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Escape Velocity

Say Hello, Wavves Goodbye: Nathan Williams Interviewed
Alex Denney , June 4th, 2009 12:53

Days before Nathan Williams' onstage game of silly buggers at Primavera, Al Denney caught up with the petulant Wavves mainman

The Quietus was privy to a brief conversation with Wavves lynchpin Nathan Williams less than 72 hours before his widely reported, ecstasy 'n' Xanax-induced meltdown at the Primavera festival in Barcelona.

Even for a musician not generally known for his erudition and bracing conversational skills in interview, it made for a terse exchange. On later discovering news of the Williams' festival blow-out - which saw bottles and even a shoe hurled by one disgruntled Iraqi scribe (tbc) - tQ is torn between schadenfreude and a degree of sympathy for the SoCal surf-punk.

On the one hand, you've got a wet-behind-the-ears stoner kid not especially given to introspection suddenly thrust into the spotlight and subject to an unusually rigorous touring and press schedule. Then again, he could just be a bit of a nobber - yet another in a series of say-nothing American Apparel clothes-horses acting up on some kind of misguided, punk-rockin' anti-intellectual tip. Whatever, his record's strong enough to merit a fair trial – to use an argument which has precisely zero moral force – so here's that conversation 'in full'.

You've signed up with Bella Union in the UK which seems unusual in that the label is more readily associated with more traditional or pastoral sounds. You can't exactly have been short of offers after the hype you received in the media – why'd you go with them in the end?

"It was just comfortable. The guys at Bella Union reminded me of my friends back home which was nice."

Is it surprising to find yourself in your current position given the 'bedroom' nature of the recordings you'd been making under the Wavves moniker?

"I didn't envision doing anything besides playing the songs in my room. I got no complaints."

Do you envisage approaching the songwriting differently at all now you've got people's attention?

"In the end I just try and make songs. I've not written much lately, I've been touring pretty much constantly since February, the last tour I did was 77 days long."

Has the touring been a rewarding thing for you?

"Some days more than others. It gets mentally draining."

You've brought other band members into the fray for live appearances – can you see Wavves getting to be a more democratic creature at any point?

"Not really. Wavves is definitely my baby – a stupid, ugly baby but you know."

Could you explain a little about the difference between (limited edition first LP release) Wavves and (redux'd, first album 'proper' out now on Bella Union) Wavvves?

"With Wavvves) I just gravitated towards the poppier stuff more, I think because I'd started to find my niche."

You'd played with a band called Fantastic Magic before that; was that much different musically-speaking from what you're doing with Wavves?

"It was really a folkier, more acoustic thing. There was like a nylon guitar, a mandolin and some Indian instruments in there."

Can we assume from that you have a pretty broad taste in music generally?

"Yeah all kinds. I've been listening to The Vaselines a lot recently, a lot of Nas' Illmatic again. Also Platters, they're like a Shangri-Las-type, three piece soul group from the sixties."

You blog quite regularly on hip-hop and have spoken before about what you perceive to be similarities between punk and rap music – could you elaborate on those similarities at all?

"Well I think there are a lot of similarities but I like the whole aspect of just rebelling against whatever, it's that 'fuck you' aspect."

Your love of weed has been well documented in the media. What's your favourite stuff to do when stoned?

"I dunno... I watch Seinfeld a lot."

How does weed in the UK compare with at home?

"The weed's not very good here. But you know, weed is weed is weed."

You've also been labeled as a nihilist a few times by people referring to your music. Is it true that you believe in naah-sing, as Lebowski would have it?

"I don't think many people could really claim to be could they? I mean I wish I could but I just care too much about stuff. Like I care about having this beer in my hand right now."