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.
CLICK NEXT FOR PART 2, INCLUDING WAVVES' FAVORITE RAP MUSIC AND HIS THOUGHTS ON RECORDING THE NEW ALBUM
Complex: You recorded the earlier stuff in your parents' pool house?
Nathan: It's not really a pool house. It's a shack. It's a glorified tool shed.
Complex: Because a lot of people wonder if you're this rich Cali kid who never had to worry about shit.
Nathan: My mom teaches inner-city kids music and my dad is a teacher as well. We're rolling in it.
Complex: Your sound has changed a lot on the new album. Do you hate those first two records like you say?
Nathan: Oh, I don't hate them.
Complex: Well on "Take On The World" you say, "I still hate my music, it's all the same."
Nathan: You take it too literally.
Complex: But you're clearly trying to distance yourself from that.
Nathan: No, not at all. It's just a lyric. I loved those two records. I'm super-proud of them. Saying "I still hate my music, it's all the same" is just, sometimes you're critical of yourself. It's the way you feel sometimes. It's not meant to be taken literally. It's just a lyric. The first thing that comes to my head I write down. I normally don't even change it.
Complex: At your show the other day, you opened up with "Friends Were Gone," then you went into newer one, "King of the Beach." For that song you were like, "Can I get more of my regular voice?" Are you tired of that sound and being pigeonholed into that?
Nathan: No, I definitely think we all want to make whatever music sounds cool to us. Regardless of reverb, or distortion, or anything. Anything that sounds cool is cool. I mean, I listen to Aaliyah all day. If it sounds good, it's good. It doesn't fucking matter what's on it.
Complex: You listen to a lot of rap. Who do you listen to?
Nathan: We like Waka a lot. [Sings.] "Oh let's do it."
Billy: Shawty Lo, OJ Da Juiceman. Anything affiliated with 1017 Brick Squad is good.
Nathan: I like Nicki and Drake. The new Raekwon mixtape is awesome. Oh, what's that guy that did that song? He's in Soulja Boy's crew.
Nathan: No, he just had that song come out, like "I'll Be Gone."
Complex: Yeah, JBar. "Daze."
Nathan: Yeah, that song rules. [Sings.] "Man, I'm in a daze. Walking 'round, 'round." I like that song.
Billy: It's such a sweet song, too.
Nathan: Yeah, it makes me feel good. I like Soulja Boy too, though. "Pretty Boy Swag" makes me want to jump out of a window.
Complex: How do you feel about your competition?
Nathan: What competition? U2? Sheryl Crow?
Complex: Other indie rock bands. Do you see records that people are raving about and feel like, "I want to outdo this?" The way every rapper wants to be the King of something.
Nathan: Yeah, but you keep your mind on what you're doing. If you're thinking about somebody else then you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing. You're not concentrating.
Complex: It might be cliché to say that every rock band has to be influenced by Nirvana, but I hear it on songs like "Idiot," or when you're yelling at the end of "Post Acid." Thematically and sonically, it seems like you must have been listening to them while you were recording.
Nathan: We listened to a lot of Nirvana before recording, and we all grew up on it. So that was a big influence for the record.
Complex: You worked with Dennis Herring on this record. After doing two albums completely by yourself, how was it working with a guy who I'm sure has a very meticulous studio process?
Nathan: We had a difference of opinion on almost everything in the beginning. We grew to kind of have a rapport with each other once we finally got two, three songs done. Once we started working together and we both got into the groove of things, it was really amazing. That guy is a great producer.
Complex: Do you see yourself branching out with other producers?
Nathan: I want to get Timbaland on the line and see if I can get him.
Complex: You said that you listened to a lot of Nirvana when you were recording the album. I was wondering if maybe you were listening to Blink 182 or any late '90s pop punk stuff too.
Nathan: Oh yeah, man. Definitely. Dookie and Cheshire Cat. Yeah, I definitely listened to a lot of pop punk. I mean, I still love Blink 182. I don't give a fuck what anybody thinks. If you listen to those songs, they hold up. They're still really good.
Complex: Are you one of those people who's obsessed with years? Like, when it became 2010, were you freaking out because the Aughts are a singular decade now, or because the beginning of the '90s is 20 years ago?
Nathan: The Aughts. Is that what you called them? Dipset had a good Aughts.
Complex: They just dropped an official reunion song.
Nathan: Oh, really?! That's awesome. Is Freekey Zekey finally out of jail?
