Wavves Rolls Through Omaha for Maha
By Kyle Eustice
Wavves started off as a solo project for California native Nathan Williams. After several 7” and cassette releases, Wavves finally caught the attention of Pitchfork Media and released their self-titled debut in 2008. The following year saw the release of Wavves on Fat Possum/Bella Union Records and it was on from there. Williams has since enlisted the help of several different musicians including ex-band mate/drummer Ryan Ulsh, former Jay Reatard bassist Stephen Pope and ex-band mate Billy Hayes. The lineup has never been very consistent. Williams is the only original member. In fact, Pope and Alex Gates shared writing duties with longtime Wavves-frontman Williams on the group’s upcoming album. While Wavves is best known for playing that California dreamin’ surf-rock, Williams himself has also stirred up plenty of press. In 2009, Wavves, which at the time included Williams and Ulsh, played Spain’s Primavera Music Festival to a huge, overwhelming crowd. Williams had taken way too many Valiums, popped some ecstasy pills and presumably drank a lot on top of that. Needless to say, he was too messed up to finish his set and the next day admitted he was struggling with an alcohol addiction. That same night, Ulsh quit the band, but ironically Williams met Pope and Hayes. The trio continued on with 2010’s King of the Beach and embarked on a heavy tour schedule in support of the new record. Aside from the fact that they get quite rowdy and Williams favorite topics revolve around smoking weed and hanging out, their music is good. Wavves released its fourth full-length album titled Afraid of Heights in 2013 and recently announced a new album, V, which drops October 2. Pope took very few seconds to talk to us about his time at SXSW, motor scooter accidents and sunglasses. Wavves hits the Maha Music Festival stage at 4:50 p.m. on Saturday, August 15.
Now! Omaha: I read something the other day by a band that was just complaining about how SXSW isn’t about the music at all. He was saying it’s more about corporate sponsors.
Stephen Pope: It depends on why you actually go see bands. Even normal shows, there will be people there that aren’t there to enjoy the music. They’re there to sell things and things like that.
I’m having a really hard time hearing you. Are you in the bathroom [laughs]?
No, I am not in the bathroom.
You want to move somewhere else to see if that helps?
It’s really loud outside. I am moving around the room.
Afraid of Heights seems a lot darker than King of the Beach. Would you agree with that?
I guess I would agree with that. A lot of people are saying that and think that’s mostly because of the lyrical content. We were kind of shut away for about a year while we were making the album. After being in a dark room for that long, I think maybe it starts to show in the lyrics.
What did the addition of you and Billy add to the overall sound of King of the Beach?
I guess it was the first time Nathan had been in the studio. It was first time Billy and I had made an album in a studio like that. I guess we added a different style of drums and bass. We wrote a couple of the songs on the album.
Do you feel that Nathan’s reputation was tainted after his disastrous 2009 performance at Spain’s Primavera Music Festival?
That’s the night I met him. I thought he was cool. I didn’t know he messed up. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. He’s fine. He’s playing a video game right now. He crashed a motorcycle last year.
Oh no. He did?
Yeah, he has a big bruise on his leg. I was on the bike; well it was more like a motor scooter. He basically didn’t know how to turn it. He drove straight into a mailbox and once he hit the mailbox, Nathan went through it. I have a little scratch, but Nathan has a huge gash, road rash [laughs].
Well hopefully you guys will be ok. What’s the current line-up?
Alex Gates plays guitar and Jacob Cooper is playing drums with us. Me, I’m Stephen Pope.
Yes, I know.
I’m the front man. Just refer to me as the front man.
Are you a fan of neon sunglasses?
Is that a band?
No, but I swear I see you wearing them a lot.
I am a fan of sunglasses in general. Sun gets into my eyes and I like dark. I’m from Memphis, Tennessee. I live in California now.
Did you ever think you’d end up in a surf-pop band?
I always wanted to get out to the West Coast, but I never thought I’d ever end up in L.A. It’s the perfect place for me.
When did you end up moving to California?
About a year ago and you must have sunglasses. I usually prefer black. If none are available, I will go for neon. Circular Oakleys are the best. Those are great.
How important are tours and merch these days considering the digital age we’re in right now?
Pretty important. It’s fucking hard to sell records. Touring makes it fun though.
With their fifth studio album, V, on it’s way, Wavves is sharing the anthemic single “Heavy Metal Detox.” Aided by producer Woody Jackson, V is the band’s most infectious record to date. It also marks an evolution in Wavves’ songwriting as permanent band members Stephen Pope and Alex Gates shared writing duties with longtime Wavves-frontman Nathan Williams. Although recorded in a professional studio for the first time in the band’s history, the DIY energy that originally drew fans to Wavves and launched Williams’ renowned career is present throughout V. With a loyal fan base and less external pressures, it’s clear that these guys are having more fun than ever and are consequentially creating the best music of the band’s career. The record is due out October 2nd through Ghost Ramp / Warner Bros. Records and the band is set to embark on a string of tour dates running through September and October.
STREAM: “Heavy Metal Detox” –