The headlines usually accompanying Nathan Williams, better known as Wavves, seldom have anything to do with his music, a low-fi blend of classic West Coast pop buried under layers of hiss and distortion. His drug-fueled onstage meltdown at Barcelona's Primavera Sound Festival in front of a couple thousand people fanned the flames of a backlash against the one-man band. His Fat Possum debut, Wavvves, had received critical praise from Web sites such as Pitchfork, Stereogum, and Onion A.V. Club, propelling the band into the indie spotlight. But his meltdown shifted people's focus from his music to talk of his intentionally misspelled moniker and ironic haircut. On top of that, his recent beef with garage-punk revivalists The Black Lips turned violent. Reports indicate that a fight broke out between Williams and Black Lips bassist Jared Swilley at a New York bar. Williams claims he punched Swilley, while Swilley asserts that the Wavves entourage did the actual brawling, with Williams watching from the sidelines.
Phoenix wasn't spared in the ever-sprawling train wreck: When the band played the Trunk Space last spring, things didn't go exceptionally well. "That was a really shitty show," Williams says. "I spit on this kid's face, like, totally on accident. I walked outside and had something in my throat, and I spit without looking. I turned my head, and there's this kid, like, sitting in a chair, looking at me like, 'Are you fucking kidding?' Then I went to this bar. I had the worst PBR. It was just like ball-sweat-caked PBR. I walked outside, projectile vomited, went in, and played the worst set ever. So I owe it to Phoenix to come and do well."
He'll be bringing with him new songs and a new drummer, Zach Hill, known for his frenetic drumming with noise-rock band Hella and The Deftones side project Team Sleep. Hill officially joined the band a couple of months ago, and the duo has already recorded the next Wavves record, set for release early next year. "It turned out really well. I'm excited about it . . . It's audible," he says, describing how it differs from previous work, and adds that it sounds like "grated cheese on top of nachos" and "fish tacos." Williams says it was interesting to have input on the album, whereas his other efforts have all been recorded alone. "We recorded it in a church in Sacramento. It was weird recording songs about killing God [in a church]. And yourself, and dogs with sunglasses."
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The Rhythm Room
Wavves is scheduled to perform on Thursday, October 15.
It wasn't the first time during the interview the "dogs with sunglasses" theme popped up. Williams peppered answers with the image of dogs sporting shades as often as he could, typical of the humor that permeates his records, playing up the slacker role perfected by Beck and Pavement in the early '90s and stretched to impossible proportions by Adult Swim and Tim & Eric-style absurdity. It's an appropriate response to the constant, intense Internet scrutiny focused on the band. "If I spent all my time worrying about what people said," he says, "I'd lose my fucking mind."
As for his mishap in Arizona, Williams seems more than willing to make up for it this time around: "I never should have told you that stupid fucking story," he laughs. "Maybe I should just get this guy to come to the show and spit on my face — make it even-Steven. Onstage, just have him spit and then just take a shit in my throat. It'll be good, get some headlines and prove I'm a good sport."