Complex: Yeah, but he's not rapping on the song. All of them bodied it, though. You should check it out.
Nathan: Yeah, I will.
Billy: Cam'ron's shit lately has been amazing.
Nathan: So good. "I Hate My Job." "Popeyes." All of them are great.
Billy: He's on that Gucci Mane record, "Stupid Wild" with Lil Wayne. That's probably like the best song ever.
Nathan: Also, Cam'ron's supposed to be doing his version of Curb Your Enthusiasm. He did Killa Season. He actually did it! If anybody saw it. Written and directed by Cam'ron. Wow. I love that he put himself in there playing basketball with Ma$e for no reason other than to shit on him.
Complex: You guys [Billy and Stephen] are from Memphis, right? So after you're done with tomorrow's show, Nathan goes back to Cali, you guys go home, and you have to split up and it's super-sad.
Stephen: For like five days. We're on tour pretty much until December. We have like, a week off here and there.
Billy: I'm thinking about joining the Cali Swag department.
Nathan: Learn how to Dougie, then move to L.A. We're gonna come up with "Teach Me How to Snuggie." And it's just gonna be us in Snuggies, dancing.
Billy: I love The Flex. [sings] "Hit 'em with that Flex, hit 'em with that Flex." It's like a dance sensation.
Complex: Do you guys have the same circle of friends when you go back home?
Nathan: I hang out with my girlfriend and my TV a lot. And my cat. I just don't really like leaving the house. I mean, I do sometimes but we're gone so much in bars, partying every night. I'll go out a couple times when I'm home, but I like to sit in my room and read comics, and smoke weed, and pet my cat.
Complex: What about the people who you probably were in touch with frequently before you started traveling all the time?
Nathan: They all live in San Diego, and I live in L.A. now, so I don't really get a chance to see them very much, but all my friends came up to L.A. right before we left. We had a little rager weekend. I tried to jump off my roof.
Complex: Where do you want to take the live show? Do you even see yourself as a band that will have crazy $80 tickets and playing arenas?
Billy: I don't know if rock bands can get to that point.
Nathan: I'm sure Creed can play shows like that. But I definitely want as many people as possible to hear my music. I don't know about $80 tickets. I don't know why anybody would pay $80 to see me. If we got enough money, I'd pay for real giant aliens heads that blew smoke out of their mouths and a UFO that took off, and a couple of cameos. I saw Wu-Tang with Cypress Hill in San Diego and this giant Joker bong guy sat behind them and like blew smoke out of his mouth and looked all evil. Then they brought bongs out on stage and smoked while everybody watched them. That was a pretty cool show. I paid like 50 bucks to go see that. Wasn't disappointed.
Stephen: It'd be great to get to a point where you're allowed to smoke weed on stage no matter where you are.
Nathan: That would be tight.
Stephen: That would be pretty good.
Complex: With everything that you do, every record that you put out, every show you play, are you conscious of the legacy that you hope to leave?
Wavves: No, not really. I mean the songs, the recording process, stuff like that, yeah. Live shows? No, not really. We just go and have fun.
Complex: Ten years from now what do you hope is thought about when Wavves comes up?
Nathan: "They wrote good songs."
Billy: "I smoked weed with those guys." [Laughs.] "They chopped up a lot of stuff with knives and made a huge mess. It was pretty funny. Then I got kind of annoyed and left."
Nathan: "Why did they write on the walls?" Oh, wait, that wasn't me. That was Sandy Miranda from Fucked Up. That wasn't cool Sandy. I hope they remember the music.
Complex: I feel like you'll say no, but do you have any ambitions to be a mainstream artist?
Nathan: You'd be wrong.
Complex: So you're trying to get there? The way that "My Girls" popped off for Animal Collective or something like that.
Nathan: I'm sure Animal Collective went in there and they were just like, "Hey, let's record something that just sounds really cool." They recorded it in the same studio we did. I don't think they went into it saying, "Let's try to get huge. Let's try to get big." If you go in there and try to write the best music you can and it comes out really well, then whatever comes of it, why would I not greet it with open arms?
Complex: Well, it's that punk attitude. Shunning the mainstream acceptance.
Nathan: I never in my life have said that I was a punk. Everybody called me a slacker, stoner, loser punk or whatever it was.
Complex: So selling out wouldn't be something you would give a fuck about?
Nathan: I don't know. I'd like to get money. It's better than living at my mom's house. And I don't really give a fuck what people think. If they don't like it, then whatever.