Wavves' Nathan Williams is a man of few words (a few favorites, from the track listing of his two albums, Wavves and Wavvves: "goth," "beach," "demon," "sun," "summer," "surf," and "weed"). Speaking on the phone en route from Toronto to Detroit, Williams gives responses that are, like his noisy punk-pop songs, blunt, blunted, and brief (the average song length on Wavves is about 2:30 minutes).
It could be that the San Diego one-man band, which expands to include drummer Ryan Ulsh on tour, is simply exhausted. It's their 62nd straight day of touring, including what Williams estimates as "953" shows at SXSW, with 19 more days on the road to go before a brief break and another 30 dates in Europe. Europe, incidentally, is where the band first toured outside of a few West Coast and NYC-area dates; they've somehow only performed once in their hometown of San Diego, preferring to play the Smell in L.A. The band is currently riding a tidal swell of hype, which must've seemed unimaginable to the 22-year-old Williams when he started recording these songs in his bedroom just last February. (Asked in a recent video interview about the sentiment behind the excellent Wavves song "So Bored," Williams remarks, "I'm not really that bored anymore... I'm tired. So tired.")
Another thing Williams is tiring of is a few recurring interview questions, specifically ones about his extra v's, "lo-fi," and the recent shit talk heaped upon him by another noisy indie-rock band, which accused Wavves (along with Vivian Girls) of being lo-fi "poseurs," going so far as to make "Wavves Suxx" T-shirts at SXSW (which I originally figured Wavves must have made themselves on a kind of Sub Pop "Loser" tip).
"Oh yeah, we saw the T-shirts," Williams sighs. "Yeah, I don't know what their deal is. People will say what they will, so it is what it is. Every interview that I've done since then has asked this question, so it's exactly what they wanted, I'm sure. In fact, if you don't want to mention them at all, that would be cool, too."
Done. Although, for the curious, more about the wholly one-sided “beef” can be found on Line Out. As for the insinuation that Wavves is somehow inauthentically low-fidelity, Williams laughs. "I don't even know what that means. Yeah, man, I'm trying to capitalize on that huge lo-fi sound—all of these lo-fi artists we know making big bucks, huge commercial stuff, Pepsi- product endorsements. I don't know, I think it's all silly. It's high-school drama stuff."
The cause of all this commotion is Wavvves, the sophomore album Williams released in March via the increasingly diversifying Mississippi blues label Fat Possum. On the record, Williams sinks essentially poppy garage- and surf-punk songs under washes of clipping, buzzing distortion and reverb—drums overdriven, guitars fuzzed out to within an inch of each note's life, vocals alternating between an equally distorted garble and wordless, echoing, doo-woppy backup whines. Live, at two of Wavves' innumerable SXSW showcases, Williams and Ulsh plowed through a dozen or so songs from the two records, sounding loud but markedly cleaner than on record, the guitars still distorted but not blown out, the vocals not crystal clear but far less muddled. At least half the album's songs are terrifically catchy—meeting Williams at SXSW the night after seeing him play, I had to stop myself from humming/whistling the simple, ear-worming melodies of "To the Dregs" and "So Bored," which had been stuck in my head all day.
Overlooking a few noisy instrumental interludes and a couple slow, bummer dirges, Wavves' music is surprisingly sunny and upbeat, given the album's downer titles and lyrics (goths, "No Hope Kids," etc.). This might be Wavves' greatest trick: turning boredom, hopelessness, and dead ends into triumph. When he sings, "I'm so bored," drawing out each syllable in an adolescent, armchair-surfer drawl, it's a battle cry: boredom as the moment before you get off your ass and do something, the motivation for taking action. When he sings, "Got no car/Got no money/I got nothing, nothing, nothing, not at all," it sounds not like despair but like weightless, undemanding freedom.
It's perhaps an understandable attitude given how far a life of indolence, weed smoking, and fucking around with GarageBand and a guitar seems to have gotten Williams. (Before Wavves, Williams was living at his parents' house, "working at a record store, playing in another band, generally just hanging out with friends and not doing anything; I went to city college a couple times and dropped out.") And of course, the future is just as endlessly, hopelessly, gotta-wear-shades bright; asked if he'll move back in with his parents after tour or take that big, lo-fi poseur money and move out, Williams is typically laconic: "I'm taking the Pepsi money and running. I'll buy a loft in L.A."