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GEN F: Wavves

Photographer Sandy Huffaker
October 13, 2011

Nathan Williams nearly drowned in the Pacific one night. Hopped up on teenage adrenaline and cheap beer, he trampolined fully clothed off the forty-foot cliff known by San Diego locals as “The Arch.” The experience made him wary of water and later he named his one-man group Wavves. The ocean always has its place in his music. Whether it sounds like The Wipers covering “Wipeout” or Kevin Shields dunking The Marvelettes in feedback, Wavves makes pop music with the dangerous tug and pull of the surf.

Williams, who only began recording as Wavves in early 2008, is another twenty-something searching for answers in the anthems of his barely distant childhood years: the ’90s. When he’s not pummeling out his lo-fi grunge collages alone in the garage, Williams hangs in the family pool house he currently calls home. “It’s very Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” he deadpans. “Only problem is, I don’t have a Carlton.” He doesn’t have a Uncle Phil or Aunt Viv either, but Williams’ parents—who met while playing in a ’60s pop band named Summer Wind—did raise him on the major chord symphonies of The Beach Boys and The Beatles. Crystals of those greats and the era that birthed them can be found buried in the mud of his twin self-titled albums (the second contains three v’s) and forthcoming deluge of 7-inches. Describing the conception of his first song “Sun Opens My Eyes,” he says, “I came up with this drumbeat and this really simple, super fuzzed out guitar riff. As I started to sing over it, I was thinking in my head of three females standing in the back, snapping their fingers and shimmying left to right like the Shangri-Las and it was 1963.”

The entire West Coast is accordioned in the candied haze of bulldozers like “So Bored” or “Wavves,” creating a union between the citrus harmonies of Ocean Beach and the ripped denim blues of Puget Sound. But really, it’s the gnarled result of a guy waxing romantic. “Growing up I had this dream in my head of what it was like to be in Southern California—everybody on skateboards, riding around,” Williams says. “That goes hand-in-hand with thinking about Smashing Pumpkins and Sonic Youth or a bunch of shithead kids smoking pot at the beach. That music spoke to me as a kid and it speaks to me just as much now. I feel bored and I feel bummed out and angsty and all of those feelings you’re supposed to grow out . But I’m twenty-two and I’m still struggling.”

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GEN F: Wavves