“I’m bringing this vintage TV onto the stage. At Lolla we played a Simpsons episode. We’re incorporating this Adult Swim vibe into our show, while we play these sad, heavy songs,” says Sophie Sputnik, better known as Waltzer. Waltzer is garage rock from a former musical theatre kid and punk rocker who grew up in Florida and has spent the past decade in Chicago. Her debut album, Time Traveler, dropped this January via Side Hussle Records and rings as much of moody Americana as it does the intellectual side of 1960s pop. During a recent phone chat, she tells me, “We were pulling, production-wise, a lot from the Ronettes and George Harrison. And then I grew up listening to a lot of Erykah Badu and I loved R&B, but I’m not sure if that shows up on the album; I think it might sound more like George Harrison.”
Like recently profiled artists Gone Gone Beyond and BEVERLEE, Waltzer also has a thing for Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine. She actually got her moniker from “Waltz (Better than Fine)” off of Ms. Apple’s third LP, which she apparently once claimed was, “nobody’s favorite record but mine.” I ask her what it is about the record that left such an impact on her and she tells me, “I think it’s the way she sings about anger. I listened to that in high school and I felt like it was the first time I could stand on two feet with confidence.” However, she also tells me that she’s been somewhat obsessed with a few more recent albums as well.
“I was actually just listening to Slothrust’s Of Course You Do, which is just so flawless. I was crazy about them. I was following them around and I wanted to open for them, which I did at one point. And then Deep Sea Diver’s Impossible Weight, which is also flawless. Those albums are just flawless.”
Waltzer kicked off some tour dates last month at a Lollapalooza Aftershow with Black Pistol Fire and have been playing weekend excursions throughout the month. However, an extended run begins September 15th with a hometown show at Golden Dagger in Chicago. The tour will include stops at Treefort Music Fest in Boise and Off Beat Music Festival in Reno, in addition to a few dates supporting Deep Sea Diver and The Shivas. Waltzer tells me that she’s excited for the tour dates, but that she’s also excited and happy to adapt to the current situation, especially considering her first show back was a part of Lollapalooza, which earned some serious critics this year.
“It was before Lolla started and there’s been a lot of shaming, but that media wasn’t really out yet. Everything seemed fine at the time, and I took my mask off, but things have changed and that’s cool. It was at the Empty Bottle, and now you have to show your vaccination card or a negative test. It’s pretty cool… I could see people living like this for a long time, getting vaccinated and wearing masks. I could see this going on for a few years.”
The aforementioned live show, which apparently includes a vintage TV and sometimes even The Simpsons, was inspired by a video project that Waltzer began during the pandemic: “I did this thing called Waltzer TV and this is sort of an extension of that.” Waltzer TV was a monthly variety show that was streamed from music venues across the country, each month featuring local talent, including a few big names like Erika Wennerstrom (Heartless Bastards), Doug Martsch (Built To Spill), and Patterson Hood (Drive-By Truckers), in addition to a plethora of entertainers known primarily throughout the given region. The project was started as an alternative to the idea that so many other musicians had for the pandemic: “I just hated the idea of playing an acoustic show in my living room.”