Days before the digital release of his third album, King of the Beach, 24-year-old California rocker Nathan Williams aka Wavves, had a lot on his mind. Complex caught up with him and his live show band, drummer Billy Hayes and bassist Stephen Pope, at a restaurant in New York's Lower East Side—and no topic was off limits. Openly speaking about everything from last year's infamous drug-fueled meltdown to his unabashed love of rap music, Nate's personality proved just as engaging as his tunes. We already introduced you to Wavves, now it's time to really see what this kid is all about...
LISTEN: Wavves "King of the Beach" from King of the Beach (2010)
Interview by Ernest Baker
Complex: I know you guys had a show at The Knitting Factory last week. Are you leaving New York soon?
Nathan: We play tomorrow with The-Dream and then we leave. It's exciting.
Billy: He's one of our favorite producers, so it's pretty crazy. And we've met so many guys in rock bands, our goal this year was to meet some rappers and R&B singers that we love because it's mostly what we listen to.
Complex: I listened to King Of The Beach illegally a lot this weekend.
Nathan: [Laughs.] Got that leak! Yeah, I don't give a fuck. I tell people at the shows to go download it for free. I mean, I do it, too.
Complex: Why are you okay with people stealing music you've spent so much time working on?
Nathan: It's just how it is now. People can just get access to it; I don't know, it doesn't bother me.
Billy: I'm glad that they're listening to it rather than not because they didn't pay for it. I'd rather have another person out there listening to us and liking it. There's people who can't afford CDs. What are they supposed to do? Just not hear it?
Complex: You started touring a lot right away. What's your favorite place that you've traveled to?
Nathan: I like Amsterdam.
Billy: Everywhere I went in Australia was my favorite place I've ever been.
Nathan: Brighton's fun, too. I was on the beach.
Billy: Oh yeah, Spain. Barcelona.
Complex: You have the infamous Spain thing. [Ed.—Nathan mixed Ecstasy, Valium, and Xanax before his "meltdown" at the Primavera Festival in Spain last Summer.]
Nathan: Yeah. My meltdown.
Complex: There were some pretty intense reactions to that. What are your thoughts on it a year later?
Nathan: I don't have a single thought on it. I just couldn't care less. I wouldn't say it's a punk thing or not a punk thing. I just really, honestly, seriously, don't care.
Complex: Are you still taking those crazy drug cocktails?
Billy: Is weed a drug cocktail?
Nathan: Weed and alcohol is a cocktail.
Complex: I'm not asking you that from a critical standpoint. It sounded fun to me.
Nathan: [Laughs.] It was fun, actually.
Complex: If you don't care, why did you seem so apologetic in your online post the next day?
Nathan: I deleted it right away because I figured it was actually stupid to apologize. Because I wasn't sorry. And you know, it's probably not the last time it'll happen.
Complex: You obviously have a liberal standpoint on drugs, but you say you don't do most of them anymore. Have you lost the desire for it?
Nathan: I never really liked uppers very much. I've always really just liked weed, honestly. I think most people in their early 20s party. Ecstasy's fun. If you say it's not, you're a liar. But no, I definitely don't do it as often. It's not as fun anymore.
Billy: It never compares to the first time. It's always so disappointing.
Nathan: We watched a bunch of Pauly Shore movies and took mushrooms.
Complex: Yeah, mushrooms are like weed. They're natural.
Nathan: It's the next step up.
Stephen: I think we all like being able to fall asleep when we want to.
Complex: Do you get enough when you're running all over the place?
Nathan: No, not really. We try to. That's why sometimes doing coke or Ecstasy or something like that is a horrible idea. Because the little amount of sleep you get, regardless if you're doing drugs, can last—basically, we're touring until December. So, you gotta start treating your body a little bit better. Try to eat better. I've been trying to quit smoking cigarettes. I'm on day two. Can you tell?
Complex: Are you more into your live show or being a recording artist?
Nathan: I like going and playing shows, definitely. I love seeing people get into the music, but I definitely like recording more. But I like playing video games more than I like recording. And I like sleeping more than I like playing video games.
Complex: What games are you playing?
Nathan: I play FIFA a lot.
Complex: You got the World Cup fever?
Nathan: No, I just like the game. I don't watch any of that shit. I just like sports games. I like Madden.
Complex: Based on Twitter, it seems like you're really into classic games, too. Do you split your time equally between the newer and older systems?
Nathan: I mostly play PS3 and Super Nintendo, but I have like seven systems. The only one I don't have is a Sega, which I need to get.
Complex: Sega Genesis? Saturn?
Nathan: I don't have Saturn; they're expensive as fuck on eBay because they all break. And I don't have Sega CD.
Billy: Which was kind of cool.
Complex: 32X was a game changer.
Nathan: N64 was the game changer.
Complex: I was a PlayStation fanboy during that era. I didn't really fuck with N64.
Nathan: See, my friends all had 64 and I had Playstation. So we'd go back and forth between Crash Bandicoot and Mario 64. I still think to this day that Mario 64 holds up. It's the first 3-D platform game ever. It's also just one of the best games of all time.
Complex: Do you get caught up in reading about yourself online?
Nathan: No. I read about myself in the beginning a little bit, but I don't really read. I don't know how to read.
Complex: Do you avoid it because you get sick of seeing—
Nathan: No, I really just literally don't know how to read. [Laughs.]
Complex: What's your relationship with Beth from Best Coast?
Billy: I hear wedding bells! [Laughs.]
Nathan: She's pregnant! And I think it's [Wavves manager] Dayn's. [Laughs.]
Complex: That's your girl, though, right?
Nathan: Yeah. I live with her. I've known her since I was 17.
Complex: So it's not something that happened once both of your careers took off?
Nathan: No, we were both born in L.A. I lived in San Diego for a long time.
Complex: On your first two records, and even this one, angst and loneliness are constant themes. But as your life, at least on the surface, appears to be getting better, do you see those feelings fleeting at some point?
Nathan: If I could learn how to read this year, I'd feel a little bit better about my life.
Billy: I mean, just saying "I hate my life" in lyrics doesn't have to be misconstrued as angst. It could just be letting off steam. I wouldn't take it as a necessary reflection at all. Lyrics are so meaningless anyway. [Laughs.]
Nathan: Sometimes you feel shitty. It's not all the time, but yeah, I have bad days like anybody else.
Complex: If you only feel like that sometimes then why don't you ever write about being happy? Do you just feel that the depressed moments translate better into song?
Nathan: You know, maybe I'm not happy as much as I'm depressed. I don't know. Honestly, I just write whatever comes to my head first. I haven't thought, "Oh, I'll just write a song about how happy I am" yet. Maybe the next record.
Complex: How were you pre-Wavves? High school? Did you go to college?
Nathan: I went to college for like half of a semester. I dropped out. I dropped out of high school, too. And then I finished this thing called Charter. And that was basically it. Didn't do too much. Hung out a lot. Drank at friends' houses. We had the college experience, sans the reading, but we didn't necessarily go to college.