In the last dozen years, Wavves has toured all over the world, released seven albums, survived a cocktail-induced breakdown at Primavera Festival, and took on Warner Bros. Records over creative control of their music. So… just about everything.
But one thing the San Diego-based surf rock band hasn’t done yet? Play a show in Atlantic City.
That changes on Oct. 23 as Wavves will be playing at the Anchor Rock Club; and playing in AC will be a pilgrimage of sorts for the band. Lead singer Nathan Williams has watched every episode of The Sopranos over 20 times.
“Atlantic City has such a cool history, and Nathan is obsessed with the mob,” says bassist Stephen Pope on the phone from Dallas. “We’re looking forward to seeing Boardwalk Empire basically.”
Pope’s looking forward to “gambling before the show.” (Hey, whatever brings you here—gambling, Sopranos, etc.—works for us.)
Wavves is touring in support of their album released in July, Hideaway. The tour is bringing them to cities that they don’t traditionally play, like AC, El Paso, Miami and Orlando. While Pope and Williams are stoked about playing in AC, there is also a specific date that Pope is pretty hyped about.
“We’re playing in a place called Felton, California, and it’s one of the cities that people have claimed to seen Bigfoot, and the National Bigfoot Museum is there, and I’m looking forward to seeing the museum and walking around the woods and trying to find Bigfoot,” he says.
Williams and Pope geeking out over Boardwalk Empire, and walking around trying to find Bigfoot will be a much needed break after a tough process recording Hideaway.
“We recorded an entirely different album before we did Hideaway,” says Pope. “All the songs were good, but there was something about the recording that didn’t click.”
Wavves learned the hard way that being cheap will ultimately cost you in the long run: “I think we tried to be cheap, and we got a cheap studio,” says Pope. “I think there’s a lot of charm in lo-fi recording, but I definitely like to get the sounds I want and to do that sometimes you need a real studio.”
In the end, TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek saved the day for Wavves and their album. “We need help,” the band said to Sitek. “We tried to record this album ourselves and it didn’t work.”
Williams and Pope traveled to Sitek’s house to record a song and they instantly clicked. “He was sort of a fifth member of the band,” says Pope. “We’re bad with words, and it was hard to describe the sound that we wanted, but we synced with Dave and he knew what we were trying to get out of the recording.”
The theme for Hideaway is similar to albums that Wavves has put out in the past like King of the Beach and Afraid of Heights. The theme for Hideaway is dealing with depression and anxiety.
“We haven’t strayed too far from our past albums,” says Pope. “The album deals with anxiety and not feeling good about yourself. I don’t want to say we matured on this, but it’s more of an adult sounding album. We spent more time on lyrics for this album than we did with the last one. The lyrics might be vulnerable and embarrassing to read on paper, but I think with the songs it comes through as sincere.”
Having fans relate to the band’s lyrics is something in which Pope takes pride. “It’s very touching when we’re playing a song and I see a teenager passionately singing along. I was one of those teens at one point too. Growing up I listened to depressingly poppy music and it helped me get through life.”
Even though Pope is happy to be back on tour and playing in front of fans, and even though he’s done just about everything in his time in the music business, which goes back well beyond his 12 years with Wavves, he was nervous to get back on stage.
“I was the most paranoid out of all of the band,” says Pope. “I’ve been trying not to go out to crowded places and stuff. Most of our shows except for Florida I think have a vaccine mandate. So far it’s good. I was scared there would be less energy since people have to keep their mask on and they wouldn’t be drinking as much, but it’s been great. I feel normal again because my normal life has been touring for almost 20 years now, and that two-year break from touring was almost making me into a different person.
During the pandemic, when Pope had to stop touring, he worked as a shopper for Instacart. “It wasn’t a bad gig, and I had a constant job,” says Pope. “In Los Angeles, there’s always people ordering food, and I was able to work a lot.”
Pope had a specific strategy with Instacart. “I tried to stick around my neighborhood and I got very familiar with the Ralph’s right next to my house, and I did a lot of Sprouts. I would take batches where I didn’t have to drive too far, and I would avoid batches that were like 100 different items.”
With shopping for Instacart on pause for now, Pope is excited to be playing shows, and is as excited as his mob-obsessed bandmate to be playing in the Garden State. “I like New Jersey better than New York,” says Pope. “Every time I’ve been in New York I’ve had responsibilities, and I’ve been driving a big van so New York is really stressful to me. New Jersey is much more chill to me.”
Wavves will be playing at the Anchor Rock Club in Atlantic City on Oct. 23rd with Harmless. For tickets and more information, go here.