“He’s probably still asleep,” explains Wavves bassist Stephen Pope, upon our second attempt to try and track down singer Nathan Williams. “Or he’s probably passed out somewhere.” Over the years, the San Diego outfit have gained a reputation for not being entirely serious. Nathan’s recent claims that the new record would be called ‘Krazy Sexy Cool’ ended up being taken a little too literally in some quarters. They once joked that they were being “mildly sued” by The Walt Disney Company, because their first single was called ‘Mickey Mouse’.
We never did manage to drag Nathan into our midday conference call, but we did catch up with him later to find out about the new album, ‘Afraid Of Heights’. With the band’s latest effort, they’ve embraced elements of a grungier sound, an aspect first touched upon within their ‘Life Sux’ EP, but expanded further here. In places, they’ve incorporated Nirvana-esque guitar riffs into the verse sections of tracks; the album’s title track and their recently unveiled ‘Demon To Lean On’. Whereas tracks such as ‘Paranoid’ and lead single ‘Sail To The Sun’ uphold the punky noise-pop that Wavves fans will, by now, be accustomed to.
“I recorded it on a voice memo while drunk,” Nathan tells us of the single. “Then came back to it the next day and mapped out the parts.” “We put it together in the studio, all together,” Stephen explains. “But he wrote that over a year ago, probably. We were writing a lot together for this album. We were both really bad, socially, I guess, and we’d both been on tour for so long we kind of forgot how to interact with people. We had to get really drunk before we’d talk to anyone.”
As well as an enigmatic chorus that stands out as one of the album’s strongest points, the track is also accompanied by one of the band’s strangest music videos to date. “I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, and there was this commercial that came on, all of the time that had this really sweaty, like really dramatic black preacher who was preaching about not doing drugs and finding God. Then thinking, alright what if this preacher’s actually bullshit and he’s making money from telling all of these people inside the church? So we just went with it.”
“We still deal with the classic catholic guilt syndrome.”
Wavves certainly aren’t newcomers to providing the world with wondrously insane music videos, but Stephen, surprisingly, reveals that “Nathan and I both grew up in really religious families,” which goes some way to explain why “there are a lot of religious themes on the album, too.” When it comes to influences from the snotty, lo-fi guitar driven ensemble, a religious background certainly isn’t something we expected to suddenly crop up. He promptly clarifies, “It’s definitely not a religious album, there are moments questioning why we grew up in such a religious environment. Even though neither of us are really religious now, we still deal with the classic Catholic guilt syndrome.”
In addition to mild ecclesiastical themes, whilst it’s by no means the out and out hip hop record they’ve previously joked about, it does move towards the urban sub-genres of music. They recruited the services of the producer John Hill, who boasts a CV including albums from artists such as M.I.A., Rihanna and Wu Tang Clan. It’s not the first time that they’d worked together though: “John and I had written music for other artists before,” Nathan tells us. However, when questioning the potential fluidity of a hip hop side project, he replies; “no, not really. There are some 808s here and there but that’s it.” Instead, he goes on to joke about the album comprising “fourteen Korn covers.”
But as the release date comes around, we’re left wondering, how will the band prepare for the release and having to tour relentlessly? “I’m going to be doing pretty much what I’ve been doing every morning: just laying naked in my room listening to Metallica and Slayer really loud, contemplating my life,” reveals Stephen, sharing perhaps a little too much. “I do that for about eight hours a day and just go back to sleep. But in March, we start touring and we’ll tour for the rest of the year. I think we’re planning a six-week US tour and then we’ll come over to the UK and Europe and then the US again and somebody will probably be dead by then so it’ll all be over.”
Potential death related disasters aside, it’s not quite clear as to how Nathan will be preparing to hit the road, though the pair agree that they want to present the new record to as many crowds as is physically possible. If we’re lucky, there may even be some festival performances here in the UK. We can’t help but feel curious as to how their new album will stand up to the feel-good ‘King Of The Beach’. Whether it’ll cast Wavves into a whole new sea of acceptance, reach out to a new set of fans. As the frontman himself puts it; it’s “an entirely different record, but the proper next step for this band, I feel.”
Wavves’ new album ‘Afraid Of Heights’ will be released on 26th March.