Progress Report: Wavves’ main man Nathan Williams talks about how much Life Sux, the elusive Dave Grohl, making a new album, and the relative difficulty of getting into the VMAs with weed in your pocket.
Wavves has been pretty unavoidable lately. From dropping a new EP in the coming weeks (including collabo tracks with Best Coast and Fucked Up) to photobombing Tyler The Creator’s mom at the VMAs (after certain Wavves band members were kicked out for trying to sneak in with the good shit), Nathan Williams and co. are keeping busy with new releases, a new tour, a new label, and a brand new album on the horizon.
STEREOGUM: I actually interviewed you for the first time back in 2009. Things were just starting to really blow up for you. It’s funny to think about how much has changed since then.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, a whole lot of stuff. My life is pretty different now.
STEREOGUM: You have an EP coming out later this month that features collaborations with Best Coast and Fucked Up. How did that come about?
WILLIAMS: Well, I’ve always been really into collaborating and working with other people, it just didn’t always work out. I’ve known Bethany and Damien for a long, long time, so it was really easy to work with them. To be honest, my approach was really just about having fun and seeing what might happen. I also liked the idea of doing songs with bands as different from each other at Best Coast and Fucked Up, which was a fun challenge. It turned out to be a really easy thing to do and really fun.
STEREOGUM: How was the experience of writing songs with other people? Did it change the process for you?
WILLIAMS: Well, the songs were basically already written by me, but it was cool to see this thing that seemed like it was basically already finished go through this new transformation after I gave it to them and they added their parts. It took everything to a different level.
STEREOGUM: That’s awesome. It sounds so simple, but I can’t imagine anything more fun than making art with your friends.
WILLIAMS: Totally. And the best part about it was that there was no label to tell us that we couldn’t do it or trying to tell us how to record or what we should do. It was just easy and cool and, you know, it’s this thing that everyone can potentially make a little bit of money from without any label or outside forces dipping into our pockets. It was really a freeing experience. Just like you were saying, so much has changed for me. I don’t have a label and I’m not under any contract, so this was pretty liberating for me.
STEREOGUM: The Life Sux EP will be the first release on your Ghost Ramp label. Was having your own label always a goal for you?
WILLIAMS: It was kind of what I wanted from the very beginning, but I had to learn the ins and outs the hard way. One of the reasons that I signed with Fat Possum was because I knew that they had money and good distribution and they could help me establish myself, which they did. So, after doing two records with them, I kind of just wanted to do things myself. I don’t need anyone to do that for me anymore. I can just produce music on my own and work with people that I want to and … well, I can’t even tell you how much more relaxed I feel now and how much easier it is for me.
STEREOGUM: Do you have an idea of what other bands you want to work with or what you might release next on the label?
WILLIAMS: Yeah, but right now we’re kind of just focusing on this record and seeing how everything goes. I’d definitely be interested in signing some bands or putting out other people’s records. I’d rather it have nothing to do with genre or anything, but have it just be a way to work with like-minded musicians who kind of approach things in the same way that I do.
STEREOGUM: And you are working on a new Wavves full-length, right?
WILLIAMS: Yes, Stephen and I have been in the studio a lot. We’re hoping to get it out by the end of the year or early next year.
STEREOGUM: Were you surprised by the reaction to King Of The Beach? It seems as if things have really well for you on the heels of that record.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, I really was. It was the first time that I recorded in a real studio and did a more professional kind of thing. To be honest, it was a weird experience and a weird environment when we were making that album. Me and Billy and Stephen kind of went through this weird experience together. At one point the label tried to kick the two of them off of the record and hire these studio musicians for me to work with … it was just, the whole environment was weird. I’m not sure what it was that I expected with that experience, but I’m glad that people still listen to my music and they like it.
STEREOGUM: That’s a pretty standard story with a lot of bands. A label signs you because they love what you do, and then they immediately want you to change it.
WILLIAMS: Exactly. And that was one of the things I wanted to avoid ever experiencing again.
STEREOGUM: When I interviewed you back in 2009 I remember that you seemed profoundly exhausted and more than a little freaked out by everything that was happening to you. Do you find that you’ve managed to find more of a balance these days?
WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think so. In the beginning, when you first get a booking agent for your band, then you get a label, suddenly you have a manager at the label and you might also have a separate PR person and all of these people who are telling you, “Keep going! Keep going!” None of them really care about how you actually feel, it’s just that you need to keep touring, keep going, keep talking to everyone. I finally learned that it was important to say no sometimes. Sometimes you just can’t go back to Europe or you can’t add more dates, otherwise you just get totally run into the ground — which is totally what happened to me. I hope to avoid that in the future. I’m also a little more used to being on the road now, so I’m better at touring without exhausting myself.
STEREOGUM: MTV recently premiered your new song, “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl.” So the obvious question is, did you meet Dave Grohl?
WILLIAMS: (laughs) No! I still haven’t met him. My publicist met him at the VMAs, but it was basically at the exact moment that Stephen was getting kicked out and I was getting inside. The funny thing is, Stephen got kicked out for having a blunt wrapper but I had weed on me the whole time and they just didn’t find it. I had, like, 15 joints and a Geto Boys cassette tape. They asked me to empty my pockets and I just didn’t pull anything out.
STEREOGUM: Well, I’m sure you and Dave will cross paths at some point. It seems destined to happen.
WILLIAMS: I liked that he won an award at the VMAs and then said something like, “Rock and Roll is still out there, you just have to look at little harder to find it.” So, he better fucking listen to our goddamned song! Practice what you preach, Mr. Grohl!
STEREOGUM: He seems like such a likable guy. Mainstream rock and roll dudes who make fake gay porn movies to promote their gazillion-dollar tours can’t be all bad, can then?
WILLIAMS: I loved that. He’s so cool. That song isn’t actually about me, but I do really want to meet him.
STEREOGUM: You’re also doing music for this new MTV show, I Just Want My Pants Back. How’s that going? I heard you were creating 20 original songs for the show.
WILLIAMS: It’s going well. Me and Stephen actually have to go back into the studio to record some more stuff for them, but it’s great. It’s fun. It’s been really easy, actually.
STEREOGUM: I know it’s in the early stages, but what can you tell me about what the next Wavves record might sound like?
WILLIAMS: It will probably be something that expands on the sound of Life Sux. I don’t exactly know what the expansion will be, but I want to collaborate with more people and record at the same place. OR I’ll dig an underground tunnel and build my own studio out of dirt or something.
STEREOGUM: And next up is your tour with Fucked Up, right?
WILLIAMS: Yeah, we’ll tour with Fucked Up and then play some shows of our own throughout the fall and then, I don’t know. I guess then we’ll make a new album or something. That should be enough to keep us busy.
Wavves’ Life Sux EP is out 9/20 on Ghost Ramp.