Part two of Pedestrian’s interview with Nathan Williams aka Wavves.
P: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened on tour, you’ve been to heaps of places and touring is just, in general, such an unnatural thing. Have you ever found yourself in crazy situations?
W: All the time. There’s so many things that will go un-said about what’s gone on during these tours but yeah, you stick a couple of smelly dudes in a small box and have them report to a bar every single night to work, there’s gonna be stuff that goes on. But you know, it’s more welcomed than anything at the Wavve camp.
P: I also wanted to get your opinion on something. You’re a big Nirvana fan obviously, have you seen how you can play as Kurt Cobain in the new â€ Guitar Hero’?
W: I juuusst heard about that! Yes.
P: So that’s probably like a venn diagram of shit you like- Nirvana and video games,â€¦
W: It doesn’t work out for me thoughâ€¦It’s like putting a hamburger together with ice cream or something like that. Two separate things I love, but together it doesn’t work.
P: Do you think it’s disrespectful or a bit of a travesty that they’re doing that?
W: I kinda think it’s gross. Honestly. First off, I’m not a fan of â€ Rock Band’, I’m not a fan of â€ Guitar Hero’, I love video games but those are two of my least favourites. The weird thing to me in this situation is that, as I have played both of the games before even though I don’t like them, you can play whatever song you want I imagine as Kurt Cobain. So they have rap songs and stuff on there now so you can be Kurt Cobain performing a ‘3 6 Mafia’ song or something like that which isâ€¦
W: Which is somethingâ€¦I don’t even know what that is.
P: There’s actually, if you’re near a computer, you should look up this video- they have these videos where they’re playing as Kurt but he’s singing a Bon Jovi track and in another it’s a PE track and he’s like Flava Flav going ‘Yeah boy!’ and it’s just so fucking weird.
W: (Laughs) It’s gross isn’t it? I’m going to smoke a bowl and watch that when I get off the phone with you.
P: Yeah, you’re going to laugh your ass off. I wanted to talk briefly about the Primavera incident, have people been asking you about it?
W: (Laughs) Oh yeah, every interview.
P: You must be sick of it.
W: It’s justâ€¦you know, it is what it is.
P: Exactly. I didn’t want to ask you about your mindset going into it, my question was more about, you know, you’re 22 or 23 now?
W: I just turned 23.
P: Yeah I’m about to turn 23 as well. But you know, 23 year olds are allowed to get fucked up, they’re supposed to it’s a part of what life is. It’s just that you’re a 23 year old that’s not allowed to get fucked up by way of media and what you’re job entails. Do you think that’s an unfair thing to be placed on someone?
W: Completely unfair. I mean, I’m human just like you or anybody else. Like you said, I’m in my mid-early twenties, of course I’m out getting fucked up, that’s what I’m doing- that’s what I do. To place me on a pedestal where I can’t mess up is just one that I’m just going to end up letting people down. Even prior to Primavera there were incidents and in Fargo, North Dakota where I got too fucked up on pills and whiskey and basically slept through the whole set and ate pizza, a whole pizza on stage and shoved slices in my mouth in between songs and insulted the crowd and that sort of thing. It’s not anything you know, except these tours and all this is just generally so stressful that I feel like sometimes people forget I’m just some dude. I’m not immune to any of this. All these bands that I talk about my love of all the time, bands like Nirvana and Bad Brains and Black Flag – all of these bands did the same thing that I did and did it more times than I did it and had meltdowns and breakdowns and played shitty shows . I feel like, if I never did any of those things it would be stale and boring and in the end all I can do is just kind of be me and that’s kind of just what comes with it soâ€¦.
P: It was so demonised and people were calling it a meltdown when it was really just someone who was fucked up at a festival â€¦
W: It was me sound checking, that video is of me sound checking. You know, in the situation that I was in, what I was doing at the time was so critically acclaimed and hyped so immediately and with any sort of acclaim comes criticism and I kinda knew that was right around the corner and it was going to catch up to me and bite me at some pointâ€¦
P: Like they just needed a reason to shoot you down?
W: Yeah, people just needed a reason. People had talked shit about me prior to that but that was the big one that people were able toâ€¦also for Pitchfork especially it’s a story. It’s a way that people can come back to the site and see what’s going on, it’s a gossip column, that’s what that site has turned into. Like I said earlier, there’s a lot of stuff that goes into this behind the scenes; emails and people in bed with each otherâ€¦that people don’t know about that I can’t really get into because honestly it would just cost me my career. A lot of people, these indie’s and these ‘blogs’ and indie websites and indie magazines and indie labels, are out for the same thing. They’re out for the money. They’re out for hits on their site. They’re out for sales with their magazines or their records and I’m forced in this situation and in this business to work with these people. It doesn’t mean I like itâ€¦
P: And be a casualty of that machine as wellâ€¦
W: Right. It’s something thatâ€¦I cant even really talk about it too much but it’s one of those situations where, and I think most people know this too, that it was completely demonised by Pitchfork and there was a whole back story to that as well that I could tell you that would never be allowed to see the light of day. In the end, it’s something that’s completely out of my control and something that I wont continue to worry aboutâ€¦
P: Because you have no control over it?
W: Yeah. There’s so much of this stuff happening too, right now, that’s really amazing and cool and basically I had no fucking idea that this stuff goes on, just really weird to see it as a business which is what it is. To me it’s an art and it’s a way of expressing myself and having fun with my friends, getting drunk- I mean really it’s as simple as that. It’s not as simple as that to the people that are in this, solely based on money. And that’s who I find myself surrounded with.
