Wavves sounds like a summer’s worth of manic energy crammed into three-minute songs, complete with mind-numbing repetition and wailing vocals. Initially the solo project of 29-year-old frontman Nathan Williams, Wavves rose to critical acclaim with its catchy 2010 full-length King of the Beach.
And while the surf-punk rockers’ reputations have been marred by onstage antics in Spain, a canceled European tour, a Twitter war with their record label, and lineup shuffles, it appears there’s no slowing down the now-foursome. City Pages spoke with longtime bassist Stephen Pope about the L.A.-based group’s colorful history and their fifth studio album, V, out October 2.
City Pages: When did you start playing with Wavves?
Stephen Pope: I joined in the fall of 2009. I met Nathan earlier that year while he was playing a festival in Barcelona. We met backstage and became friends and he asked me to join a few months later. We have a guitarist, Alex Gates, who I’ve known since I was a little baby in Memphis, Tennessee. And we have drummer Brian Hill, who’s been in the band for the past two years or so. Nathan knows him from San Diego. He used to be a drummer in a band called the Soft Pack.
CP: Was the show where you met Nathan the Primavera Sound Festival where he reportedly had a breakdown onstage?
SP: It was that show. I was witness to it and I don’t remember any sort of breakdown. I just remember enjoying the show and having a good time with Nathan afterward. I guess some people thought differently.
CP: It seems like, at least in the press, there’s a lot of drama surrounding Wavves. Is that something the band thrives on that or is it something you wish you could move past?
SP: It does seem like there’s lots of drama, in the press at least. I don’t really feel that way in reality. I kind of wish we could move past it and focus more on the music but I also realize that’s probably a reason why a lot of people have heard of Wavves, so it’s a blessing and a curse.
CP: What is the band’s stance on alcohol and drug use? Does anyone have a problem with either of those?
SP: I don’t feel like it’s a problem for anyone. I think we’re neither pro- nor anti-alcohol and drug use. If you want to do it and you do it responsibly, go for it. If you’re a person who can’t handle it, you shouldn’t do it. Obviously, it gets out of hand sometimes. We try not to let it get out of hand.
CP: How would you describe the relationship between band members? What’s the dynamic like?
SP: We spend half the year in close quarters together, so we kind of have to be brotherly, sleeping in the same bed with each other. Before I moved out to L.A., when we were recording in 2011, I slept on Nathan’s couch for a good three months or so. Our relationship within the band has always been a good one. It’s always been positive.
We actually still talk to each other and hang out. I know a lot of bands who are together now who don’t speak to each other; whenever they’re together, they have headphones in their ears and play the shows and go their separate ways. We’re pretty fortunate in that we all get along.CP: Given that the band has had issues working with record labels before, why did you decide to work with a label again for the new album?
SP: We’ve always kind of worked with labels, just the size of the labels have gone up. Even back with King of the Beach, we were working with Fat Possum, a larger indie label. There were some weird hiccups along the way with Fat Possum also. I guess it goes along with the territory; if you’re getting money from someone to do something, you have to work with them a bit more. The larger it gets, the more frustrating it can be, but there’s pros and cons to everything. We were able to record in a great studio and afford to do that because of working with labels.
CP: Do you feel that the labels infringe on the creativity of the band?
SP: No, we haven’t had any issues with that — and that’s the classic argument behind not working with major labels, that they’ll hinder the process. But, really, Warner Bros. didn’t have anything to say to us while we were recording the album and when we turned in the album, they were happy with it. The only problems we had were miscommunication about the artwork but that all got resolved pretty quickly.
CP: How does the new album compare to your previous releases? Is it in the same vein or has your sound evolved?
SP: I feel like there’s way more energy on this album. I think we were all in a better state while recording the songs. We also collaborated more and wrote all the songs together. It was a more pleasant experience. It was an exciting mood, compared to the last album [2013’s Afraid of Heights]. I don’t think it was a negative experience but we were all in different places and the last album sounded a little more depressing than this one.
CP: What do you see as the future for Wavves? Is this a band that you’ll be in 10 years from now?
SP: I have no idea. I never thought music would be a career thing. It still confuses me. I’m blown away whenever we play a show and people come. If that’s still happening 10 years from now, then yeah, we’ll still be doing it.
CP: Do you have a backup plan?
SP: When we had a little time off, I was cleaning houses and scrubbing toilets. So I guess maid is my backup plan?
With: Twin Peaks
When: 7 p.m. Tue., Sept. 22
Where: Varsity Theater
Tickets: $20-$25. More info here.