Hive Five: Our Daily Listicle of Musical Musings
There’s something about the way Wavves vocalist-guitarist Nathan Williams and bassist Stephen Pope tell stories that leaves you doubting the veracity of everything they say. Maybe it’s the contented laugh-snorts the indie rockers let loose after talking about how much Korn and TLC influenced them. Or maybe it’s just the fact that they spin salacious sensationalism about their own music without breaking monotone. For instance, when Hive asked Williams what the songs on their latest album, Afraid of Heights, were about, he said, “Paranoia, depression, lollipops, rainbows, confessions of a mafia contract killer.” Then with a laugh, he clarifies that last point. “There isn’t a contract-killer song, but I’m reading this book by Philip Carlo about one.” But if there’s one thing we can believe about Wavves, it’s that they love weed. They sing about getting high in the album’s “Sail to the Sun,” and when Hive catches up with Williams, the singer perks up when Pope comes in. “You brought weed? What kind of weed?” So with that in mind, here are five things we think are sort of, maybe, believably true about the lo-fi neo-surf-rockers’ fourth album.
1. It Took Wavves About a Year to Record Afraid of Heights
“We didn’t have a label, so we recorded the album with no deadline,” Pope says. “We were in there pretty much every day except for a few weeks here and there. And we got to do anything we wanted.” Williams says the group took a few breaks here and there, but largely, they spent long days working with producer John Hill to record the album’s 13 songs—”almost a month of songs,” as Williams puts it. “We did a tour of Australia, and then you dated GZA,” Pope tells the singer. “Yeah, ‘dated GZA,’” laughs Williams. “I played guitar for GZA for a short tour.” As for the rest of the time, the bassist says, “Literally every weekday, we’d go in around noon and stay until 2 or 4 in the morning.”
2. Bassist Stephen Pope Really is Afraid of Heights and, if You Ask Him, the Band is Afraid of People
“I didn’t used to be afraid of heights, but I am now” Pope says. “In the last few years, once we stopped touring, we stayed home. And I’d never done that before. I wasn’t used to having to interact with people when I hadn’t been already drinking and worked up from playing a show. I still don’t know how to go out socializing. It’s the scariest thing in the world. So I think there’s a lot of anxiety on this record just because we didn’t know how to handle ourselves with being home. We’d either spend time alone or I’d just hang out with Nathan and we’d get drunk and not go out and see anybody else.”
3. Heavy Drinking Begat a Terrible Song That Broke the Doors Open For the Whole Album
“We were recording a psych-sounding song early on, and at some point we got too drunk,” Williams recalls. “When I listened to it the next day, I just wanted to vomit. It was called “Pellegrino,” and, oh, my God, that was the worst shit I’ve ever heard. Then the next day we recorded three songs and one of them was “Afraid of Heights,” and we were like, ‘OK, this works.’” But don’t think the group stopped drinking in the studio after that. According to bassist Pope, the band would drink with producer John Hill until 2 or 3 in the morning. “Our drink of choice was Don Julio, except when we got Chris Coady to come in and help engineer on a few tracks,” Pope says. “He’s a big red wine guy. For two weeks we went into red-wine territory, but that makes me crazy. I’m allergic to sulfites, and I just break out into a rash and then black out. It’s awesome, though. It’s fun.”
4. Nathan Williams Wrote “Beat Me Up” From Experience
Although the lyrics to the upbeat, clap-infused cut “Beat Me Up” are largely metaphoric and seem to be about a relationship, the smart-alecky Williams would rather talk about actual altercations he survived. “I was beat up as a child for sure,” he says with a deadpan cool tone in his voice. “I’ve been beat up since then. I was downtown awhile back and these, like, Jersey Shore Armenian dudes were walking out of a club. I was with my friend Greg [Rivera] that runs this company called Mishka, and they bumped into me and just started kicking the shit out of me with really pointy boots. And then they took my phone. That sucked. That was disrespectful what they did to me.”
5. Afraid of Heights is About More Than Just Weed
The band came up with a solid LP of songs that do indeed cover a number of topics. When we pressured Williams to give us the real list of his song inspirations, rather than the one about contract killers, he sounded genuine. “Getting high, waking up, putting a gun to my head, being paranoid, not being able to sleep,” he says. “There is a song about killing a cop, called ‘Cop.’” He laughs when we ask if something in particular invoked that subject. “I don’t know why I wrote that. It just came one day.” He laughs. Such is the way with Wavves.
Wavves’ Afraid of Heights is out now via Mom & Pop. Watch the video for “Demon to Lean On” below: