Saturday, September 5, 2009

Wavves Interview

I know he cops a lot of criticism over at Terminal Boredom, but I'm still a fan of Wavves' fuzzed out surf punk and yesterday I had the pleasure of chatting to Nathan Wavves Williams about, among other things, disaffected youth, Seinfeld and broken penises...




Joanna: Hey Nathan, how’s it going?

Nathan (Wavves): It’s going well. How are you doing?

I’m great. Where abouts are you at the moment? Are you on tour?

I actually start tour the day after tomorrow. I’m in LA.

Cool. Well let’s jump into the questions then. How did Wavves begin? Before Wavves, you were in a band called Fantastic Magic? Is that right?

That is true, yeah.

So what prompted you to start Wavves?

I quit my job at the time. I dropped out of college. I wasn’t really doing anything else.

You were “so bored”?

Pretty much. So I decided to start recording.

I’ve always thought that the name Wavves was pretty rad, because the double ‘v’ looks like a wave. And there also seems to be a bit of a trend at the moment with repeated letters in band names. I mean, there’s Nodzzz, with the triple ‘z’.

Yeah I noticed that.

Yeah. Did they copy you or what?

I dunno. I’ll have to ask them.

So I’m curious, where does the name Wavves come from?

It’s a name that my friend Andrew came up with. No real story behind it. We live by the ocean.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to ask this, but…

You most certainly aren’t!

…I hear a 60’s pop sensibility, and harmonies ala the Shangri-Las, buried beneath the fuzz.

Oh! That’s not what I was expecting you to say!

What were you expecting?


Oh (laughs) I was expecting...I was expecting something else.

(Laughs) Well, I’ve got heaps of surprises up my sleeve today. But yeah, I was wondering what genres and artists influence your sound? I mean, on Ghost Ramp, you blog a lot about hip hop, but sonically that is quite far from your own music.

I listen to a lot of different things. I’m all over the board. I like a lot of old soul stuff and mo-town and the Beatles and Sonic Youth and I dunno, I’m all over the place. But mostly that general vibe is what I listen to.

And what about hip-hop? You listen to a lot of hip-hop as well?


Yeah, I do.

Do you think that influences your music at all?

I don’t think so, but I feel like if you’re surrounded by something enough, you know, somehow, one way or another, it’s…

…It’s going to, like, subconsciously infiltrate?

Yeah, yeah. And, yeah, you know, I like writing about bitches and hoes (laughs).

(Laughs) So, Ghost Ramp, when did you start that and what was the idea behind that?

I started it around the same time as Wavves, probably. Basically, it was just a place to write about music that I like. I was working at a record store before that, so I was talking with people all day about music, and when I quit that job I kind of lost that sort of thing. So I decided to write about it online instead.

It’s pretty crazy when you think about how quickly, I mean, in a very short amount of time your music has generated a huge amount of interest from record labels – Fat Possum, Young Turks and Dean from No Age’s label Post Present Medium, just to name a few - as well as an eruption of blog adoration. How important has the Internet been in the distribution and proliferation of your music?

It’s been extremely important. I feel like, not just for my music, but just generally right now, the Internet is a huge forum for people to post and enable people to listen to their music, and in a lot of cases, listen to it for free. But also for people who are critics to talk about it on blogs, that sort of thing. It’s sort of everything that Wavves is, really.

So having said that, what do you think about this whole music piracy debate? Is downloading music off the web wrong, or is it inevitable? Should we be embracing it?

It’s inevitable, I think, personally. I mean, I do it as well, with both my friends’ bands and bands I don’t know. I feel that most people do. But, you know, if I like the record a lot I’ll go out and buy the vinyl. I want the actual piece of artwork that is the record. I don’t at all mind that people download the music. I’m all for them downloading it for free and being able to hear it for free. I’m 100% cool with that, you know. But I do want them to, if they do download it for free, not download the one song, but try and find the whole record online and put it in order and listen to it cohesively. Because there are singular songs, but an album is meant to be listened to as an album. And things that go along with that are the album art and the inserts.

Totally. It’s a whole package.

