The last time David Wax Museum played in Lancaster, fiddler and vocalist Suz Slezak was eight months pregnant.
That show, part of the 2017 Lancaster Roots & Blues music festival, turned out to be Slezak’s last before the birth of her second child with husband and bandmate David Wax. The bundle of joy, a baby boy, arrived just a few weeks later in mid-March.
The band’s time slot was midnight at the Elks Lodge on Duke Street. Slezak said the performance was possible thanks to a strategic nap from 8 to 11, when she woke up in time to put on makeup and Uber to the venue.
And she’s glad she did. After the performance, Slezak and the rest of the band enjoyed a game of duckpin bowling in the Elks Lodge’s basement, one of her favorite memories from that pregnancy.
“I had a bowling ball in my belly and a bowling ball in my hand,” Slezak says.
Things will be different when David Wax Museum returns to Lancaster on Thursday. The band plays at Tellus360 this time, at the beginning of a tour in support of its seventh studio album, “Line of Light.”
The record was released in August but had another jolt of excitement surrounding it earlier this month when David Wax Museum made its national television debut on CBS Saturday Morning. After the segment aired, the band reached No. 1 on Amazon’s Movers & Shakers chart, which tracks the biggest gainers in sales over 24 hours.
The creation of “Line of Light” came during a challenging chapter for Slezak. Her bipolar disorder — which she’s worked to manage her entire adult life — began to flare. She had to wean her 1-year-old son because her prescribed medications could harm a child who is still breastfeeding.
“When I’m struggling, I always lean on David as a very stable, ambitious person,” Slezak says. “So ... he’s responsible for a lot of the pace of this band. I think often that has been really helpful to me, to stay out of my head and stay focused on a project.”
After the recording was finished, though, the duo decided it was best to take a year to rest and heal before touring the record. Their youngest child is now 2; the oldest 5. With a clan full of toddlers who can now sleep through the night, they felt prepared to return to road life with their expanded family. (The kids accompany mom and dad on tour, thanks to help from a road nanny.)
“I feel true, deep excitement about being on this tour,” Slezak says.
Slezak, who founded the band with Wax in 2008, says past records have begun with bringing heavy-hitter instrumentalists into the studio early on in the project. This time, mostly out of curiosity, the pair decided to start with just themselves and producer Carl Broemel, guitarist for My Morning Jacket. The album is the first recorded in Broemel’s Nashville studio.
A highlight is “Equal in Darkness,” a song loosely inspired by blindfolded concerts David Wax Museum has hosted in the past two years. After some friends hosted a “dining in the dark” experience — where dinner party guests are blindfolded to heighten their senses of taste and smell — Wax brought up the idea of translating the experience to music.
Slezak says the guests are blindfolded and then escorted into the venue, so they have no idea of where they are sitting in the space. The musicians move around them to give everyone front-row treatment, and sometimes even surround an individual to sing four-part harmony around them. (Guests, however, won’t be blindfolded at the Tellus360 show.)
“I think what it’s speaking to, in part, is combating the distracted age that we live in when everyone is being pulled in so many directions, looking at screens while we talk at screens, while they’re on screen,” Slezak says. “And, this is a moment, for an hour or so, where you turn off your sense of sight and you are only listening for an hour, and that focus I think is really powerful for people.”
Wax imagined “Equal in Darkness” as a classic country ballad without the romance. Slezak says the song includes themes they felt the concerts brought up about darkness and light, and the ways in which we choose to remain blind to some things.
The recording features Wax playing the huapanguera, a large guitar from the la Huasteca region of central Mexico. David Wax Museum has long explored Mexican folk inspirations in its music. And at this divisive political time, when many try to avoid cultural appropriation, Slezak says the band has carefully considered how to respectfully draw from these cultures that inspire them.
She sees it as a balance between traditionalists validly concerned with preserving culture and those inspired to try new things. Slezak says David Wax Museum is largely interpretive, and never claims to be a traditional band in any sense. She hopes the influence might lead to a moment of musical discovery for some listeners.
“We’re coming at it with a love of music and the music that we’ve experienced there, and the musicians we’ve met there,” Slezak says. “And if it is a way that people see what we’re doing and think, ‘Why are people playing those instruments,’ and then they are able to look and learn … or buy records of these incredible musicians, that is a good thing,”