from our record stuff because we try more experimental electronic programming sounds like Björk and Frou Frou.”

Whitaker writes most of the lyrics and music and the whole band re-works the songs as a group — fleshing out certain parts and adding their own style. Whitaker claims to be heavily influenced by his former band, Drowningman (Revelation Records), which played more hardcore and grindcore material. Likewise, Sheaffer came from a grindcore band called Virulence (Morbid Records).

“We listen to dark stuff, but it’s not angry,” Whitaker said. “Each song I write is about something. I try to make the lyrics poetic and clear cut, so it’s not a stream of consciousness. The lyrics have gotten darker over the past year, but not because we’re upset or dark. Elliot Smith, he had some serious issues — we aren’t like that. We’re pretty happy guys. We just enjoy dark things.”

When Whitaker isn’t buying or listening to music, which he does to the extent of spending his food money on new CDs, he’s playing with Those Who Wait at their homebase, TT the Bears, in Boston. Those Who Wait recently toured their self-titled debut album across the Northeast and down south — hitting up cities in Massachusetts, Canada, Michigan, New York, Maryland and South Carolina.

Whitaker describes their album, released in June 2004, as carrying a lot of city themes with a wintery vibe. Bassist and pianist Dave Sheaffer, who majored in music production and engineering at Berklee, produced the album in a studio built with proceeds from their shows.

Those Who Wait is still shopping for a label — a hairy process when a band produces its own albums. Whitaker and Sheaffer were in previous bands with different labels — so having had that experience puts them ahead of the game and makes them a bit more wary of representation.

“We have a difficult situation when it comes to a label,” Whitaker said, “We do our own recordings, so that’s kind of tricky. But we have contacts at previous labels — we have a lot more connections. We know what we’re doing. We’re not just looking to get signed — we could do that easily. It’s not about being on a label but having a label that gives a shit about you. We’ve been getting pretty good responses so far.”

Those Who Wait isn’t all rainclouds and existential crises. Their live performances promise a more upbeat vibe — with dolefulness and ennui mixed in. So if you’ve had enough Maroon 5 and Ashlee Simpson, you might try lending your ear to Those Who Wait.

“Our live shows are more chaotic and energetic than the album,” Whitaker said. “It’s more upbeat live — a little more rockin’. We use heavy guitars and at the same time try to integrate the slower stuff. It’s a lot easier to rock out live than in the studio when you’re sitting behind a microphone.”

For more information on Those Who Wait, visit

- Seth Hoy

2005 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH