A little over a year ago, Nathan Williams found himself back in San Diego, writing what would eventually become Hideaway, his seventh album as Wavves, in a little shed behind his parents’ house. It was also the place where he made some of his earliest albums, before he became known for his uncanny ability to write songs that sneered at the world while evoking pathos, sympathy, and a deep understanding of how sometimes we’re our own worst enemies, and that can be okay.
A decade ago, Williams released King of the Beach. The album was a cocky collection of pop punk gems that catapulted him into the public consciousness, eventually prompting a jump from Fat Possum into the major label system, where he released two albums before becoming disillusioned by the lack of creative agency available to him. Now, Williams has returned to Fat Possum with a barbed collection of anxious anthems that grapple with the looming sense of doom and despair that comes with getting older in an increasingly chaotic world. “He’ll always skew toward the Bart Simpson [character],” says Matthew Johnson, founder of Fat Possum. “But that does not mean that he doesn’t have some commentary, and once in awhile, it’s totally spot on.”
Across its brief but impactful nine tracks, Hideaway is about what happens when you get old enough to take stock of the world around you and realize that no one is going to save you but yourself, and even that might be a tall order.
After realizing the material he’d been working on in the hideaway was starting to take shape, Williams, along with bandmates Stephen Pope and Alex Gates workshopped the songs in a series of now-abandoned studio sessions, before linking up with musician and producer Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio to help fully realize their new songs. Williams and Sitek bonded while geeking out over music for hours every day. “We’d listen to old music and not get much done, but it was really important in the end,” he says.
Meanwhile, on the album’s title track, Williams incisively cuts through the pitfalls of empty self-affirmations, his voice straining against lyrics like “I’ll do my best to hideaway, from all of the bullshit chasing me, I don’t care if time’s erasing me, it’s been torture existing this long” In the hands of a less direct performer, it’d be easy to hear this as self-pity, but Williams’ embrace of that hopelessness shines through and becomes something else entirely: an embrace of the comfort that is right in front of him, of making his world small because he need to. Of changing—or not changing—what’s around him because it’s what he has the power to do. “I don’t have it in me to say that things are so much better,” Williams says. “It’s just not my story. It’s good if it’s someone else’s story, but I’ve also learned to realize there just isn’t redemption.” Ultimately, though, Hideaway is not an album about wallowing in depression. It’s about finding a way through all the noise and landing on something that approximates uneasy acceptance.