Making Wavves

 By now, everyone knows that Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino and Wavves’ Nathan Williams are an item. They appeared on the cover of Spin together and can often be found doing joint interviews. It makes sense. Both of their bands make straight up California dreamin’ beach bum music. Wavves’ last album, King of the Beach, was full of surf-pop tracks like “Green Eyes,” “Idiot” and the title track, “King of the Beach.” Best Coast’s first 7” is called Sun Was High (So Was I) for God’s sake. Like so many other singer-songwriters, California natives Cosentino and Williams express their feelings through their lyrical content. So on Wavves’ upcoming fourth full-length album, Afraid of Heights, one might wonder if the couple is going through some turbulent times. The lyrics are darker and Williams’ happy-go-lucky outlook on life sounds a bit more bleak. Perhaps it’s a culmination of everything he’s been through over the last few years since Wavves started making, well, waves in the media. In 2009, there was an unfortunate incident at Spain’s Primavera Music Festival where Williams’ couldn’t finish his set due to ingesting a volatile cocktail of Valium and ecstasy. Ironically, it was the same night Williams met current bassist Stephen Pope. While, of course, the press made a huge issue out of it, Pope saw it another way. “I thought he was cool. I didn’t know he messed up,” Pope says. “I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. He’s fine. He’s playing a video game right now. I don’t think it’s relevant anymore.” Pope seems in relatively good spirits these days. As a former member of the band Jay Reatard, he’s endured a lot in his short career. Twenty-nine-year-old lead singer Jimmy Lee Lindsey, Jr. passed away a few months after Pope had quit the band and there was a history of tumultuous times within the group. Once Pope and Williams met, it kind of became a way out for him. Wavves originally started out as Williams’ solo project and he released two albums, 2008’s self-titled debut and 2009’s Wavvves. For the third record, it was decided that Pope and drummer Billy Hayes would play on it. 2010’s King of the Beach (Fat Possum Records) was the band’s only record made in a professional recording studio. Before then, they had been made in their parent’s houses or other home studios. “I guess it was the first time Nathan had been in the studio, too. It was the first time Billy and I had made an album in a studio like that,” Pope says. “I guess we added a different style of drums and bass. We wrote a couple of the songs on the album, too.” King of the Beach is a really solid effort, especially coming hot off the heels of an insanely tough year for Williams. It serves its purpose from beginning to end as a soundtrack to the quintessential endless summer. It emanates optimism like sunrays and offers insight into Williams’ ongoing maturation as a songwriter. It seems only natural that Afraid of Heights would further showcase Williams’ growth as a musician. After months of being on the road and working with esteemed producer John Hill, Williams has presumably learned a lot about the music industry, which reflects in the overall darker tone of the new single, “Demon to Lean On.” The whole album heads in that direction, something Pope is starting to grasp. “I guess I would agree with that. A lot of people are saying that it’s darker and think that’s mostly because of the lyrical content,” he explains. “We were kind of shut away for about a year while we were making the album. After being in a dark room for that long, I think maybe it starts to show.” Fortunately, they are free now and eager to continue promoting the record. At the time of this interview, the motley trio was holed up in an Austin hotel room after just finishing its last set at the SXSW Music Festival. Although Williams may have been humbled and tamed a little by his experience in Spain, there’s still plenty of debauchery surrounding Wavves. “Nathan crashed a motorcycle yesterday. He has a big bruise on his leg. I was on the bike, well, it was more like a motor scooter,” Pope says. “He basically didn’t know how to turn it. He drove straight into a mailbox and once he hit the mailbox, Nathan went through it. I have a little scratch, but Nathan has a huge gash. It’s like road rash [laughs].” At this point, that’s par for the course. For a band that mostly sings about smoking weed and hanging out, there’s a sense they aren’t quite ready to mellow out, unless of course, they’re really, really high. You get the feeling they’re still stuck with the mentalities of 15-year-old adolescent boys that just had their first beer. Nonetheless, the music they make isn’t bad. Actually, it’s pretty great. Wavves is serious business now. Pope relocated to Los Angeles from Memphis, Tennessee about a year ago and they have a solid lineup, at least for touring. Williams and Pope remain at the core, but drummer Jacob Cooper and guitarist Alex Gates are on the road with them. They seem to be a good fit and they’re constantly joking around. “I always wanted to get out to the West Coast, but I never thought I’d ever end up in L.A. It’s the perfect place for me, but you gotta have sunglasses,” he says. “Usually I prefer black. If none are available, I will go for neon. Circular Oakleys are the best. Those are great.” That’s a typical answer from someone in Wavves. The group specializes in keeping things light. Hopefully this time around, Williams stays sober long enough to deliver a clean set (no pun intended). In the meantime, Wavves is focused on being a “real” band and getting out there. “Shows and merch are pretty important. It’s fucking hard to sell records,” Pope concludes. “Touring makes it fun though.” Wavves, with Fidlar and Cheatahs, March 28, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St., 9 p.m. $15. Visit http://www.onepercentproductions.com for more information.

posted at 07:09 pm
on Monday, March 25th, 2013

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