You’re Welcome in Advance: Wavves and the Art of Glam

Wavves’ latest record sounds as though surf rock and punk arm-wrestled each other to a draw, with some Gary Glitter thrown in for good measure.

Wavves. Courtesy photo

Isn’t it odd that Freddie Mercury, one of the queerest humans to have ever lived, is probably most famous because Queen’s comically hyper-aggressive “We Will Rock You” gets played at every single sporting event in America? And isn’t it weirder still that Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll Part 2” has also played at just about every stadium and arena for decades, even years after Glitter — born Paul Francis Gadd — was convicted of possession of child pornography, among other later crimes? That 1972 glam-rock anthem is gradually falling into disfavor, but it probably endured for so long because it’s almost entirely instrumental, with little trace of its creator’s voice. Oh. My. Gadd.

It’s not very politically correct to state so candidly, but here goes: Unsavory personal conduct notwithstanding, Gary Glitter’s music pulsates with a life-affirming energy that almost no one has ever been able to match. But on “Million Enemies,” a standout track on the 2017 album You’re Welcome, the San Diego surf-punks Wavves came pretty close. They know it, too. The video is an explicit throwback to glam and the very earliest music videos, with over-the-top outfits and effects on the lights to the narrative framing device of a teenage fan’s excitement getting squelched by her hypocritical mom. (She has a Wavves album in her collection sandwiched between Roxy Music and David Bowie.)

The band throws in a few curve balls like that to keep things interesting, bassist Stephen Pope says. And he can assign a certain mood to every Wavves album.

“It could also be a technical aspect,” he adds. “We always try to get a little obsessive about drum sounds, and once we get a drum sound that we really like, we tend to stick with it for a lot of the album. On You’re Welcome, we got a ’70s Gary Glitter drum sound going that I feel like dictated the direction of some of the songs.”

After he and his interviewer talk over each another to express admiration for Glitter’s sound and horror at his personal conduct, Pope adds that “it’s a bad reference to use, but his music is great.”

The prolific quartet will roll into San Francisco on Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 12 and 13 for shows at the Fillmore that they’ll be co-headlining with Beach Fossils. While that’s hardly the most unheard-of arrangement, it’s still fairly unusual, and it came about because everybody got along and the lo-fi Brooklyn trio was at the same point in the cycle between records as Wavves was. Putting aside egos, if any, is always good to see.

“We’ve kind of been friends for awhile and on each other’s radar,” Pope says. “I know Dustin [Payseur] has been working on a new album and so have we, so it felt like a good time to tour together. I like the pairing, and yeah, nobody’s feelings get hurt.

“Secretly, I think the second spot is the best spot,” he adds. “You get to pack up early and have a little bit of fun that night.”

A little bit of fun might be the band’s motto. While tendentiousness and self-seriousness are grave afflictions across the entire indie universe, Wavves is prone to moments of silliness. Sadly, the YouTube clip “Wavves’ Worst Interview Ever” has been removed from the internet. (It was probably never all that terrible, however, although Pope admits that his bandmate may have been tripping on acid in between their set at Lollapalooza and a later show at Chicago’s Empty Bottle.)

These days, Wavves is six albums deep, although Pope admits that 2008’s Wavves and 2009’s Wavvveswhich the band differentiates internally as “Two V’s” and “Three V’s” — are usually taken to be one record because they look and sound so similar. Plus they came together only months apart. But if 2013’s Afraid of Heights is “super-personal and a little depressing and dark” (although still one of his personal favorites) then You’re Welcome is “dissociative.”

On it, guitarist-vocalist Nathan Williams sings mostly about “fictitious stories that don’t make any sense,” Pope says, with very little that’s lyrically personal. The band is working on a seventh album already, and over the weekend, Wavves — which has covered holiday classics like Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here” in years past — put out a two-track Yuletide-themed EP. Emo Christmas includes an under-two-minute title song that isn’t nearly as mopey and lugubrious as it might sound, plus the neo-’60s “So Glad It’s Christmas.” Swap out some Mannheim Steamroller while baking this year, because these songs are equal parts Santa Claus and Santa Monica Pier.

Wavves, with Beach Fossils and Spiritual Cramp, Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 12-13, 8 p.m., at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd. $25;

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