Diatribe Of The Day: In Defense Of Nathan Williams (Wavves)


Wavves @ SXSW 2009

A few weeks ago, Wavves had a meltdown on stage at a big music festival in Spain which Pitchfork called “the most epic onstage meltdown a band of their small size could conjure”. Ever since being awarded “Best New Music” from Pitchfork earlier this year, Wavves had become the target of scorn for being over-hyped from both critics and other musicians, and this latest fiasco has helped villianize the 22 year old San Diego dude behind this project even further. Since I was digging Wavves‘ records before Pitchfork even began its lovefest, I figured I would talk down the mob a little bit and put this tabloid-esque drama in some perspective. If you don’t care about Wavves or any of this hooey, then you might want to skip this read.

First, for those of you who don’t read Pitchfork regularly, let me catch you up to speed. The Wavves backlash began culminating at SXSW this year, embodied by a band called Psychedelic Horseshit wearing “Wavves Suxx” t-shirts and then giving a novel sized interview about how much they hated Wavves and fellow lo-fi acts that you can read here. Then, a few weeks ago my twitter feed was overloaded with twats from P4K’s Ryan Schreiber detailing the Wavves meltdown as it was happening as if it was the Iranian election. I then had to read it all again in a lengthy news post. Then just as I was heading to Bonnaroo, I see P4K giving news headlines to an interview with Black Lips‘ Jared Swilley where he completely trashes the kid for his meltdown. The pile-on against Nathan Williams has been so massive, that Grizzly Bear was joking about the situation:

Ed Droste: should I start a feud with Wavves 4 kicks? Maybe @crbear should? Not sure what to say, but we could just “feud and stuff”… no? feuds seems like a pretty chill thing 2 get into these days. miss wayne vs win….OG

Chris Bear: Damn… Thought about it for a while… Seems like starting a feud with wavves might be a cool move. What should I say? @edwarddroste?

Ed Droste: @crbear Maybes you could talk about some stuff that gets under your skin or some psych horseshit or sumth’n. Confused. Tired. Feuds R tiring

I know P4K enjoys breaking down their hype beneficiaries just as much as they like building them up (ie Black Kids), but the P4k dude being so awestruck with this event is a bit too much for me. I mean, had he never heard about a Wavves show before? When I saw him for the first time, his drummer didn’t show up, Williams was completely tanked drunk, and he barely played two songs. Seriously, I would way rather see the spectacle of him falling apart than a typical Wavves show. And in my time I’ve witnessed numerous on stage meltdowns that seemed much more epic than this garbage. Prefix had a good piece discussing how in the big scheme of things nobody really cares about this whole situation.

With exponentially more and more artists coming out of the woodwork every day, it has become increasingly difficult for an act to attract attention to itself. For an artist to be successful in this climate, it has to couple great studio work with a live show that wows its audience, and I feel like some of the best studio efforts coming out these days are getting overlooked because the artist can’t replicate their genius on record to the live setting. You know, back when Cat Power was churning out brilliant albums, her concerts were notorious for mental breakdowns and abrupt early endings via meltdowns. Now that she has sobered up and/or been replaced by a robot, her live shows are professional and reliable, and her studio work sucks. I know the concept of the mentally unstable artist is cliche’ these days, but I am still a fan. I don’t think art has to be diminished by its creator’s inability to showcase it in terms of others’ expectations.

And of course it is those less talented than Wavves that are making the biggest noise. I mean, did anybody even know who Psychedelic Horseshit was until they started talking smack about everyone? If you are a musician who seriously thinks Wavves sounds likes TV On The Radio, you might want to change your profession. And I really want to like the Black Lips and show my ATL pride and all, but there’s something lame about a band who got famous from pissing in each others’ mouths being all self-righteous about things. Trying to make someone out as a “dick” when you destroy other people’s property and piss off anybody you can to further your own career is hypocritical at best. Those guys are way more fun when they aren’t taking themselves so seriously. Maybe they are just mad this little kid made a better album on his laptop than they will their entire career.

Now, I don’t think Nathan Williams is Kurt Cobain or anything, but he makes good records. I understand if you aren’t into his No Agey style, it’s not for everyone. And I totally get that a lot of people, especially musicians, resent the fact that some people get an unfair and unearned amount of attention and praise, but there are far less talented people getting way more love in the world of music than Nathan Williams. I mean, it’s not like he’s Kanye West going around telling everyone he is the second coming of Christ and then laying a turd at Bonnaroo last year. Nathan Williams didn’t award himself the “Best New Music” title. When he saw the Psychedelic Horseshit guys wearing the “Wavves Suxx” shirts, he went and got his picture taken with them. I love a good beef, but there’s nothing here. Just a bunch of jealous opportunists trying to squeeze out some more attention for themselves.

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6 Responses to “Diatribe Of The Day: In Defense Of Nathan Williams (Wavves)”
  1. No Says: June 21st, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    No, I think the backlash began when he had a publicist and European booking agent before even playing a show in his hometown. Some people still believe that’s not how independent/DIY acts should behave. Or fuck over De Stijl records, who was originally slated to put out his first record, before being ditched for Woodsist. Or act like a whiny prima donna to promoters across the U.S.

    I also think you should stop writing like such an arrogant jag-off. Plenty of people know/knew who Psychedelic Horsehit was/is. I’ve seen them live myself three times, twice before Wavves existed. They also have one or two LPs on the “new release” wall at Criminal. Don’t you think if a dick like Jared Swilley calls this kid a dick, and has actually met him and spent time around him, THEN HE MIGHT BE A DICK?! You can’t also think this kid’s limp, spewy home recordings are better than the Black Lips’ first three albums, which resurrected the garage-rock/punk genre in the ’00s, a genre you’ve proven to know nothing about time and time again.

  2. Krista Says: June 22nd, 2009 at 12:56 am

    “I don’t think art has to be diminished by its creator’s inability to showcase it in terms of others’ expectations.”-Brilliant. Exactly the point I’ve been attempting to articulate lately.

  3. Mr. Bojangles Says: June 23rd, 2009 at 11:50 am

    To the commenter above:

    1. Davy can write like “an arrogant jag-off” all he wants. Know why? Because this is his fucking blog. And its a damn fine blog at that. Where is your blog that does so much to promote local music? Seriously, if you have one I’d really love to read it.
    2. If you seriously think that “the Black Lips’ first three albums [...] resurrected the garage-rock/punk genre in the ’00s,” then you need to get your head examined. I’m not trashing the Lips – if they can make a living doing what they enjoy, then I won’t knock them for it even if it ain’t my thing – but I sure would love to see people stop talking about them like they’re doing something even remotely original.

  4. jeff Says: June 24th, 2009 at 10:19 am

    “Don’t you think if a dick like Jared Swilley calls this kid a dick, and has actually met him and spent time around him, THEN HE MIGHT BE A DICK?”

    Hey, if a dick says it, it must be true.

  5. Clint Miller Says: June 24th, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Thanks Black Lips for resurrecting Garage rock in the OOs. Because I didn’t have enough from bands bringing it back in the 80s and 90s. Why does garage rock keep coming back? Probably because it takes the lowest amount of actual skill AND creativity to produce.

  6. Last week’s Blog Party: Still making Wavves | Crib Notes » Local Music Blog Says: June 29th, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    [...] Nathan Williams of Wavves continues to gather commentary from everyone. To refresh your memory, Ohmpark gives an interesting chronicle of the event and aftermath. A few weeks ago, Wavves had a meltdown on stage at a big music festival in Spain [...]

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