Q & A: Wavves' Nathan Williams Talks Dogs With Sunglasses, New Record and Spitting in Faces

It's hard to take Wavves serious, but really, that's kind of the point. Everything about the project, the work of California "Weed/Beach Demon" Nathan Williams, comes across as tossed off: the scuzzy, no-fidelity sound of the records, the "So Bored" lyrical stance, the moronic misspelling of the band name (and, for extra annoyance, an added 'v' for the album  title, Wavvves), the "wacky" haircut, and his cheeky refusal to stop talking about "dogs with sunglasses" during an interview. It all feels disposable, but fun, reminding us some of the best rock n' roll doesn't really "mean" anything. While Williams apes the sounds of cerebral and "important" bands like Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine and Wire, he seems intent on boiling things down to the most primal level; crafting art rock for stoners, heshers and art school dropouts. 

Even Williams' beef with Jared Swilley, of the Nuggets mining Black Lips, seems too rife with entertainment value to be very serious, with Williams playing the confused pothead and Swilley acting the part of a homophobic redneck. I talked with Williams Saturday afternoon en route to Atlanta the next night (where Swilley promised things would get "nasty style"), and he didn't seem concerned about any further altercations, speaking mostly of his new drummer, Zach Hill known for his prog-rock drumming for noise-rockers Hella and Marnie Stern, their new record and how bad his last Phoenix date was. 

"I gotta warn you," his tour manager says, handing over the phone. "Nathan mostly wants to talk about his new record, and dogs with sunglasses." 

Wavves from TERROREYES.TV on Vimeo.

Wavves-Hula Hoop

NW: Bueno.

UP: What's happening man, how are you?

NW: I'm doing pretty well, how you doing?

UP: I'm doing okay. How's tour going?

NW: Tour's going really well. There's a lot of dogs in sunglasses.

UP: A lot of dogs in sunglasses?

NW: Yup. Everywhere.

UP: That's pretty awesome. Is it, like, people dressing up their dogs up in outfits in addition to sunglasses or pretty much just sunglasses?

NW: No, it's just dogs walking into stores, buying sunglasses with money, and then walking out wearing sunglasses. Their purchased sunglasses. The aforementioned sunglasses.  

UP: Well, that's the way to do it.

NW: Yeah.

UP: So you mostly want to talk about dogs wearing sunglasses, but also your record?

NW: Yeah.

UP: So are you working on a new record with (new drummer) Zach Hill?

NW: We already finished it before we left.

UP: Any idea when that's going to be out?

NW: Probably the end of February/early March.

UP: Okay. Is that gonna be on Fat Possum?

NW: It is.  

UP: So how did it turn out?  

NW: Very well.

UP: Very cool. So how is it different from the last record, other than having someone else play on it?

NW: It's audible.  

UP: So is this your big goodbye to the "low-fi" sound?  Is it all ProTools?  Does it sound like a Journey record?

NW: It sounds like a Journey record. It sounds like grated melted cheese on top of nachos. It sounds like fish tacos.

UP: That's pretty awesome.  Is it just the live set up, you on guitar and Zach on drums, or did you guys do a bunch of overdubs?

NW: Most of the the stuff is me on guitar, Zach on drums, but I play bass and keyboards on some songs. It's pretty simple, still. 

UP: Zach's a crazy drummer, so I'm looking forward to hearing out it sounds.  The videos you've put out, the rough versions of some of the songs, sound really great.

NW: Thanks, we're looking forward to having it out, so people can have a chance to listen to it as well.

UP: Is this the first time you've written a record with somebody else's input?

NW: Yeah, it was a little bit different. The record before I just tried to blast through it, and not really put much time into it, but with this record there's input with Zach, and also the guy who engineered it, Andy Morris, so that was cool. A lot of fun. It was a really good experience.

UP: Where did you guys record it?

NW: In a church in Sacramento. 

UP: I imagine the dynamics and acoustics of the room were pretty cool.

NW: Yeah, it was fun. It was weird recording songs in a church about killing God.  And yourself, and dogs with sunglasses.

UP: That's going to be the big headline: "Wavves New Record is About Killing Dogs With Sunglasses."

NW: Yeah, "Wavves Are Michael Vick's Best Friend."

UP: People are going to think you're killing the dogs with sunglasses, though.

NW: Like I'm stabbing the dogs with the sharpened edge of a sunglass?

UP: That's what I fear with running this headline, so I'll have to do some explanation.

NW: How about we just preface this whole thing with a picture of a cat, hanging in a tree, that says, "Hang In There." Just start things out nice and cute.

UP: Do you remember the last time you were in Arizona?

NW: Yeah, we played Trunk Space on our last US tour. With, um, Abe Vigoda. That was a really bad show.  I played really badly.  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?" I was like, "dogs with sunglasses, man." I gave him a CD but I don't think it made up for it. Then I went to this bar, I can't remember what it was called. 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.

UP: That sounds like a mess.

NW: Not the best.

UP: I feel like you've gotten a lot of headlines, kind of a lot of indie-gossip.  How do you feel about the so called 'internet age' of music.  In a lot of ways you're success kind of typifies that, you come out with a record seemingly out of nowhere, and a lot of people pick up on it.  And subsequently, there's this backlash, were everything except your music was getting attention.  Does that make any sense?

NW: Yeah, that makes sense.  People are interested in like, a reality TV show, or something like that.  People want to watch a train-wreck.  Naturally, humans want to watch other humans fall.  You know, in the end, there's not too much I can do about that.  So I just try and have fun and write records I like, and you know...that's basically it. Everything that comes with it is kind of out of my hands.  I don't really pay attention to it too much.  If I spent all my time worrying about what people said, I'd lose my fucking mind.

UP: Do you ever think, say, after spitting in a kid's face, 'Oh man, this is going to blow up on the internet, and people are going to talk shit about me?'

NW: That was, like, a total accident, like the third show I played.  I just kept saying sorry to that guy.  It's just, um, I never should have told you that stupid fucking story.  That could blow up, that guy could write on the internet, "That guy is a total dick-head." And, I dunno, maybe I deserve it.  Because I did just, like, spit in his face. Maybe I should just get this guy to come to the show and spit on my face, make it even-stevens. On stage, 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.

UP: I didn't mean to try and insinuate that I was going to smear you with that, it just seems like that's the sort of thing that could blow up just as easily as the Black Lips fight. It's all the same, kind of gossip mongering thing.

NW: Those are just things that happen.  I don't think about it.  People are gonna talk.  

UP: About the whole Black Lips fight, are you guys bringing extra security to Atlanta? Armed to the teeth?  Maybe some dogs with sunglasses?

NW: We got dogs with sunglasses, prescription glasses, weed glasses, swimming glasses, laser dogs, fish tacos, tree branches, California, and Lady Gaga.

UP: Doesn't sound like you guys are going to have any problems, you guys sound prepared.

NW: I think it'll be just fine. 

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.