Yeah. It’s much bigger than “So Bored” and “No Hope Kids”, to me at least.

Yeah. You just mentioned cover art. Your releases always have really cool cover art and apparently “To The Dregs” was inspired by a Raymond Pettibone drawing?


That is correct.

Are you interested much in visual art?

Yeah, definitely. I think it’s huge. I’m interested in all forms of art. I’m very excited about it. I feel like less attention is given to putting an album together based on a giant piece of art, and more on putting out single songs. I feel that an album like Abbey Road is a whole album and it’s pieced together, artwork and all these things, so perfectly. I don’t want to listen to just one of the songs. If I want to listen to Abbey Road I need to listen to the whole thing, front to back. But not everybody is like that. I feel more and more like people are ADD and they just want to hit “shuffle” on their iPod. And that’s cool, but that’s not necessarily the way music was made to be listened to, as far as I’m concerned anyway.

You’ve released material on cassette tape and vinyl. And with these mediums, as well as having tangible cover art and inserts, you’re less likely to skip tracks. There’s no “shuffle” function. Is that why you’ve been interested in those kind of releases?


As well as growing up around those mediums, I mean, I listened to cassettes and records growing up, it’s yeah, something you can hold. I feel like that’s something very special and a big part of it. You can’t hold mp3s. It’s just a different vibe to be able to smoke a joint and sit down and put a record on the player and look at the artwork and actually let it sink it, as opposed to listening to the songs on an iPod or something like that.

What about the sound of it? I mean, obviously, when people describe your music the term “lo-fi” is thrown around a lot. Are you drawn to the warmer, scratchier tone of vinyl and tape?

Definitely. Sonically, I set out to make these records sound like garbage. But they were also the sounds that were created by the means that I had to record them. It was all very natural. It wasn’t pushed or anything like that. I was immediately attracted to it for whatever reason. It could be because that was what I am used to listening to.

What’s your recording set up like? Do you just use Garage Band?


It’s a little different every time, but the final process is just Garage Band using the internal mike and the trial version of Garage Band that came with the computer. It’s the easiest way it could possibly be done.

DIY bedroom recording epitomised.

Yeah. Total bedroom recording.

I’m a really big fan of the spacey instrumental tracks that you do like “Killer Punx/Scary Demons”. Are they recorded in the same way? And what’s the concept behind them?

Hey, thanks. Yeah, they’re recorded the same way. “Killer Punx” was a loop from a midi keyboard that I recorded and ran through a crackly old Fender amp. I turned the gain and volume up until it burst. But yeah, it’s just to add texture to the record and to give it an up and down, waves or hills vibe, if you will. It sort of moves and shakes.

Many of your songs reference teenage subcultures – surfers, punks, goths, slackers, pot heads etc. Was there a particular subculture that you identified with when you were a teenager?

I was big into the skateboarding scene and lived the Southern Californian lifestyle I guess. I dropped out of high school when I was in tenth grade and later on, when I started doing Wavves, I just wrote about growing up, the way that I had done it at least. My surroundings just seeped into my music, I suppose. Rather than write about things that I knew nothing about – love songs and that sort of thing – I just wrote about disaffected teen youth, which is something that I actually experienced and knew a little bit about.

So I’ve read that you’re a bit of a fan of Seinfeld, as am I.

Are you?

Yeah.

You’ve just won big points with me.

Out of George, Jerry, Elaine and Kramer, who are you the most like?

Oh man, that’s a hard one.

You can add Newman to the list there too, if you like.

What about Bob Sacamano? Do you remember him?

Oh yeah (laughs). Would you say you’re most like him?

Yeah, I’m probably a Bob Sacamano (laughs). I’m probably bits and pieces of all those characters. I relate a lot to George and Jerry though.

And lyrically the album, I mean “I’ve got nothing, nothing, not at all” in “No Hope Kids” and “I’m just a guy with nothing to do” in “Gun in the Sun”, and Seinfeld being a show about nothing…there seems to be some thematic correlation there.

Oh yeah. Me and Larry David come from the same head place.

You and Larry should totally co-lab.

That would be my dream. If I did that, I would kill myself. I would have achieved everything I ever wanted in life.

