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Backstage With Wavves, Weed, and a Pipe Made From an Apple

Williams, Pope, and Hayes.

In the Bowery Ballroom dressing room on Monday, 23-year-old Wavves front man Nathan Williams, wearing Top-Siders and rolled-up acid-washed jeans, took a hit from a pipe fashioned from an apple. "I would have given my album a 6.9 out of 10," he said with a giggle, referring to King of the Beach, which would be released the next day. "Because it's 69 with a point in the middle." The band was relaxing between sound check and the show, the first of two sold-out New York gigs. The album, which has been streaming online for weeks, has already earned comparisons to Green Day’s Dookie and even Nirvana’s Nevermind. Williams was passing the apple around with drummer Billy Hayes and bassist Stephen Pope, both of whom used to play with Jay Reatard before the cult singer passed away in January. Hayes said the label, Fat Possum, that released King of the Beach didn’t initially have a lot of faith in him and Pope. “They didn’t know we could figure out how to play a Marimaba. We showed up and we were getting high all day, getting drunk all day. They were probably just like, ‘Oh, these guys are idiots.’” Mumbling nearby, Pope said, “We're chill-wave. Chill Wavves.”

Things, of course, seem to have worked out. Musically, “We were going for big pop-punk stuff. Just the music I grew up on,” Williams explains. “When people compare it to Blink-182, that's an awesome compliment.” So is King of the Beach destined for Take Off Your Pants and Jacket levels of popularity? “If we turned into hunks, I bet yes,” Williams, who is dating Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino, said laughing. Objectively, speaking, though, he’s pretty good-looking, we interjected. Pope chimed in: “Just Nathan, or all of us?” “Most girls probably think I’m disgusting,” Williams mused, taking another hit from the apple. What about his intelligence, we wondered — were lyrics about his own dumbness and self-loathing to be taken with a grain of salt? “I don’t know how to read," he replied. "Gangsters don’t read. Gamers don’t read. We should really be working at Jiffy Lube, because this thing’s not going to take off.” Seriously, though … “I’m joking,” he added. “I know how to read.”

Things, of course, seem to have worked out. Musically, “We were going for big pop-punk stuff. Just the music I grew up on,” Williams explains. “When people compare it to Blink-182, that's an awesome compliment.” So is King of the Beach destined for Take Off Your Pants and Jacket levels of popularity? “If we turned into hunks, I bet yes,” Williams, who is dating Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino, said laughing. Objectively, speaking, though, he’s pretty good-looking, we interjected. Pope chimed in: “Just Nathan, or all of us?” “Most girls probably think I’m disgusting,” Williams mused, taking another hit from the apple. What about his intelligence, we wondered — were lyrics about his own dumbness and self-loathing to be taken with a grain of salt? “I don’t know how to read," he replied. "Gangsters don’t read. Gamers don’t read. We should really be working at Jiffy Lube, because this thing’s not going to take off.” Seriously, though … “I’m joking,” he added. “I know how to read.”

Photo: Lauren Dukoff