Wavves founder Nathan Williams may live in Los Angeles now, but he still calls San Diego home. Perhaps that’s because the project he started as fuzzed-out home recordings in Point Loma has steadily grown into a reliable rock quartet that hasn’t lost the punk attitude or energy.
Despite personnel and label changes over the years, Wavves have spent the last four of them with the same line-up. And for the first time ever, the band just released its sixth LP, “You’re Welcome,” on Ghost Ramp - its own label.
The band is also doubling down on its recent ban of “homophobes,” “racists,” “anti-abortionists,” and more at its shows by making public donations to organizations such as Planned Parenthood, National Immigration Law Center, and the ACLU. And Williams is letting it seep into his songwriting as well. New track “Exercise” is more political than the band has ever been before.
PACIFIC recently got on the phone with long-tenured Wavves bassist Stephen Pope to discuss it all.
PACIFIC: How’s it going?
STEPHEN POPE: Great. Tour has been awesome. It’s a super long one. We haven’t done one this long in quite some time. But every show has been great. This is our first day off in a while. We just did 13 shows in a row - that might be a record for us.
You switch things up once again on “You’re Welcome.” Is that the general game plan?
We try to make each album different and never want to make the same one twice. And we’re all writing, so you just have different feelings in each song. But we made a conscious effort not to do what we did on (2015’s) ‘V.’ And I’m proud of that record. I love it. But we really wanted to get as far away from it as possible.
Did leaving Warner Bros. after a couple of records help to facilitate that as well?
It’s so much better. There’s just so much more freedom. We don’t have to wait to get things approved. We don’t have to wait for some 70-year-old behind a desk to say “I think this song needs another chorus.” It’s pretty great. And after being on different labels, we realized that no one really knows what they’re doing anymore. Music is too unpredictable now in how to market it or how to get people to listen to it. Nobody knows what the f--k they’re doing. And, maybe, we’re just a little more in touch than Bugs Bunny (the iconic cartoon figure of Warner Bros.).
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: The Irenic, 3090 Polk Ave., San Diego
It has to feel different putting something out on your own label.
It does. It feels bigger. And that’s probably because we’re handling every aspect of it. We control where it goes. Putting out more and more on Ghost Ramp just builds it up and it’s nice to have everyone on the same page in a team of three as opposed to 50. Things just get lost when there are so many involved. Someone might have a great idea, like a video concept or something, but by the time it has to be emailed 50 times, and forwarded another 10 to the right person, it fizzles out. It’s more streamlined and more rewarding now.
Does that go beyond the music and help the band as well?
I think so. Everyone has been in the band now for four years. And we’re all friends. That’s how it started - which is way better than starting out as band mates and then having to learn about the person. I think we’re pretty solid.
Do you still look at San Diego as a hometown show?
For sure. Nathan’s parents are still there. When I joined, he was still in San Diego and I crashed on his parents’ couch for like a month. (Guitarist) Alex (Gates) and I are originally from Memphis, but we’ve been down there so much, it feels like a hometown show to us too.
What made this the right time to start getting political?
I feel like had anyone else been elected, there wouldn’t be such an uproar. And I don’t want to say that there’s a responsibility to speak up, but it’s hard not to when things are so f----d up. It doesn’t seem like it, but if people don’t speak up, I feel like the political climate could take over the social climate as well. And then we’ll just be going in reverse. We don’t want people to feel like it’s cool to discriminate again. It’s hard not to say something when things are looking so disastrous.
What’s next for Wavves after this run of dates?
We’re going to try, I hope, to get out and do another big U.S. tour this year. And that should mean Australia and Europe as well. We do have a few fests lined up - Sled Island in Calgary and Mo Pop in Detroit, along with a few others on the horizon. We’re also planning on recording some new stuff soon. So we’re staying very, very busy this year.