For many, it's hard to believe that L.A. based surf rock outfit Wavves are gearing up to release their fifth studio album. Formed seven years ago, Nathan Williams has been known as the primary band member, along with a revolving door of other musicians. But on the aptly titled V, Williams and company have settled into a groove.
"Seven years is a long time for a band to be together today," guitarist Alex Gates says just before the band is set to take the stage at the band's first tour stop in Seattle. "Bands have short shelf lives and we're all happy that we're still doing this. We're getting along and things are really good."
Unlike the band's previous album, V finds the band in a much better place, at least that's how Gates sees it. Working with producer Woody Jackson for the first time, Wavves did something they'd never done before on an album: Williams yielded some of the songwriting responsibilities and allowed for Gates and bassist Stephen Pope to contribute.
Gates was quietly working on his own side project uploading songs to Soundcloud without the intention of the material becoming Wavves songs. After a few months, Williams was listening to that Soundcloud page and asked Gates to rework that material to fit Wavves. Taking the cue, the guitarist did exactly that and now has his first writing credit with that band.
"The last record I just played guitar," Gates says. "It was the first full band album with everyone contributing. The three of us came up with a bunch of demos where we each had 10-to-15 songs we threw in the pile and weeded out the ones we liked the most and fit into the theme of the album. The songs were pretty much finished structurally before we went into the studio, but Woody guided our rearrangements of the songs and that's how it came together."
Despite some of the billing surround the album, like agoraphobia, sleepwalking, teeth grinding, time wasting and things in that realm, Gates says the music has a much more positive vibe than the band's last album, 2013's Afraid of Heights.
"I feel like lyrically, this turned out to be a break up record," Gates says. "I don't know if that's a particular scenario that was present in anyone's life, but that's how it happened. We're all reaching our late-twenties and going through a lot of changes and were all on the wavelength songwriting-wise. We were all in a better mood than last time while making this record."
The album is as close to hitting the mainstream as a band like Wavves is going to get, at least at this point in their career. While the group remains true to the lo-fi distorted roots that's won them legions of fans, the crisper sound that marks V is a testament to Wavves' continuous ability to experiment with concise, poppier songs.
V was recorded in three-to-four months instead of the nearly yearlong process that marked the band's last album. Partially due to having a tighter budget due to the label — though they didn't meddle in the recording — Wavves didn't have the luxury to tediously pour over the minute details for too long.
Heading out on the road for their first extensive tour in two years — the group has played several one-off college gigs and made festival appearances over that time to stay sharp — the band is excited about what the rest of 2015 has in-store for them. By the time Wavves hits The Observatory Friday night, the band's fourth show of the tour, they should be rounding into form, whether they're ready or not.
"It's definitely what we want to be doing," Gates says. "We're excited to be out on the road right now playing consistently for the first time and we're as ready as we're going to be."