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Rank Your Records: Nathan Williams of Wavves Rates the Band's Releases

In advance of their new album, 'V,' the band's frontman put their catalog in order.

Nathan Williams has come a long way since starting Wavves in his parents’ San Diego house. Back then, he didn’t expect much from his amp-blowin’, lo-fi jams, other than to maybe release a cassette, which he did in 2008 through micro-label Fuck It Tapes. And now? He’s signed to major label Warner Brothers and had to threaten via Twitter to leak the new Wavves album, V, in order for it to get a release date. (As far as his relationship with his label goes, he says, “I think I probably don’t have a ton of fans at Warner Brothers at this point. It just felt like it was the necessary thing to do.)


Throughout the band’s six albums, one area that is a constant, besides the biting wit and bountiful pop-punk hooks, is Williams’ need for weed. Wavves’ reputation precedes them when it comes to weed intake, so it was no surprise when they introduced grinders to their merch table or sampled Grandma's Edibles (Weed Laced) Caramel Corn alongside Wiz Khalifa for Rolling Stone. When asked which of his records was most weed-driven, Williams can’t make that distinction. “I’ve been smoking weed every day since I was 19, so I guess all of them are equally weed-influenced,” he says.

Though the weed is still very present, one significant difference with V is how the band chose not to focus on all of their collective personal issues: “agoraphobia, sleepwalking, teeth grinding, time wasting, night terrors, toxic relationships, Web MD, and fucking up while trying to be better people.” Instead, Williams said the album sessions acted as their own version of medicinal marijuana. “I think [focusing on those problems has] happened with all of the records,” he says. “But instead of dwelling on it like we did on Afraid Of Heights and worrying about it not panning out, with this one we kind of went in with those problems and came out feeling relieved. It was therapeutic in a way.”

In advance of the much-anticipated V, Noisey asked Williams to rank the Wavves catalogue, as well as explain his early fascination with goths.


5. Life Sux (2011)

Noisey: Why is it your least favorite?
Nathan Williams: Just because. The reason that it’s my least favorite of all of them is because I named a song “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl.” And it just has become annoying in interviews to field the question “Have you met Dave Grohl?” To which the answer is no. He does know about the song because we pitched a music video to him where we tie him up and kill him. But I guess he didn’t like the idea.

Isn’t he supposed to be “the nicest guy in rock?” I would think he’d be up for that.
And it was a funny idea: We were groupies in the crowd at a Foo Fighters show and he winks at us and takes us backstage, where we tie him up. And then he wakes up in our garage and we’re playing “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl” to him dressed as women. It just didn’t pan out.

So that’s why Life Sux is your least favorite?
No, no. The actual reason is it’s just one of those things where—and it’s the same with Afraid of Heights—I really like it, but after having time to digest it, I go back and say, “I should have done this differently.” Those are the two records of mine where whenever I hear them again that is what I think.

What led you to release Life Sux? It came only a year after King Of The Beach.
It was the first time I had tried to release something on my own label [Ghostramp] and they mislabelled the songs and they forgot to put the name of the record company on the back cover. It was just a bunch shit. It wasn’t the best recording process, though it wasn’t the worst. I don’t dislike any of the songs but if I’m gonna be picky and rate my records, my problem with Life Sux is we didn’t throw in the extra production value we could have. We just mixed and mastered in house and then just released it.


4. Afraid of Heights (2012)

So why this album? I liked this one.
Afraid of Heights we just took too long to record it. It took us over a year, and at that point we were just at a point where it wasn’t getting any better. We weren’t making any great strides, and the record ran a little long to me.

You worked with John Hill, who has produced Shakira, Rihanna and M.I.A.
I loved John and we had worked together on other stuff prior to that. I wrote a song with Big Boi that he produced. I’m not sure what it was. It may have been that Stephen [Pope] and I were drinking too much to accomplish much. Maybe John too. So that was part of the problem.

You said something to Spin about how this album was more about when “the realness of life starts to hit.”
Man, that’s deep. I think that everything in our life at that point had started to get a little harder. I’m not sure why. We were both in our mid-20s, and it just hit us. I don’t know. I don’t really know what “the realness of life is,” even still. I feel like I can speak for Stephen by saying we’re both in a better place now. Maybe that’s also part of why Afraid Of Heights is fifth because it reminds me of a not-so-great time.

