Wavves speaks on recording "Afraid of Heights" without a label - Reverb

Wavves on recording “Afraid of Heights” without a label and his taste in weed

By Erik Myers

Sitting around after a week of SXSW shows in Austin, Texas, Nathan Williams sounds bored. The new Wavves album, “Afraid of Heights,” comes out on Mom + Pop Records on Tuesday (stream the album in full on NPR Music.) So the front man is spending his Saturday afternoon fielding media interviews, Reverb included. He’s been attending SXSW for years now, packing venues ever since 2009’s “Wavvves” launched him into the spotlight.

His trajectory has been anything but smooth. He’s fought with band mates and other bands, was busted in Germany for marijuana possession and his well-received follow-up “King of The Beach” was overflowing with self-loathing. It’s hard to tell if he’s feeling better now, as heard on “Afraid of Heights” and his Twitter. Nonetheless, he shared some details on the record’s development, done in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles without the backing of his former label Fat Possum. He also provided an update on what it’ll take to create the official Wavves weed strain.

Wavves plays in Colorado on Wednesday at the Larimer Lounge.

Reverb: How’s SXSW going? See anyone worthwhile?

Nathan Williams: We played a show with Trash Talk that was fun, we saw the Adolescents. They were good.

R: What’s your take on it after attending for the past couple of years?

NW: Generally, we come here… to make money.

R: What lead you to choose to record this album without the initial backing of a label?

NW: We basically wanted the freedom to make the record we wanted to make and not have anybody interfere with it. It seemed like the best way to go about that was to just pay for it ourselves and deal with the label stuff after the creative process was done.

R: I read in your interview with Filter that John Hill was willing to produce the record for free before you got back on a label. How did you swing that?

NW: John and I had written songs for other artists prior to recording this record, so we already had a working rapport. He was doing OK financially, money wasn’t really an issue for him at that point.

R: How did you get Jenny Lewis to guest on the album and how was the experience?

NW: I met her in Philadelphia and she played with us in Phoenix. She’s really cool, lives in LA and we see each other every now and then. I needed a female vocal on there and she came in.

R: Did you come up with the concept for the “Demon To Lean On” video? It felt more “Lord of the Flies” than “Peter Pan.”

NW: That was actually a friend of ours, the guy who directed the video, MISTERDOCTOR and Chris Black.

R: What about the video for “Sail To The Sun”?

NW: Yeah, Steve and I wrote that video.

R: I was reminded of Ted Haggard, formerly of New Life Church in Colorado Springs.

NW: We originally had a sample on there from this commercial in the ’90s, it used to come on in Memphis, and it was kind of the same thing. This guy was a pastor at a mega church and he was embezzling money the whole time. He’d have these commercials that would come on, just a total scam. It was a play on that I guess. Really, it was just “Hey, we need to put a video out.”

R: There was one other video I wanted to ask about… what was going on in Pitchfork’s recent 60 Seconds Left video?

NW: (laughs) What’s going in it? I think Jacob (Cooper) is taking a shit, I’m hyperventilating, Stephen (Pope) is talking to himself in the mirror, I think he’s trying to pump himself up, and Alex (Gates) was taking a shower. It was right after a set.

R: You tweeted that you “loved” to sabotage yourself. Do you feel like you could ever recognize yourself doing so before it happened?

NW: I mean, probably, but it’s not going to change anything.

R: Colorado wants to know: Favorite strain?

NW: Right now, the Truth is really what I’ve been liking, but I really like any sativa. I kind of like heady weed, anything that makes me super tired.

R: Why do you think Colorado “legalized it” before California?

NW: I guess Colorado is cooler.

R: You’ve spoken of a variety of different complex projects in the past. For example, developing your own strain of weed. Anything else on the horizon?

NW: I mean, we still want our own strain, we just need to find the people to do it and we haven’t yet. If you know anybody, point them in my direction.

R: You told Fader before “King of the Beach” came out that you were a competitive person and it was scary making the record because you knew people wanted you to fuck up. Was it that way with “Afraid of Heights”?

NW: Yeah. I think it’s probably going to be that way most times down. Now that it’s on the platform that it is, you can’t help but think it. Plus, you want to make something that’s different and also better in some way than the last thing you did.

R: As someone who’s been open about his struggles with maintaining relationships and friendships, I still sense you have a unique bond with Stephen. Is that so? What makes it different with him?

NW: Steve and I basically hang out every day, so that’s probably a lot of it. We just stand around each other constantly. And I guess we do have a unique bond, you’re right. The bond is that one of us is eventually going to kill the other one. It’s almost like a death match. We’re just waiting to see who pulls first.

R: Name three songs, records or artists you’re loving right now.

NW: This dude Kevin Gates just put out a mix tape called “The Luca Brasi Story.” It’s really good.

I like Gucci Mane’s “Trap God 2” that just came out, that’s pretty good.

And last night (at SXSW) we saw this band called the Manateees on that label Goner Records. They’re really good. That’s probably the best band we saw.

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Electronic blogger Erik Myers is a Denver-based writer and contributor to Reverb. Contact him at erikmye@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter.

  • Ed

    I liked Wavves better the first time as The Raveonettes