Members: Nathan Williams, Stephen Pope, Alex Gates, Ross Traver
Interviewee: Nathan Williams
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, guitarist (Nathan Williams), guitar, backing vocals (Alex Gates), bass guitar, backing vocals (Stephen Pope), drums and backing vocals (Ross Traver)
Current release: Wavves' new album Hideaway is out july 16th via Fat Possum.
Recommendations: Berserk. Southern Bastards.
If you enjoyed this interview with Wavves, visit their official website for more information. Or check out their socials on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
My first band was when I was 13. It was called one step short. Kind of an emo pop punk thing. My early influences for actually writing and playing music were jade tree, deep elm, fat wreck chords and epitaph. I would go to the record store and blindly buy any sampler or solo album that had any of those logos on the back in hopes of discovering something new that I liked.
My first time producing music wasn’t really until the first two Wavves records. And I really stopped right after that. It wasn’t something that I loved doing.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: how would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
I think you do that as long as you're an artist. You're always grabbing something from someone else and hopefully trying to put your own personal spin on it. But don't be fooled - everyone is stealing from everyone all the time. That really never changes.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Doing it all myself for the first two records. Playing drums, bass, guitar, singing all the vocals. Producing and aranging. Doing the art. It just took a lot more time.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
My first studio was my parents garage. I used garage band to record my first two records. I still demo all my songs via garageband. And I wrote a lot of the new record in my parents' garage.
I didn’t have any motivation or need for any other tools. I grabbed a shitty cheap guitar and amp, I put the computer next to it and used its internal mic to record. I played the bass lines on the same guitar and pitched the tone to mimic a bass.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
No. If there were, you would be doing it wrong, I think. A good song will always be a good song, regardless of new technology.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I collaborate a lot more than I originally did. I think it can be a good exercise. I don't have any preferred way of doing things but I do think remotely has its up sides as well as being in a room with someone. They’re both just different.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I don't have a schedule. I don't play music unless I want to. It's not a task to me. During the pandemic I didn’t touch a guitar for nearly a year. I had no motivation to. And if I don't have any inspiration, then what’s the point?
The moment I felt like I wanted to play again, the ideas came out much easier.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I’m not sure what my breakthrough work really is. I suppose King of the Beach is probably the biggest one. That was my first record on a real label and recorded in a real studio.
The motivation was to try something new but also, at the time, critics were saying that I was a one trick pony and that I couldn’t write a song and my whole mystique was the production trick I had used to cover everything in trash (wasn't a production trick I just didn’t know how to record well). I figured I would go into a studio and prove some people wrong and try something new.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
It's different for everyone. Some people thrive in chaos. Some can't work unless they’re in a calm quite place.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I don't know about others but I think personally it can be therapeutic. Certain things I wouldn’t talk about I can write and sing about. I think this could be common with a lot of artists.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I like to create things. I like to make art. And so I did it my whole life and somehow fell into making money off it. I don't have any approach. I try not to do the same thing twice. I try and make art for myself and no one else.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
It depends on the artist I suppose.