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Wavves: “To just dwell on the bad stuff would make me a fucking cry baby”

A little bit of hope has helped Nathan Williams create what could well be Wavves’ best record yet.

Wavves: “To just dwell on the bad stuff would make me a fucking cry baby”

“That’s just the way the media wants everything to be,” explains Wavves’ Nathan Williams. “Everything has to have a bigger story. It can’t just be a couple of guys writing songs, they’ve got to be drug addicts who are drunk every day or whatever bullshit.” Initially, stories swelled that the fifth Wavves album was recorded on the hangover from touring 2013’s ‘Afraid Of Heights’. One hundred bottles of beer on the wall and whiskey for good measure, the order of each day. “I’m sure we’ve all drank too much or have taken some drugs but the true story is, realistically we’re just normal guys who write songs. We’re probably pretty boring.”

“I like to smoke pot and play chess,” might not be the overbearing admission that’ll shock a new audience towards Wavves’ new album, but when the songs are this good, little else matters. Starting life as the recording name for Nathan, Wavves has slowly grown into a fully formed band with the addition of Alex Gates, Stephen Pope and Brian Hill. Other people came before them but this is “the first stable line that Wavves has had.” That solid foundation meant that the writing process for ‘V’ was much more collaborative than normal, “I couldn’t have recorded this album without the people around me, or line ups prior.” The voice of Wavves is stronger, louder and more refined than ever. “That’s come from releasing a ton of records, but having people around you that are good at what they do, helps you step it up. I think it ended up being the best Wavves record, with the best songs, to date.”

“ROMANTICISING DRUGS OR ALCOHOLISM IRKS ME.”

Despite the emotional depth, the musical progression or the simple fact that ‘V’ is packed with wall-to-wall bangers, there’s still that shadowy narrative. “It’s been like that since the very beginning of my career,” says Nathan of the drug-laced brush people wave towards him. “Maybe they’re right and I just don’t pay attention to it, but whenever I release a new album, the questions are same. ‘You guys are dealing with drink?’ We deal with the same things that everyone else deals with. The idea of being lonely or depressed and trying to deal with those feelings with a substance is an age-old thing. We’re not the first people to talk about it. That cliché idea of hard-partying, misogynist rock stars is just weird. Romanticising drugs or alcoholism irks me.”

His reluctance to discuss these issues is not to do with shame, ignorance or embarrassment. It’s truth and consequence. “You have to understand the bigger this band gets, the younger the kids are that are coming to shows. They’re thirteen years old, they’re my little sister’s age. That hit home because it’s family. I try hard to take the conversation into a different place and people don’t give a fuck. They’re going to write their story and they’re going to say what it is. It’s frustrating, but you can’t really pay attention to them too much. We write songs and I think people, the kids especially, relate to those songs and that’s what the important thing is to me is.”

That abrasive dose of reality, coiled and frayed, gives people something to hold on to. Wavves are a band never out of reach. “There’s a lot of frustration [on ‘V’]. Stephen and Alex were writing with me and we were all coming from different places but all touching on those feelings of loneliness, frustration and relationships getting fucked up. It’s all stuff that can be construed as aggressive frustration, but it’s not. It’s therapeutic. It’s getting rid of demons.”

It’s a therapy that Nathan indulges in often. He’s released eleven records in three years across a variety of projects, including an effort with Cloud Nothings and the brotherly collaboration of Spirit Club. Each and every one has given him the chance to work something through. It’s why he likes recording. “It is my career but when I have off time, what I like to do is record. At this point, it just comes naturally. If I don’t record for a long period of time, I start to feel like I’m slacking. I don’t think it’s pressure from anyone else, it could be pressure from myself but it’s something I just love doing.”

“‘V’ IS A TESTAMENT TO THE FACT WE’RE STILL FUCKING UP.”

Five albums in, there’s still no ceiling in sight and there’s an audience that shares in that adoration. “If I thought about the expectations of other people, that could just drive me crazy. When we’ve finished a record and we listen to the songs, you can see it on everyone’s face. Yeah ok, this is good. If we can meet our expectations, I don’t think we even need to worry about anyone else. We’re probably harder on ourselves than anyone else will be. I think everybody will take away something different. The vital thing for me is that it gets better.”

Wavves albums don’t come with a manifesto. Less concept, more snapshot, ‘V’ is “fifteen different things. The statement could just be the date of when we started recording it. It’s what the other guys and I are personally going through at that point in time. It just so happened to be drinking too much, relationships, loneliness and an uncertain future.” It sounds bleak but it’s not. “On this one there’s a pinch of hope. That’s not something that was really present on ‘Afraid of Heights’ because Stephen and I were not in a good place when we recorded that record. If anything, this one is a testament to the fact we’re still fucking up. That’s part of being human. We’re grasping the idea that even if you fall down, you can get back up.”

There’s acceptance and a niggling sense of optimise from the back to the front. “The artwork is the tarot card, the five of clubs. If it’s pulled during a reading, it’s a bad omen. There’s five cups on the cover and there’s a figure staring down at the three spilled cups, not noticing the two cups that are full. You can sit there and dwell on your problems, or you can look at the things that make it worth living. That’s where I’m at now. I don’t always need to be a sad sack of shit and feel bad for myself because truly I have stuff worthwhile in my life. To just dwell on the bad stuff would make me a spoilt brat and a fucking cry baby. I’m grateful to be back out on the road,” he offers from the back of a Sprinter Van. “And that’s not something I would have said a couple of years ago.”

Taken from the November issue of Upset, out now. Wavves’ album ‘V’ is out now; they play London tonight (Tuesday 18th November).

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