Named for his fear of the ocean, Wavves, the skuzzy project of San Diego slacker Nathan Williams, is a blend of distorted no-fi and refined sunshiny melodies. Charmingly messy, most of his lyrics, while difficult to decipher, generally revolve around the subjects of weed, boredom, and the beach — when he isn’t poking jabs at the gloomy subculture of goth rock (a common theme, found in “Goth Girls,” “California Goths,” “Summer Goths,” “Surf Goths,” and “Beach Goths”).
Wavves was conceived just after Williams, at age 21, quit his job as a clerk at Music Trader, while he was dividing his free time between skateboarding, writing for his hip-hop blog, Ghost Ramp, and making music using an ’80s Tascam cassette recorder and Garage Band software. Due to his inexperience with the program, the result of one month’s worth of bedroom recording sessions was two full albums of songs: all completely mangled by overdriven inputs. Rather than scrapping the material, he embraced the in-the-red aesthetic and started promoting the songs online. Wavves was quickly embraced and touted as “the next big thing” by Internet music critics and fellow bloggers.
Many praised the immediacy and D.I.Y. nature of his work, and Williams capitalized on those aspects, continuously uploading free digital versions of his music — including two 7″ singles, a cassette, and an EP — all with simple self-drawn artwork or scanned photos for cover art. Wavves’ first LP, simply titled Wavves, became available around this time as well, and it was released in a limited run by Woodsist. The more confusingly titled Wavvves (note the third “V”) followed just after, and was planned for release by De Stijl before Williams jumped ship to Fat Possum. After the track list was revamped, the release date was pushed back a month and Wavvves was officially made available on March 17, 2009.
After receiving mostly glowing reviews in April, Wavves got his share of bad press in late May. While performing live at ~the Primavera Sound Festival, assisted by drummer Ryan Ulsh, Williams had a minor meltdown and walked offstage. Later, he issued an apology, chalking up the incident to poor decision-making and a drug concoction of ecstasy, Valium, and Xanax. In 2010, after recording a few tracks with indie drummer extraordinaire Zach Hill, Williams entered the studio with Grammy-winning producer Dennis Herring to record a straightforward and surprisingly polished album. Following the August release of King of the Beach, Wavves toured as a trio with Williams assisted by former bandmates of the late Jay Reatard, bassist Stephen Pope and drummer Billy Hayes. In the fall of 2011, Williams released a new EP under the Wavves name, titled Life Sux, featuring guest appearances by Best Coast.