Frontman Nathan Williams would rather be doing nothing
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Riding in on the high tide of lo-fi, Wavves’ fuzzy riffage bears many similarities to the blown-speaker scene of infamous L.A. venue The Smell, which shouldn’t be too surprising as the band is based in nearby San Diego. Recorded hastily on a MacBook internal microphone, its first two albums (Wavves and Wavvves) overflow with dingy, deliriously catchy pop songs devoted to the ennui of suburban existence. Frontman Nathan Williams—who was the band’s sole member up until recently—was able to set the Internet on fire without even leaving his bedroom, going from unknown to overexposed in a matter of months. That sort of spontaneous success isn't without its drawbacks, and after nonstop touring triggered a disastrous appearance at the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona, the Internet was awash in critics ready to declare Williams a one-trick pony. Not one to let blogger spite or a broken wrist get in his way, Williams is still going strong, adding Hella drummer Zach Hill to the group for its newest album and tour. In anticipation of Wavves' show tonight at 7th Street Entry, Williams spoke with The A.V. Club about being an ordinary dude who likes to smoke weed, watch Seinfeld, and makes mistakes now and again.
The A.V. Club: How did you end up working with Zach Hill?
Nathan Williams: He contacted me a long time ago just to say that he liked the first record that I had put out, and we kept in touch on the Internet. We both wanted to play music and stay creative and one thing lead to another.
AVC: What is this new project going to be like?
NW: We're about halfway through and it's not going to suck. It won't be as blown out. It will still have that vibe, but I'm not recording this one so you'll actually be able to understand what's going on. I didn't want to do the same thing again. I feel like there should always be a progression. The way that I normally write songs and the way that Zach writes songs is totally different, so combining the two makes for something really unique. It's hard to keep up with him sometimes, but it's really fun. I get to strum the same chord and watch him go crazy on top of songs that I wrote when I was 14.
AVC: What was it like to go from relaxing in your room to touring across the U.S. and Europe in less than a year?
NW: It was insane. It's a cool experience, but it went from nothing to this whole thing really quickly.
AVC: Did you get nervous about things moving too fast?
NW: Not nervous, but stress level through the roof definitely. You play some 80-odd shows in 77 days straight, and it gets to you. You have to remember that you're just a product, even though all these people won't say that, but they'll put you out as much as you can possibly take until you say, “No, I can't do this anymore or I'll die.” You have to be able to say when it's too much.
AVC: Is that what led to Barcelona?
NW: The question gets asked every time and I say the same thing. Basically, I got too fucked up. I originally apologized, and then realized that was my biggest mistake of all of this—saying sorry for something that I was probably going to do again in the future.
AVC: Why do you think bloggers made such a big deal out of it?
NW: Apparently we've got a very conservative set of people listening to music nowadays. My friend Damian [Abraham of Fucked Up] was telling me that he had the same thing happen in Barcelona. His story was different, but he had a “meltdown” and he was saying that it wasn't all over the media because his meltdowns aren't media-worthy—but, for some reason, mine are. I think it was completely blown out of proportion. Pitchfork posted a video of me sound-checking 914 times. I think a lot of people were waiting for me to fall. People didn't like how quickly I got big, so when I did fall, a lot of people wanted to jump on it. But that's just how people are. Humans like to watch humans fall.
AVC: What is San Diego's music scene like?
NW: Generally speaking, it's wretched playing shows in San Diego. The people think they're too cool to move around, they don't come out if it's not a party, and there aren't enough places to play besides bars, which is a real bummer. But a lot of that has changed. I wouldn't give myself credit for anybody doing anything else, but Wavves happened and I think it sort of shed a light on San Diego. It's better now than it was. There's actually a lot going on musically, a lot of good bands that people still haven't heard.
AVC: Any plans to leave?
NW: I'm moving to L.A. next month. I've had plans to leave San Diego for longer than I can remember, so it's about time that I finally do it. I was born in L.A. and I feel like I need to return finally.
AVC: Being a homebody and hanging out in your room is a major theme in your music. Do you miss that when you're touring?
NW: Yes, I miss that all the time. If I could choose, I would choose to do nothing. That's really the best. That's the only way you can relax, just turn your brain off and do nothing.
AVC: Why do you think the media is so focused on the fact that you like to do ordinary things like smoke weed and watch Seinfeld?
NW: That's what you're taught to do if you work at a magazine. They tell you, “Okay, you're going to interview this guy. Go look at the past interview questions and, basically, just use them again.” It tends to be the same explanation and the same questions over and over and over and over again, like a really bad game of telephone. I mean, it's not like it's not true. I do love to smoke weed and I do love Seinfeld. I guess there's only a certain number of questions that can be asked about what I'm actually doing musically.
AVC: If you were going to give me a shortcut and tell me something important in your life that you don't get asked about, what would that be?
NW: [Pauses.] I don't know. You see? I'm already in robot question mode. I couldn't answer a question like that. [Affects robot-like voice.] I've got no brain. I guess I don't really care about anything.
AVC: Would that mean that you're a nihilist?
NW: No, no, no. I really do care about some things. I care about weed and Seinfeld. [Fake laughs.] See how I did that? Full circle.