By Breanna Murphy; photo by Lauren Dukoff on July 4, 2011
Following his nation’s 234th birthday and a night of excess and explosions, how was Wavves’ Nathan Williams feeling the morning after?
“That was probably the first July 5 in 12 years that I hadn’t woken up hungover,” he laughs. “[On the Fourth,] I was back at my house watching The Sopranos and eating an enchilada by midnight.”
Maybe not the answer one would expect from the lo-fi punk whose public reputation has included both an enormous amount of accolades and, simultaneously, the most controversy collected by any musician in 2009. In fact, it’s hard to find a person familiar with the legend of Wavves who hasn’t formed an opinion of Williams. Simplistic genius or over-hyped train wreck? Newfound cult hero or perma-stoned prima donna?
But, really, who gives a fuck?
Gloriously nihilistic and unapologetically apathetic, Wavves’ first two albums (inspiringly titled Wavves and Wavvves, respectively) are a defiant series of lo-fi anthems for every no hope kid living in their parents’ garage, reflecting Williams’s own past experiences as a 23-year-old college dropout living in San Diego with his folks—where he busied himself skateboarding, playing guitar and smoking pot.
“Without San Diego, those records wouldn’t have even been made,” the now-24-year-old says. “It was so completely about hating where I was. I had all this time on my hands and recording was mostly just to pass the time.”
Wavves quickly took its place in an exciting local resurgence that included The Soft Pack, Crocodiles and Christmas Island, among others. When the music hit the Internet, “everything snowballed,” as Williams puts it, and the microscope’s focus zoomed in. One of the subsequent avalanches was his well-publicized “meltdown” at Spain’s Primavera Sound Festival, which subsequently lost Williams his drummer, Ryan Ulsh, but also provided a bit of a reality check. Williams moved on from the incident personally and creatively, collaborating provisionally for the rest of the summer with one of the most monstrous percussive talents to be had—Zach Hill of Team Sleep and Hella.
“It was awesome. Zach had told me he really liked my first record and that we should play together. It was an offhand thing, which is how most Wavves business goes.”
Williams and Hill went their separate ways, but not before creating a record of as-yet unreleased material. Later that fall, it was another controversy that brought the band to its next lineup after bassist Stephen Pope and drummer Billy Hayes left Jay Reatard’s band only a few weeks before the prolific rocker’s untimely death. Upon their departure, Williams recruited the two for shows in Mexico and a tour in Europe.
“After that, we went directly to record. I had really only known Stephen and Billy for six weeks, but the vibe was right.”
For Wavves’ third album, King of the Beach, Williams entered the studio for the first time, forgoing his previous home method: recording straight into the internal mic of a Mac computer.
“There was an opportunity to have anything in the world that I could think of right at my fingertips. It would have been something I regretted if I didn’t say, ‘Fuck it, I’m going to do it,’ and to see if I could. It was a scary experience, but I’m really glad that I did it.”
One of the immediately noticeable changes is the clarity of Williams’s sound, not to mention the merits of two additional talents alongside him. The LP, a druggy, spacey salute to Nevermind, Dookie and Damaged, adopts a split personality of sorts: featuring lyrics of a musician who’s confidently reproaching his naysayers on side A, but constantly questioning himself on side B.
“Maybe it’s my personality, because one day I can wake up extremely confident, but the next wake up and feel like a piece of shit. Maybe I’m bipolar, but I think it’s normal. It’s a record about how I was feeling, and about how life is.” Long live the King. F
3 albums that inspired Wavves’ Nathan Williams to make music
Teen Dance Music from China and Malaysia
I got this compilation in the record store I managed. It’s weird surfy stuff and right before I started Wavves, I was almost only listening to this record.
There’s something about Thurston’s voice on Goo that seems so laid-back and stoned. It has this subtle tone of boredom, but it’s melodic. Something about it is very intriguing.
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
This is the record that really got me digging music. It was my next-level step.
This article is from FILTER Issue 41