Wavves began as the heartfelt bedroom project of San Diego’s Nathan Williams—sort of like a more punk rock version of Pinback for the Weezer or Superdrag set. But in the years since he was using his laptop to slap together angsty songs on the topics of self-loathing, isolationism and totally liking weed and acid, Williams formed a full band, achieved (then ditched) indie label support from Fat Possum, took to self-financing releases through the band’s own label, Ghost Ramp, suffered a public breakdown during a performance at a festival in Spain and, all the while, put out some of the most earnest pop-rock music of the last decade. Wavves is a force to be reckoned with, like the second coming of 1990s alternative music—just don’t call them surf—and champions of an actually sustainable DIY mentality tailor-made for rock and effing roll.
With the May 19 release of You're Welcome, the band continues its layered pop explorations with further experiments in fuzzy garage-punk tracks, never afraid to take its time building to something. It's rare that a song goes exactly where you think it will, and though there's a throwback feel to a certain extent, it never feels dated or beholden to any particular influences.
We caught up with bassist Stephen Pope, a longtime member and all-around nice dude, to get some details on the band, the release of the new album (the band's sixth) as well as their current tour and what the future might hold for these titans of indie.
How's it going out there on the road?
It's good! I've gotten to visit places around the country I never thought I would—like Pelham, Alabama. We did some dates with blink-182.
Now that Wavves a full-band thing, have y'all been working together more on songs?
With every record it's been different, but it's definitely a more collaborative process now. On You're Welcome, what we did was, Nathan wrote half the songs and built on them with looping and samples for months, and then we sat on them for months. We had a whole arsenal of loops going back and forth, and then we just kind of started building them up. Everyone, luckily, gets to do what they want.
You've been confused for Nathan Williams in interviews before. Does that still happen?
It happens all the time! On the Wikpedia for Wavves, it even said that Alex Gates, the guitarist, was the founder and lead singer. There's lots of fake news.
Is it difficult to deal with what seems like intense pressure that so often gets put on this band?
I agree with you, and I think there is a lot of expectation. I guess. And I hope we meet with most people's expectations, but I know you can't please everyone. I think it's a good thing. If people have that strong an opinion about us, be it good or bad—any press is good press, mostly.
Wavves has struggled with record labels in the past. Do you prefer self- financing albums, or has that just made things much harder?
[You're Welcome] was done completely on our own, and the last two were done with Warner, and it was just really … It wasn't the right fit. It felt weird having to answer to people who don't know anything about you, having to answer to them about your art. So we had way more freedom just doing it ourselves. Obviously, we spent all our money and our credit cards on making and manufacturing the album, but overall, I'm very happy with how it turned out. It's the only way it could turn out this way. We didn't have time pressure, we didn't have someone standing over us. We worked with [producer] Dennis Herring in Los Angeles. He has this studio called dtla or Downtown LA, and we had worked with him before and loved the results. It's strange—he's an oddball, but he's this great producer. I would say he's a god from a different world who maybe doesn't quite understand human interactions.
I'm curious about what kind of scene you came up in.
Alex, the guitarist, and I grew up together, and we were friends since elementary school. I think it started out when we were around 13 and going to hardcore and metalcore shows, and I kind of stuck with that through high school. Most venues were 21-plus, but hardcore was in places where kids could go and listen to music. I still love hardcore, but after high school I started getting more into punk, garage stuff. I'm pretty into metal now, but I don't get the time to go to metal shows. A lot of them, since we were in Memphis, were Christian hardcore bands, and I never really totally related to the music I was seeing even though I was seeing live music. I was probably 18 and saw some punk band after a hardcore band, and once I saw music that was maybe a little more about the music and less about being an angry bro, I definitely flipped the switch.
I've heard a lot of people try to describe the Wavves sound, but it's kind of hard. What I hear most is, like, darker Weezer. Is that fair?
I like that. I think that's fair. A lot of times, people kind of lump us in and call us a surf band, which I think is just so far off—it's just an easy one because we started in San Diego and we're called Wavves. But, and especially with this new album, we're kind of all over the place on the genre map. I think what makes a Wavves song a Wavves song is Nathan's voice. … [Even] if he sings over a hip-hop beat, it'll sound like a Wavves song.
Wavves with Kino Kimino
8 pm Tuesday May 30. $18.
139 W San Francisco St.,