Wavves, whose current self-titled album has drawn rhapsodic praise in indy rock circles, is known for an edgy pop approach that mixes torrents of noise and hooky pop melodies — a sound that Wavves mastermind Nathan Williams has described as a cross between Sonic Youth, Motown and the Beatles. But that formula will change come the next album, which he's just finishing up. Underneath the noise, says Williams, he's always been writing pop songs.
"The record I'm recording right now is a lot more cleaned up," he says when asked to compare it to the first two Wavves albums. "I was into pop music before I was into punk music. Growing up, my parents listened to Motown and the Beatles pretty much constantly, so that's kind of where that came from."
All of this may give pause to fans of the noisier elements of the first two Wavves albums — 2008's Wavves and 2009's Wavvves (note the extra, extra "v"). But Williams says he isn't turning his signature sound inside out on the third album: "Just sonically you can actually understand a little bit more what's going on. It's not as blown out. As far as the writing of the stuff goes, I feel like it's just maybe a natural progression, what's happening. It's not really anything too crazy."
What is definitely different is the approach to recording this time out. While the first two Wavves records were recorded by Williams himself, using a Macintosh computer and the GarageBand program, the third album is being done in a studio with a friend, Andy Morin, handling engineering and production and additional musicians involved.
"Most of the stuff we're doing is live tracking, and then we go and do the overdubs afterwards," Williams says. "So it's a lot different."
Williams developed his earlier do-it-yourself desktop recording approach after his previous band, the San Diego-based Fantastic Magic, had pretty much fizzled out.
"It was the easiest way to do it at that point in time," he recalls. "I didn't have money to go into a studio and record. None of my friends really were motivated quite the way I thought I was at the time, and it was just easier to do it by myself."
At a friend's urging, he mailed demos of his songs to a number of record labels and ended up getting his first album released on Woodsist Records. Williams then landed a deal with Fat Possum Records for the second album.
The Wavvves album clearly has enough going for it to cause people to sit up and take notice. The noisy sheen Williams applies to his songs can be abrasive, but there are some truly catchy melodies packed into songs like "To the Dregs," "Beach Demon," "So Bored" and "No Hope Kids."
Considering the sonic density of the first two albums, it's not altogether surprising that Williams isn't aiming to duplicate those arrangements in concert.
"It sounds a bit different live," says Williams, who's joined on this tour by drummer Zach Hill. "I feel like it's a little more easily deciphered live, but somehow it's still a little more raw."