P: Just out of curiosity, have you ever been to Australia?
W: I have not, no.
P: Do you know if you’re going to tour here any time soon?
W: I am yeah. Early February, late January next year I’m going to come.
P: Awesome. I have cousins in Southern California but they say Australia is like California blown up to a whole country.
W: Yeah, you know I’ve heard that a couple of times. I had a friend who worked at Ripcurl, he did their art design and some other weird stuff for Billabong and some other surf company but that’s what he was telling me as well- that it’s just like a big Southern California. I’ve been trying to get out to Australia and now it’s finally happening so I’m apparently coming right in the middle of Summer as wellâ€¦
P: Yeah it will be really fucking hot. So what’ San Diego like? Do you enjoy living there or do you have any plans to re-locate?
W: I do. I spend my time between San Diego and, my girlfriend lives in L.A so my time is kind of divided between San Diego and L.A but they kind of have a similar vibe between the two places. It’s really laid back and, from what I’ve heard, similar to Australia. But San Diego’s got some weird vibes as well- it’s the second biggest military base in the U.S so you have a lot of meat heads and jocks, the weird bro mentality with a lot of the guys but I love California, it’s my favourite place.
P: You seem to have a fascination with youth culture sub-groups like goths, surfers, skaters, punksâ€¦is that a conscious thing or are they just completely random?
W: No. I mean it’s something I grew up around and always found interesting and for those two records, they were very nostalgic throughout the writing process and there’s a point in my life where I had just quit my job and I had dropped out of college and I’d moved back in with my parents and had all of these feelings of high school and weird inadequacies with women and friends and all these things started to come back to me. I was thinking and dwelling on them a lot and that was right around the time I started recording records so that was just the vibe I was on.
P: What genre did you fall in during high school? It’s hard to be objective about it butâ€¦
W: I was, I guess, most people have said â€ burn out’ or â€ slacker’ but I generally hung out with the people that I skateboarded with, then with the ‘punk kids’ but I dropped out in tenth grade so â€¦
P: Does it annoy you when music writers call you a loser or a slacker because obviously you need some enthusiasm/energy/drive to even make music. It’s pretty reductive- they make you a â€ loser’ or â€ king slacker’ or whatever. Do you find that irritating?
W: It’s really funny- my Mum hates it. That is another one of those things that came out in the beginning, everybody said that the reason I named the band â€ Wavves’ was because I was afraid of the ocean and although it’s true that I hate the ocean kind of, that wasn’t the reason that I named the Wavves. One publication put it out so the five hundred that followed had the same story. So that was kind of the same thing, in the beginning, the first couple of interviews and stuff that I did they asked me questions about what I was doing and my answers were all honest- generally speaking I was just sitting at home playing video games and smoking weed. Then these tags just kind of came with it- and it started to become â€ King of the Loser’s, that type of thing. It’s just a label and people label the music I make as â€ beach punk’ which is just something they made up as well- not something I ever said. I feel like I cant really help what other people say, or what they’re going to call it or what they’re going to label me or what they’re going to call me so you know, I’m not going to really care.
P: Another thing that you do get roped into is a kind of lo-fi movement with Vivian Girls and Girls and Atlas Sounds and all those kind of guys. Are you friends with those people? Like can you play them tracks and get feedback stuff like that?
W: Yeah. I’ve known a lot of these people for a pretty long time, I just hung out with Brad like three days ago and was talking to him about this as well. It starts with a lot of mutual appreciation for the music and stuff like that and then you get on a level where it’s just kind of friendly. It’s nice too because these people are all in situations similar to mine and I’ve kind of especially found solace in talking to Bradford because he’s been through a lot of this as well.
P: It does seem like with No Age and Atlas Sounds that they can be critical darlings without attracting all the bullshit that comes along with it but you haven’t managed to do soâ€¦
W: Yeah. I’m young tooâ€¦some of these bands have had managers for a long period of time and their the reason that these things can spiral out and get so crazy like my stuff does. From my end, I never wanted a manager because to me they all sound like money-hungry pigs and it’s not why I started making music in the first place. I’d like to actually talk to anybody that I’m signing contracts with or interviews and do most of these things face to face, as apposed to having a middle man that you don’t know at all and who are basically working for you for a salary. I feel like that’s an easy way to get roped into doing Pepsi commercials and weird shit that I’m not into.
P: Have you ever had any weird experiences from really fanatical people or haters?
W: Yeah. Portland was weird, there was this like some burn out, hippyish, addicted to inhalants sort of dude that came to a show we played in Portland and screamed at me about how I’ve just taken the Pepsi money. I had done an interview prior to that where I had made a joke about how I was going to take my Pepsi money and run and I guess this guy had taken it seriously. He waited until the end of the set and stood in the middle of the crowd and started yelling about how much he hated me, and how everyone know I was a faggot and all this stuff. And then he just left. But I thought it was pretty funny that he took the time out of his day, paid for a ticket just to abuse me.
As Williams finishes his story the phone cuts-out. The operator rings back asking if I want to continue but we’ve been talking for almost an hour and I don’t really have anymore questions for him. That last story though is remarkably indicative of what Williams deals with on a daily basis. People taking time out of their day to abuse him. Maybe it’s the hype, or his seemingly arrogant persona or maybe they just don’t like his music but there’s something about Wavves that polarizes people. Either way the Nathan Williams I talked to, contrary to popular opinion, was sincere, likeable and surprisingly mature. And from a 23 year old guy who recorded some lo-fi tracks in his parent’s house – what more do you need?