"This past year has ruined my liver," Wavves frontman Nathan Williams tells Rolling Stone, looking back on the boozy sessions that produced the lo-fi noise-punk outfit's as-yet-untitled fourth album. "I drank more during the recording process than I've ever drank," he adds proudly.
Williams, 26, says he's admittedly anxious for fans to encounter his band's new album, tentatively due on March 26th on the Mom + Pop label. And with good reason: the 13-track LP, which he, bassist Stephen Pope and producer John Hill (M.I.A., Santigold) recorded over a year at Los Angeles' Sonora Recordings, is full of left turns and unexpected surprises. The album features tracks that veer from acoustic meditations, complete with cello and glockenspiel accompaniment ("Dog," "I Can't Dream"), to the classic brand of shotgun punk ("Sail to the Sun," "Paranoid") the SoCal-based band previously favored – chugging electric guitars, apathy-drenched vocals.
The album's musical diversity, Williams explains, was a deliberate undertaking. "Every time that we record something I want it to sound different than previous efforts," he says. "It's definitely a different pace than anything we've ever put out before."
Specifically, Williams says he wanted to mix more hip-hop-sounding beats into his band's swerving surf-guitar riffs. "The idea of that was interesting to me," he says, "to see if it could mix. Just make it seem like it should be there." Hip-hop, in fact, is something Williams has been exploring more in-depth lately: the singer can be heard crooning the hook on the new Big Boi track "Shoes for Running" on the Outkast MC's new Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors album, and Williams says his production duo Sweet Valley is set to record with Atlanta rapper Killer Mike next year once the singer wraps studio time with Bay Area rapper DaVinci.
Pope, meanwhile, points to "Everything Is My Fault," a momentous cut on which Wavves unspool mountains of feedback and sopping-wet vocal harmonies before scaling back to a simple, acoustic-strummed melody, as a signal of the band's new direction. "That's a pretty big departure for us from things we've done in the past," he says. "That was fun to do."
While flipping the script in many ways on their new LP, Wavves have retained their cynical sense of humor, expressed both through the album’s lyrics and its visual accompaniment. On "I Can't Dream" Williams snarls that he was "fucked from the start," while in the recently released music video for the lead single "Sail to the Sun," the bandmates focus on a hypocritical televangelist who spends his off-hours indulging in drugs and prostitutes.
Both Williams and Pope view the album's initial lack of record label involvement – Mom + Pop did not take it on until recently – as a key to executing their vision for it. "We got to stick it out and work until we thought the record was done," Williams says. "I feel like if we had a label involved [during recording] they would have cut us off so much earlier." The singer also admits that in the wake of 2010's critically praised King of the Beach and 2011's EP Life Sux, (featuring "I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl"), he became aware that more people were interested in his band's work. To that end, he wanted to make sure they took their time and got it right.
"You lie if you say you don't think about stuff like that," he says.