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. Williams’ return to his childhood home was not just a symbolic attempt at jumpstarting creativity. It came as a result of a series of major life changes. A decade ago, Williams released King of the Beach on the maverick indie label Fat Possum. 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.
In 2017, Williams self-released You’re Welcome on his label, Ghost Ramp. 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 a while, 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. The album features Williams’ most universal and urgent songs yet. “Honeycomb” lopes along sunnily, as Williams sings affecting lines like “I feel like I’m dying, it’s cool, it’s great, just pretend I’m okay.”
His directness is shocking, and proof that Williams is the kind of songwriter who can capture pain and uncertainty with resonant brutal force. “It’s real peaks and valleys with me,” Williams says. “I can be super optimistic and I can feel really good, and then I can hit a skid and it’s like an earthquake hits my life, and everything just falls apart. Some of it is my own doing, of course.” It’s this self-awareness that permeates each of Hideaway’s songs, marking them each as mature reckonings with who he is. 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.