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California surf-punk Wavves grow up
by Emily Ornberg and Kyle Rich, Arts & Culture Editor and Social Media Editor
Surf punk-pop band Wavves, driven by San Diego badboy Nathan Williams, turned out to be the little band that could. Receiving immediate exposure after the successful release of four sloppy garage pop albums—including the 2009 parents’-basement punk creation “Wavvves” and the 2010 ’60s surf-punk collective “King of the Beach”—the rocker’s career quickly headed south after a disasterous show at the 2009 Barcelona Primavera Sound Festival where an intoxicated Williams fought with his drummer, which resulted in a canceled tour. Countless lineup changes and Williams’ admission of substance abuse set Wavves up for a bleak future.
However, unlike most artists who fall off the path and become burnouts, Williams pushed Wavves to the most successful point of its career, capped by the successful pop-punk release of “Afraid of Heights” on March 26 and sold out show at the Subterranean, 2011 W. North Ave., on April 1.
After corporate deals with Target and Taco Bell, a comic book, video game and collaborations with Big Boi and Freddie Gibbs, 26-year-old Williams is now much more productive than his slacker personality might suggest. Thanks to the current rotation of band members that now includes hairy bassist Stephen Pope and the much-needed sonic facelift of electronic additives thrown in from producer John Hill, who has worked with artists such as Santigold and Rihanna, Wavves’ latest release pushes its beachy loner-stoner sound in a more matured direction.
The Chronicle sat down with Williams and Pope to discuss their eBay obsessions, South By Southwest appearance and new sound.
The Chronicle: How has your touring style changed since the early days of Wavves?
Nathan Williams: I used to just tour with a drummer. Now I have a drummer, bassist and a guitarist. So it’s definitely fuller and I’ve just been doing it longer and it’s sounding a lot better.
What inspired the new sound on your new album?
NW: Probably a lot of music that Stephen and I kind of grew up on. Also just our environment. Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr., Weezer—a lot of alternative heyday stuff. That was a turning point in our musical life, I guess.
You have been known to buy some pretty strange items on eBay. What are some of your favorite eBay collections?
A sword, various taxidermy, the book I’m reading right now— “The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer,” [which is] pretty good. Prayer candles … I don’t know, it’s always kind of weird.
Ever run into any strange encounters goofing off in the streets of Los Angeles?
NW: I don’t really leave my house. Ever. Unless I’m touring, I don’t run into those problems.
Stephen Pope seemed to be shirtless a lot during SXSW. Can we chalk that up to the hot weather, or is he just too beautiful for shirts?
Stephen Pope: If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
Your music videos usually have a fun story behind them. What was one of your favorite music videos to make?
NW: “Bug” was pretty fun. Our PR agent plays the creep that comes in and pulls a gun out, and he was just the worst actor in the world. And we had to watch him do the take like 25 times. Stephen and I write most of the videos together and we just normally get our friends to direct it.
For more information and music, visit Wavves.net.