Since opening their current tour in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, Wavves has performed their brand of raucous pop-punk with sprinkles of rockabilly surf rock just about every night since; they’re scheduled to keep going at that clip until Thanksgiving. It’s hard to imagine that the last time the group performed live together was New Year’s Eve of 2019.
“I wasn’t going crazy about not playing shows, but I was definitely out of my element,” Wavves bassist Stephen Pope says before their Boise, Idaho show. “[Performing] is the only thing I’ve done for the last 15 years—it’s the only thing I’ve done as an adult is tour for a minimum of six months out of the year.”
Like most of the indie music world—those acclaimed and well-known acts who don’t need day jobs if they’re touring regularly—Pope had to get a “day job” as an Amazon delivery driver. Even Wavves’ volatile pop-punk poet, frontman Nathan Williams, had to move in with his folks in San Diego.
“I felt out of my element a lot of the time,” Pope says. “I don’t thrive on routine. I was thankful I was able to land a job during that time, but at the same time, it was driving me crazy.”
As demanding as it is to be on tour, Pope wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m wearing myself out, driving all day, playing in a different city every night and getting very little sleep,” he says. “People think touring in a band is like a holiday, but it is grueling work, and you’re always hungover. You have to be a psychopath to be in a band this long, but I feel like I’m back in my element.”
Wavves broke big with 2010’s King of the Beach, the outfit’s third record. It made several lists, including Pitchfork’s “Top 50 Albums of 2010.” The unpolished, hook-laden, garage rock nuggets in the vein of Dookie-era Green Day explode with more of an I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. King of the Beach celebrated its 10th anniversary during the pandemic, and Pope says they’ll soon get around to doing something special in its honor.
Currently, Wavves is touring behind 2021’s Hideaway, their first LP since 2017 and their first record produced by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek. After a stint with Warner Brothers, Hideaway also marks their return to Fat Possum, the label behind King of the Beach. Sitek initially connected with Williams through Instagram in 2019, inviting Wavves to record at his L.A. studio sometime.
“It’s humbling when someone like Sitek, who’s produced some of our favorite bands, like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, just comes to you and wants to work together,” Pope says. “[Sitek] became like a fifth member of Wavves. He helped write and played on songs; he wasn’t just a recording engineer; he would tell us if something sucks or tell us if something was really good or how to make something really good.”
Hideaway isn’t a significant departure from Wavves’ previous work; it’s more a return to form, a reminder of why we initially fell in love with the band. Per Sitek, the guys mainly used vintage equipment like a ’62 Fender Strat, which seems to summon doo-wop elements, early Dick Dale and even a dash of Hank Williams twang.
The record is drenched in Williams’ ever-present inner struggle and demons; the songs brim with juxtaposition, only adding depth. “Thru Hell” is a quick, upbeat jaunt with a scuzzy hook reminiscent of the Ramones. Williams’ lyrics are anything but cheery: “Like a terror taking over the Earth, like an atom bomb / Like the beauty of a mother at birth, like an animal.”
Wavves with Harmless play Sunday, Nov. 14, at Felton Music Hall, 6275 Highway 9, Felton. 8pm; $22 advance/$24 doors. Proof of vaccination or negative test (within 48 hours) required. feltonmusichall.com.