3. Wavves (2008)

What’s next and why?
I guess my first record, Wavves. I haven’t listened to it in a long time, but I do remember thinking to myself that I had thrown it together because a lot of people were asking me to do records and that had never happened before. So I had this cassette and sent it to Jeremy at Woodsist and he was saying, “It’s great! We’re gonna get it pressed.” And it was within a day that we got it out to them. The cassette sold out in a day, and so they were just ready to release it. And it didn’t really give me enough time to listen to it, and there were little things, like interludes that ran a little long and level adjusting. There’s not much of that still on the record. I think my next record would be Wavves with three Vs. There are some crossover songs on here from that record.


2. Wavvves (2009)

Why is this number two?
I consider this to really be my first album. It was the first to be widely released, and it was the first time I was getting real press. Like it was getting reviewed in Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and Spin, all that shit. To me that was like a pretty big, career-wise, for me. But it was basically the record before it, like I said, but I had time to make those changes to this one, and that’s what it ended up being.

What’s with the goth obsession on both this record and the first one?
At the time, it was just a theme I kind of ran with. I was listening to a lot of King Tubby records and Trojan box sets, and managing this record store in San Diego, so I’d just order in all of these reggae and ska records. And every song was some sort of dub title, so I just put “goth” in there for my thing and just reused it over and over.

Did you know many goths?
Did I know any goths? Oh yeah! I knew the goths! I still know some goth punks.

Why did you add another V to the title? It was super confusing, especially since the album covers were pretty similar.
Yeah, just to confuse people. That was the reason I did it. Like with the goth thing, I didn’t really understand people would ask about it for months and then it would become obnoxious about it. That was the original idea, to be obnoxious, so I guess I deserved it.

I have a promo CD of this album from when it was supposed to come out on De Stijl. And it has a different tracklisting. But then it came out on Fat Possum. What happened with that?
So I had agreed with Clint [Simonson] at De Stijl to do this record. But we changed it but I didn’t get it right again, and there were different songs, other songs that meant missing. We didn’t really talk a lot about it. And then I talked to Fat Possum and they were like, “We wanna put this out and give it some legs, and see what you can do with it.” And I didn’t think I could do it because I had already made a deal with Clint. And they were like, “Don’t worry about it we’ll talk to him.” So Fat Possum and De Stijl came up with some sort of agreement and basically Fat Possum bought me out of the contract. And then I changed the tracklisting because I’m indecisive as fuck. And that’s maybe my biggest problem with all of this. I wanted to change it again too, so that was another reason why I wanted to get it right.


1. King Of The Beach (2010)

Why is this your favorite?
I like a lot of the sounds that Dennis Herring did, as well as the ways he mixes and produces the songs. Also it’s the second-most free rein I had in the studio. I just wanted to try all of the instruments and record all of these different sounding things, and I think that’s what made the songs so eclectic and up and down, which I like a lot. What I like about King Of The Beach, there’s a lot of that on V. Also it’s a short album, and so is the new one. I like listening to short albums. I don’t think you should overstay your welcome.

This record was the first one with Stephen and Billy Hayes, so it was more like a band, as opposed to the first two albums.
That was my first time having anybody beside myself on a Wavves track, which was a big step as well. And Stephen’s been playing in Wavves ever since.

You sampled the Crystals’ “Da Doo Ron Ron” for “Mickey Mouse.” Did Phil Spector come for his money from behind bars?
There was a deal made for some money, yes. And that’s it.

And then you guys said Disney was coming after you for using the name “Mickey Mouse” for that song. Which was a lie.
Yeah, we were joking in an interview that Disney came after us, and it just became this thing that people believed. I think there was some talk about this, but it was never actually a situation. But I’ve heard we almost got sued by Disney a bunch of times. They haven’t come for their money yet, but there’s always time. I think it’s always more the images that they get caught up with. I’m not sure if they could do anything about the name.

“Mickey Mouse” is one of my favorite songs on that record.
A lot of people say that to me, and that’s maybe why King Of The Beach is up there, because it has so many different sounding songs. So it’s harder to peg me as a songwriter or Wavves as a band.

Cam Lindsay is on Twitter - @yasdnilmac