Maybe for the next season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, you could do the soundtrack.


That would be great. That comes out right in the middle of my tour so I don’t get to watch it.

That’s a bummer.

What’s your favourite Seinfeld episode?

My favourite? That’s a tough one. There are so many good ones. Maybe the Soup…

Don’t say Soup Nazi.

I know it’s a total cliché to say that, but I do love that episode. Now I’m losing points, aren’t I? Oh man, I’m losing my cred. What’s your favourite episode?

My favourite episodes are probably…I like the Trip part 1 and 2, the first two episodes of the fourth season, where Jerry and George go to Los Angeles to find Kramer.

Ah yes, so good. I don’t know. I really love the puffy shirt episode. Oh and the Chinese restaurant episode. I really love how the whole thing is filmed in this one place. That concept is just so funny and clever. But yeah, in the spirit of “So Bored”, what do you do to quell your boredom? Is it just chilling out and watching re-runs of Seinfeld?

Yep, yep, that’s basically it. But I’m not as bored as I once was.

You’re a busy man, what with all this touring and being a rock-star...

(Laughs) Yeah, a busy man. But when I have off time I basically divide it between skateboarding, reading, watching Seinfeld and playing video games. That’s basically all I do.

That sounds like a good way to bide time. And you skateboard. Do you rip up the ramps just like you rip up your guitar? What’s the best trick you can do?

“Fall down”, apparently. I just broke my wrist doing it.

That’s no good. And you had to cancel some shows, I was reading.

Yeah. No good. I’m the big show cancel-er. Everybody knows about me (laughs).

As being a serial show cancel-er?

Yeah. I broke my wrist and shattered a bone in my hand. I had to get some surgery done, and that sort of thing. I had to cancel two shows.

Do you enjoy playing live shows? Is it hard coming from the privacy of your bedroom to a packed venue?

Yeah, it is. It’s completely different. I had to get a live drummer and stuff like that. And there’s a lot of pressure when you’re playing in front of an audience. I suppose that all exploded at Barcelona. I’m sure you’ve heard about that. I dealt with all the pressure by drinking, and that turned out to be a bad move. So now I’m trying to lay off the booze a bit. It depends on the venue too, you know.

The Smell sounds like a cool venue? Lots of noisy lo-fi stuff in your vein coming out of there, like Mika Miko and No Age and stuff.

Yeah I love playing at The Smell. Cool crowd. Cool vibe.

And how’s your wrist? Is it all better now? Is it all healed?

It’s in the process. One of the bones that shattered is this bone called the scaphoid, which is right under your thumb, and it’s one of the slowest healing bones in the body because it doesn’t have proper blood flow. The healing process is about six months, so I’m in a weird brace for a while.

Oh, no way. Sometimes really small bones that you wouldn’t expect take ages to heal. Like, apparently, if you break your pinky toe, it never properly heals, ever.

I thought you were going to say, “if you break your penis bone”.

(Laughs) Do penises even have bones?


Yeah. Well, I just know they can break.

Really? I didn’t know that. I’ve heard of a sprained groin, but never a broken penis. Well, there you go, a bit of trivia for the day.

After this, you tube. I’m going to get on there and look up “broken penis” (laughs).

(Laughs) Well I won’t keep you much longer because I know you’re super keen to watch videos of broken genital appendages in action. And I think that’s pretty much everything I wanted to ask you.

That’s a good way to end, right?

Definitely. Broken penises. It’s a bit of a digression, but a good digression. Any plans to head to Australia? Because I’m from Sydney and we’d love to see you down here.

Yeah. Definitely. Beginning of next year I’m going to come out there, like maybe the end of January.

That’s awesome. I can’t wait. But yeah, that’s it, that’s a wrap. Thanks so much for chatting and I hope you have great day and I hope your wrist heals ok. It’s been great talking to you.

No problem. You too. You’ll have to come and find me in Sydney then.

For sure. Really looking forward to it.

Cool, come up and say hey.

I definitely will. See you then.

1 comment:

  1. Fucking supreme! "To The Dregs" and "Weed Demon" are my favourites.

    ReplyDelete