Ladies and gentlemen, Nathan Williams has left the basement.
Not that the Wavves frontman needed to. The lo-fi, DIY music Williams created, recorded and produced in his basement has endeared itself to fans and critics alike in only two short years. Wavves’ first self-titled album was released in 2008, originally as a cassette. The album was quickly noticed by Pitchfork and the band was featured on ABC News. After being signed to Fat Possum Records and adding an additional “v” to the album name, Wavves, which at this time was just Williams, became a scratchy tape-sounding sensation.
Now operating as a band with former Jay Reatard bassist Stephen Pope and drummer Billy Hayes — an arrangement described by Williams as “without sounding too cheesy, a real special thing” — Wavves will release “King of the Beach” in August. “Post Acid,” the first taste of the much-anticipated follow-up to “Wavvves,” was released earlier this month by Mountain Dew’s music label Green Label Sounds. (Is there anything soda can’t do?)
If the single is any indication of the quality of “King of the Beach,” fans will not be disappointed. Still, Williams is a little nervous for the album’s release.
“I do have anxiety about it. I had anxiety when the other record came out. I had anxiety even before I put out a record,” Williams said in a phone interview. “I mean it’s a nerve-wracking thing of course, but it’s also like — I was just talking about this with my friend today — it’s also like an unbelievable sense of excitement too, you know? It’s definitely making me anxious, but it’s also… it just feels right. It will be a lot of fun.
“I think this year will be a good year.”
The production of “King of the Beach” differs from “Wavvves” in two major ways. First, Williams handed over the reins to Dennis Herring, who has produced a variety of musical acts from Modest Mouse to the Counting Crows. With credentials like that, it seems Wavves was in capable hands, but this didn’t completely put Williams at ease.
“It was a little weird at first. But I was pretty protective of most of the stuff still,” he said. “Like I sat around throughout the whole mixing process and made sure stuff came out exactly how I wanted it still.”
Second, “King of the Beach” wasn’t recorded on a laptop in Williams’ basement. Instead he headed to Sweet Tea Studios in Oxford, Miss. — the same state-of-the-art studio where Animal Collective recorded 2009’s epic “Merriweather Post Pavilion.”
“Going into it, I wanted to just use all of the stuff to my advantage that I could ’cause, you know, how often would I get a chance to record in a studio like this,” Williams said. “I can record in my basement anytime for the rest of my life, until I die, but how many times will I get a chance to do this.”
You can see Williams out of the basement and on stage at the Rock and Roll Hotel Friday, June 25.
For a man who is used to doing this on his own with basic equipment, creating something polished was a tad challenging. “I wanted to make a pop record,” he said.
“I feel like it was just a little bit harder to record songs this way as opposed to what I’d done before, just because it’s all out in the open. The recording is so good that you can’t hide anything. Like every little piece of imperfection is there which took a little getting used to for me at first.”
While the basement band to festival playing narrative may seem like a dream, there have been bumps in the road for Williams. In May 2009, he had an epic meltdown on stage at the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona after a bad sound check and even worse reaction to a mixture of drugs which resulted in the cancellation of Wavves European tour. About two months later, he broke his wrist. But today, Williams seems at peace with his failures and successes.
“I can’t change how I’m received by people. And I can’t change how fast or how slow things happened,” he said. “It happened this way. It makes me a little anxious, but I feel like I’m pretty hungry for it. It’s happened really fast and I feel like it was a shock at first kind of. But this time around I feel a lot more ready and excited, ready for it.”
Written by Express contributor Sarah Anne Hughes
Photo by Lauren Dukoff