All of those artifacts—stacked up against tuneage like “Take on the World,” “Idiot” and the Earth-crushing title track—served to remind me that the “bubblegum nihilism” of the early ’90s was reborn on sullen yet sparkly wings.
It had been re-imagined and re-engaged for humans sometimes born after the evil pop rumblings of songs like “Blew” and “Negative Creep”—by a group of San Diego stoner smartasses led by Nathan Williams and later a cohort bassist named Stephen Pope. Their insouciant appearance in the video for the same song was at once disarming as it was a purposeful underachievement, definitively demonstrating now that there is power in pop, pot and the past.
Now it’s a few years later, it’s almost 2019. The West is the best. While much of the nation clamors for electronica, for hip-hop and folky, countrified and gritty confessionalism, the scene from Burque to the Pacific, south to San Diego and north to Seattle, is solid. Rock still rules here.
Heavy metal—especially forms of stoner and doom rock that speak in a smoky vernacular—have recently become an interest of mine. But the decidely non-metalic sounds made by Wavves—cloaked as they are in the bright pop sunshine of Califas and the shiny, noisy nothingness of real grunge—provide a quasi-mythical referent. I hope that holy tie-in will one day soon induce seizures wherein I think I see G_d, and so forth and so on.
These were the exact thoughts racing through August March’s Swiss cheese-like brain as he smoked a high-lariously humbling spliff filled with Durban Poison. He was ticking off the minutes on his Rolex knockoff before the phone call with Stephen Pope floated out of the realm of possibility and into the generally enforced reality human beings were subjected to on a daily basis.
As the appointed time approached, March took another drag of the jazz cigarette and let his fingers do the walking. “Here goes something,” he thought as the phone rang and one of his favorite up-and-coming rockers answered.
Weekly Alibi: Hello. Is this Stephen?
Strephen Pope: Yes, this is Stephen.
Hey, it’s August March from Weekly Alibi, calling to chat with ya! How you doin’?
I’m doing alright, how are you?
Doing okay, man. What do you think, can we talk about the I Love You Tour and other Wavves related topics?
Yes, let’s do it!
Alright, dude. I’ve been following your band since, like about 2010, when King of the Beach dropped; fascinating stuff, I dig it. Could you please give everyone else some background on Wavves?
I joined the band right before that album. Before that, Nathan was the singer, he had been doing it by himself. I came in 2009 and we made King of the Beach. Then my buddy Alex [Gates] joined the band, on guitar, a couple of years later. And we have Brian Hill on drums now. He had been in a band called The Soft Pack. We’ve just been chugging along. We’re finally ready to get back on tour; we’ve been writing and recording a lot. We pretty much have a new album done. We’ve been in the studio all summer. I’m hoping we play some of the new songs we recorded; but we haven’t practiced [the new songs] yet.
What’s up with your sound? You guys have this sort of slinky, West Coast pop sound that is deeply influenced by bands from California and the Northwest; some OC pop punk groups come to mind when I listen to Wavves, but there are also strong flourishes of psychedelia nodding reverently at grunge in play.
I think you really hit the nail on the head. I think we wear our influences on our sleeves sometimes. I like that we’re married to our influences, that’s not a bad thing. We get the pop-punk reference quite a bit and fucking around with that, we’ve gotten some pretty hot songs. I think a big part of that is Nathan’s voice. I like his voice a lot, it’s like this authentic So-Cal punk voice. It reminds me of a classic California punk band when I hear his voice.
There’s also a lot of pot smoking going on with your music. I gotta tell you, I smoked a huge joint before I called you up because I was so nervous …
Hey, I did too!
So hopefully we’re on the same wavelength, man.
[Stephen laughs uproariously]
What do you think about the whole marijuana combined rocanrol music thing? Personally, I find it makes for a healthier interaction with the world.
I absolutely agree. I would never pressure anyone to, like smoke weed, because it doesn’t always fit. But I think, for me personally, I’ve had a lifelong love affair with marijuana and I don’t ever see that ending. It works wonders for me, for getting high and for medical reasons. It helps my anxiety tremendously. And it helps [my interaction with] music too; it’s great to sit down, smoke a bowl and really listen to a whole album, old-school with headphones on, jamming out.
What’s the rest of your creative process like; is it collaborative, do you guys smoke each other out while deciding how things are going to sound?
It’s a pretty big collaborative effort now. Mostly for the recording we’ve been doing recently, we each write demos on our own and record them at home and then pass them around in the studio. There aren’t any vocal melodies at that point, just guitar riff ideas. We build on that. Occasionally, we get together and have a songwriting sesh, but mostly it’s sending demos back and forth and saying, “Hey, I have an idea for that!”
What’s your favorite work so far?
King of the Beach is really a standout because that’s the first album Nathan and I worked on together, wrote songs for together. I think the production on that album is really fine. The song writing on that album is still a bit immature, but in a good way I think, if that makes sense.
That album indeed seems like part of a transition to a broader musical palette.
We also spent a lot of time on Afraid of Heights; that’s another awesome album. Nathan and I were in the studio with John Hill, the producer, for an entire year, pretty much. I’m really proud of that one, sonically speaking. We took forever just trying to get the right guitar tones. Maybe that album is more personal than the others. I wouldn’t call it emo, but it really has that ’90s sort of emotional feel.
Are you worried about the future of rocanrol?
I used to think about that in the past, [laughs] especially like 10 years ago when you’d show up to a gig and there would be, like, 10 people in the audience. I’d be like, “Oh god, people just don’t like guitars any more!” But I don’t think that’s the case. Popularity has shifted, there’s more variety, there’s more for people to choose from. There will always be a solid rock fan base. There are some really awesome rock bands now; Australia is kicking ass!
The land down under is blowing me away with bands like The Chats.
Yeah, they’re great, and Total Control, too. The Dune Rats are good. There’s this band called Amyl and The Sniffers that you should check out …
Ima do that tonight! Hey, we’re almost out of time, so here’s my new favorite last question. Ready, Stephen?
Go for it!
If a time traveler from the future came up to you at a concert and asked about your band, “what are Wavves,” they might ask, what would you tell them?
That’s sad, because if the dude from the future didn’t know about Wavves, then we didn’t ever get sticky …
Well, maybe there was some apocalypse and they had sonic remnants from King of the Beach, but didn’t know what the hell to think …
That’s a tough question; now I have Bill and Ted on my mind with George Carlin telling them they wrote the song that saved the world!
Maybe that’s what you’d tell the time traveler!
No, maybe we’re the band that wrote the song that destroyed the world! I’d tell them we were the ones who brought on the apocalypse.
[both August and Stephen laugh heartily, but somewhat darkly].