interview by RJ Cubarrubia
With fuzzy guitars, strange instrumental electronic interludes, 60’s pop and surf punk sensibilities, and some of the lowest fidelity recordings you will ever hear, San Diego skater Wavves, aka Nathan Williams, is a young gun who might be this year’s most talked about artist. At 22, Nathan has already released two albums of eerily catchy lo-fi songs that snatch you from the murky waters of its recording and production quality. I talked to Nathan and live drummer Ryan Ulsh after their KEXP in-studio, and what can I say? Homie loves Wu-tang, West Coast, Women, and Wheelbarrow skating. Sounds like a good dude to me.
What’s the origin of your super fuzzed out sound that everyone’s talking about? Where’d it come from and when did it click for you?
Nathan: Uhhhhh… Partly from just recording it myself and not knowing what I was doing; that’s why it sounds so fuzzy and shitty. Then, just the music I like was always very distorted so I kind of tried to emulate that.
Yeah, so what are some bands that influenced you with your sound?
Nathan: My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth…
A lot of shoegaze?
Nathan: Yeah, but then also American hardcore stuff, like Black Flag and Bad Brains.
Is Ryan the first person to play with you?
Nathan: Second person. I had somebody play for two shows and it didn’t work out. The recordings are all me but Ryan and this other guy who played two shows are the only people who have done anything live with me.
I know a lot of people can hear that Southern California influence in your music, but personally for you, how has your locale and hometown influenced your songwriting?
Nathan: It kind of seeps into what you write and what you’re playing without you knowing it, almost. I just write about what’s around me, I guess.
I notice there’s like a duality in your record because there’s some weird instrumental electronic songs and it’s hard to figure out what you’re playing in them. What instruments are you playing in those? And what is that? It’s such a departure from the pop songs.
Nathan: I like the way they kind of just run together since it is basically something that has no structure.
Ryan: They’re nice little interludes between tracks.
Nathan: Yeah, most of them are done on a Microkorg and manipulated with pedals and stuff.
Both of your albums have a picture of someone skating.
Ryan: That’s me.
Oh, so it’s you? Do you guys still skate?
Ryan: We did before we were touring. We’ve just been really busy. We should’ve brought a skateboard on the road but we didn’t.
So that first photo with the wheelbarrow, what is that? It looks a little sketch.
Nathan: Yeah, what was that, Ryan? When did your hair change colors too?
Yeah, it looks dangerously like someone’s posing right there.
Nathan: IT LOOKS LIKE A POSER! Are you a lo-fi poser, Ryan?!
Ryan: Believe it or not, that was me on my grandma’s farm. I was actually collecting apples that day and just decided to do a photo shoot for Wavves.
Nathan: Who took the pictures?
Ryan: Brewster McCracken did a few of them.
Nathan: Mmmhmmm, I heard Kinky Friedman took them.
Some favorite tricks?
Nathan: Yeah, Ryan, what’s your favorite?
Ryan: My favorite is definitely the fingerflip.
Nathan: He’s talking about Tech Decks. My favorite trick is definitely, uhhh… I like the ol’ mongo push, that’s a big one for me. I like the ollie; I’m a big fan of the ollie.
Ryan: I like the rock-n-roll and the 50-50 stall.
A big thing you also do is your blog, Ghost Ramp. In it, there’s a lot of hip hop; how do you know about all this stuff?
Nathan: I used to manage a record store so I would to listen to rap a lot. I’m just really interested in it. There’s really not that much more to it.
Ryan: Well, tell him who your cousin is.
Nathan: [sigh] My cousin is E-30, which is E-40’s second brother-in-law. He’s a cool guy; he lives, well, not in Oakland, but…
Ryan: Don’t tell him where he lives, bro!
Nathan: About 45 minutes outside the city? But yeah, you know, he kind of showed me around the business and let me know what’s up. I met Bun B! Me and Robbie took a picture with him.
That logo that you use for Ghost Ramp is like a W, kind of. Is it for Wavves? Is it for Wu-Tang? It looks kind of like the Wu symbol.
Nathan: It’s Wu-Tang, Wavves, West Coast, Women, and Wobbly.
Ryan: And Word. Wonderful.
Nathan: And Weiner.
Who’s your favorite Wu-Tang member?
Ryan: I’m not familiar.
Nathan: Ryan doesn’t really follow “the raps”. I enjoy all of them, but right now, at this period in time, I would have to say Ghostface, but they all have different qualities. As far as lyrical ability goes, I’d say GZA, but in term of flow, Inspectah [Deck] is my favorite.
Thanks guys, I really appreciate it.
Nathan: We appreciate your time too.
Wavves latest album, Wavvves, is out now on Fat Possum Records; you can catch them with Crystal Stilts at the University of Washington Hub on April 24th. For more information, visit Wavves’ Myspace page and Nathan’s blog, Ghost Ramp.