Last year, Wavves released Wavvves, an album of lo-fi, home-recorded noise-pop that made mastermind Nathan Williams internet-famous. Since then, he's had a tumultuous year-and-a-half, leaving a trail of onstage meltdowns and inter-band feuds behind him. And somewhere in there, he found time to record the follow-up to Wavvves.
The new album, tentatively titled King of the Beach, is due August 3 from Fat Possum. Williams recorded the album with his touring band, former Jay Reatard rhythm section of Stephen Pope and Billy Hayes. And he recorded it in an actual professional studio, Sweet Tea in Oxford, Mississippi, with Modest Mouse helmsman Dennis Herring producing.
Recently, Williams spoke to Pitchfork about the new album.
Pitchfork: What's the story behind the tentative title King of the Beach?
Nathan Williams: It's a real strong, strong backbone name. It's a little bit of a joke, but it's also just a name of one of the songs on the record.
Pitchfork: What are some of the other song titles?
NW: So many other songs. There's 11 more songs. We're gonna release a tracklisting pretty soon, as well.
Pitchfork: I saw you posted a video of you playing a couple of those songs in Memphis. It's hard to tell these things from a live YouTube, but they seem to have this sort of classic California punk thing going on, like the Adolescents or something.
NW: The story going into it is pretty ridiculous. There was a lot of weird stuff that went down. We recorded in this place called Sweet Tea in Mississippi; it's just this beautiful studio. It has anything imaginable that I could do. At first, I was a little taken aback, kind of scared to do it. Once we got into it and started recording, that's what the songs started to sound like. It's the same style of writing that I did before, but it comes through a lot different when you can actually hear everything. I love the Adolescents and a lot of those older California punk bands.
Pitchfork: Why did you use the studio in Mississippi?
NW: I met the guy that produced it, Dennis, last time I did a U.S. tour. He came in and said he really wanted to record me. At that point, I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to do for the next record. It was kind of up in the air, and the more and more I got used to the idea of actually going and recording a record in the studio, the more I liked it.
The last thing I wanted to do was record the same record again. A lot of bands kind of get comfortable with something like that; once they know they've got something that some people like, they'll just go and try and recreate that. I just feel like that would've been so fucking boring to do. I wanted to just do something completely different. That was the beginning of the whole thing. But once I got into it, it wasn't even about recording a different record, necessarily. I was just trying to make the best record that I could, and I think that's what we did.
Pitchfork: Dennis Herring produced the last two Modest Mouse albums, and he also did a Counting Crows album.
NW: Yeah, he's got a bunch of gold and platinum records on his wall. That was the scariest thing when I went in there. I started talking to him, and I see a Counting Crows platinum record on the wall. I was like, "What the fuck did I get myself into here?" But obviously I don't sound like Counting Crows, so once I got that out of my head and realized I could use the studio to record songs how I wanted to do them, then it was more exciting than it was daunting.
Pitchfork: So will this album be cleaned up, sound-wise? Without the tape hiss?
NW: Yeah. It's clean as a whistle. Again, I don't think people wanted to hear me make the same record again. I think it would've been boring. I didn't want to do it either. It would've been boring to do.
Pitchfork: You did this one with Stephen Pope and Billy Hayes. How was it recording with the same band that you've been touring with?
NW: It was the best experience I've had recording, ever. It was so much fun. It was really cool to actually do it with other people this time. Obviously, I've previously recorded everything myself. To have some input from a couple of other people was really cool, and to have them there supporting. Everybody's in the same boat, either floating or drowning. It was a real bonding experience. We all sat in a bed together and hugged each other with our shirts off.
Pitchfork: Those guys had worked together as a rhythm section before you linked up with them. Since they already had a connection and a history, did that make things easier?
NW: Yeah, they get along. They both have been playing music together for years. Obviously, they played with Jay [Reatard] for the past maybe five years. It was cool because they're both really good at what they do. We'd gone over some of the songs we played live when we were touring in Europe, and we had a week off before we went to the studio. So we didn't really have very much time to practice the songs, but they're both really good musicians, and it came together really quickly. It was a lot of fun.
Pitchfork: A year between albums is a pretty quick turnaround. Do you want to put out an album every year?
NW: I would. I like recording better than I do touring or anything else. If I could, I'd be in the studio year-round. That's not really a possibility at this point. I'd love to be able to record a new record every year. I have enough material to record another record now. Anytime I get a chance to sit down and actually put the songs down, to try and create them into something, I'm always really excited.
Pitchfork: You've worked with Hella's Zach Hill. Are you guys going to work together more?
NW: We already recorded the record. That one's done. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do with it yet. It's just sitting there. It's done. I'll probably release it myself, maybe later in the year when I'm out of my contract or something like that. And then on to the next one.