Nathan Williams and Co. balance sun and shade on 'You're Welcome'
Entering into sessions for Wavves' sixth full-length album, You're Welcome, singer and guitarist Nathan Williams lacked a clear idea of what he wanted to do musically. So working in a downtown Los Angeles recording studio beginning in February 2016, Williams started amassing demos, experimenting with samples and a drum machine en route to compiling 35-odd songs.
“Then we all came in and listened to them and tried to figure out a direction,” said Williams, 30, who joins his bandmates in concert at A&R Music Bar on Saturday, May 20. “It was all over the place, which is why it became this little oddball record.”
For Williams, two songs on opposing ends of the musical/thematic spectrum served as flashpoints: “Million Enemies,” a driving, drum-machine assisted number filled with mentions of circling enemy forces, and “Come to the Valley,” a carnival-esque beachside escape that could spark a generous offer from the California Office of Tourism.
Fittingly, the broader concepts contained in these tunes surface throughout the album, which contains repeated lyrical references to both shade and sun — a trend Williams noticed three-quarters of the way through recording, though he declined to go into greater detail about the circumstances informing this particular train of thought. “I'm not going to talk about that,” he said before adding, “I think it's similar to most people; there are highs and lows in your life.”
Other songs, like “Exercise,” are more explicitly political, with Williams sneering about dancing while the world burns. “I can't believe the shit they feed to us,” he sings. “They're lying to our face!”
“There are a lot of people, especially in bands, who go, ‘I don't do political stuff.' But it seems silly to not comment on it when it's right there in front of you,” Williams said. “I'm not a huge fan of the government to begin with — whoever is in there — but the current administration is just the face of evil as far as I'm concerned. Fuck Donald Trump.”
But even though much of You're Welcome plunges into darkness, with Williams singing of feeling hollowed out or spending nights surrounded by demons, the album does close on a more hopeful note with the doo-wop informed “I Love You,” which the frontman described as “the most straightforward love song I've ever written.”
“It's important to be able to still have those emotions and feelings in dark times,” said Williams, noting he's shied from making such on-record proclamations in the past largely out of fear (“It's scary to say ‘I love you' — in our personal lives and especially on record”). “I wanted to end with … [the idea] that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, which is a more recent development for me. I've been a pretty dark person for the majority of my life, but I guess I'm trying to be a little more optimistic in my old age.”