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Q&A: Wavves’ Nathan Williams

March 24, 2009

Nathan Williams’ passport is getting a serious workout these days. February and March found the 22-year old San Diego resident and Wavves nucleus blazing a whirlwind noise-pop path through Europe, hitting Prague, Hamburg, Paris, and Leeds, among other cities.

Over the past couple weeks, he’s rocked South By Southwest and issued sophomore disc Wavvves via Fat Possum-a big step up from the tiny labels that handled his earlier releases. Arbiter-of-all-things-hip Pitchfork gave the album a vaunted 8.1 ranking; that’s not a Radiohead-level rave, but it places Williams in the internet-hallowed company of similar racketmakers such as Deerhunter, Times New Viking, and No Age.

Wavves’ metier is gnarly, distorted punk-pop scraps about being dissatisfied, broke, and at the end of your rope.

In mid-February, Williams took time out from his busy schedule to answer e-mail interview questions about gear, keeping body and soul together, and his tendency to overuse the word “goth.”

City Paper: How’d your first NYC and European shows go? Do you think you were received well?
Nathan Williams: Really well! Everything has been super fun. Very positive vibe.

CP: Tell me a bit about how Wavves started, and how you arrived at the name.
NW: Me and my friend Andrew kind of came up with the name together, kind of a joke on how I was pretty afraid of the ocean. Wavves started in my room-just fucking around.

CP: Were you in other bands prior to this one?
NW: Yeah, I fucked around in other bands a lot before this.

CP: Is Wavves just you live? If not, who’s playing with you? If so, how are you able to make the performance work, on your lonesome?
NW: On my lonesome, I record the drums and the guitar bass and do all the vocals. For live shows, I have a drummer play with me.

CP: Will you add an extra “v” to “Wavves” for each successive album title?
NW: No. These first two albums were recorded within the same 3 or 4 weeks, so in my head it’s kind of like a double LP. They were all about similar experiences in my life, so you’ll notice similar song names, and similar vibes from each record.

CP: Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
NW: Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Bad Brains, the Ramones. Lots of American hardcore stuff, lots of Motown and northern soul. Basically, anything with melody is big for me.

CP: What do you do for a day job?
NW: I make enough money doing music that I don’t need a day job. Prior to Wavves, I was managing a record store in San Diego called Music Trader.

CP: What’s your favorite piece of recording equipment/gear-and which piece would you say you get the most use from?
NW: I just use a Mac computer and the trial version of Garageband that came with it. I ran a Tascam 4 track into the computer in the beginning, but I don’t really have any recording equipment.

CP: Your albums always seem split, fairly evenly, between noisy pop-punk and straight noise experiences. What’s your composition/writing process like for each extreme, and does one stylistic vein seem to come easier than the other?
NW: I liked the way the songs complimented each other. Neither comes easier, just different days I felt like recording different types of songs.

CP: Do you feel like your music reflects the specifics of your experiences and surroundings, or that, perhaps, it exists apart from them?
NW: Yeah; all the music is about my surroundings and experiences.

CP: A few questions about goths. They crop up in your song titles a lot, and so I have to ask: do you consider yourself a goth, know many goths, or have anything against goths? Is California a sort of goth utopia?
NW: I don’t know.

Wavves performs at the Zodiac Thursday, March 26. 10 p.m.

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