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A mostly complete and highly opinionated guide to Wavves vs. Black Lips

September 28, 2009 - 10:51 pm

IMG_6002  jaredblacklips.size_480

In case you haven’t heard, San Diego’s own Nathan Williams (the troubled boy genius behind the band Wavves) was involved in a not-so-little scuffle at a bar in Brooklyn with Black Lips frontman Jared Swilley. The whole incident has been blogged ad nauseam by more than just the usual suspects in the music media. Seems everyone can’t get enough of two hipster musicians exchanging fisticuffs over more than just a spilled PBR on a flannel-accented California Raisins tee-shirt. 

But if you haven’t heard, or you’re just trying to make sense of it all without having to jump from one tastemaking website to another, here’s a rather thorough, if not completely opinion- and conjecture-filled account of what has happened thus far (I’m sure anyone familiar with me expects nothing less than opinions and conjecture):

Wednesday, February 3: San Diego CityBeat publishes an article on Wavves by Todd Kroviak, long before anyone else does (has nothing to do with anything, but just sayin’…).

Thursday, May 28: Wavves’ Nathan Williams has an onstage meltdown at the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona. According to a review on Pitchfork, Williams mocked and berated the crowd while playing rough versions of the band’s songs. Drummer Ryan Ulsh, clearly annoyed, poured a beer over Williams’ head and eventually threw his drumsticks at Williams before storming offstage. Williams apologized in a blog post (which was later removed) saying:

“I think in the back of my head I knew I wasn’t exactly mentally healthy enough to continue to tour the way I have been since February. Honest truth is this has all happened so fast and I feel like the weight of it has been building for months now with what seems like a never ending touring and press schedule which includes absolutely zero time to myself. I’m sorry to everyone who has put effort into this and to everyone who supported me. Mixing ecstasy valium and xanax before having to play in front of thousands of people was one of the more poor decisions I’ve made(duh) and I realize my drinking has been a problem now for a good period of time. Nothing else I can do but apologize to everyone that has been affected by my poor decision making. I made a mistake. Not the first mistake I’ve made and it for sure wont be the last. I’m human. Don’t know why I chose the biggest platform I could imagine to lose my shit, but that’s life. You live and you learn.” 

Monday, June 1: Williams cancels the rest of the 26 dates left on his European tour. While he hardly needs to use the old “exhaustion” excuse, he heads home to regroup while still planning to play NY’s Bowery Ballroom, Pitchfork Music Festival, Street Scene and a few other shows (part of this regrouping includes jamming with drummer Zach Hill of Hella and Holy Smokes fame). Like The Eagles via Jackson Browne, he seems to just want to take it easy (fuck, that was a stupid reference).

Tuesday, June 9: Enter Black Lips’ Jared Swilley. Known to be outspoken onstage and off, Swilley calls out Williams on, of all places, NRK (Norway’s version of NPR or the BBC). When being asked about the Primavera Music Fest (where the Black Lips also played), Swilley had some choice fodder for the blogosphere claiming that a friend of hiss gave Williams ecstacy and that he should quit music and go back to school (highlights courtesy of Pitchfork):

“A friend of mine gave him MDMA (ecstasy), and he just couldn’t take it.”

“It wasn’t so much of a breakdown as it was him being a baby. And that’s why I don’t like him. I’ve heard stories from others that he’s like a real dick. And just like a baby, thought he was really cool. But then when it came down to it, when the pressure came on he just couldn’t take the heat. Some people can’t do this.

“That’s cowardly to me. If you’re gonna do this, you put your all into it. Otherwise, just stay at home. He’s like a little puppy.”

“There’s so many people that would wanna be doing that: being able to get flown over to Europe, and have people like your records and buying them. And then just blow it on your first show in Europe– someone like that needs to not do this. He needs to go back to school or move back in with his parents and sit down and think about things. He shouldn’t play music. He shouldn’t tour.”

Monday, June 29: Williams does a rather humble interview with Pitchfork where he attempts to explain not only his onstage meltdown, but the pressures of living up to his own hype. They don’t ask directly about Swilley’s comments and Williams never attempts to address them. Some highlights: 

“I guess I just got way too fucked up. That was basically the story. It was never anything except just a couple of bad decisions, and I don’t know. It is what it is.”

“I never expected to have this type of exposure, and I never expected to be doing these things. I think maybe it all hit me, and it’s just kind of a lot to process so quickly. I don’t know.”

“It just got so big so quickly. I think maybe I realized it, and it freaked me out a little bit. Obviously, I handled it in the worst way possible, but it was just… I don’t know.”

“It’s just, I think, the realization of how big it is maybe overwhelmed me, and I needed to take a step back and see what was in front of me and try and figure it out. Also, I was extremely fucked up and made a series of really bad decisions.”

“I obviously fucked up. But I can’t fuck up once? If people think that I’m not going to fuck up, there’s no reason to even come and watch me.”

“I don’t really know what to say, but the fact of the matter is that I’m not really that good. I wouldn’t say that I’m really like a guitar guy or anything like that. I can get by on the stuff that I play. I like writing and playing the songs. If people think that I’m not going to fuck up, then they’re wrong. And if they think this is like the last time I’m going to fuck up, they’re wrong too. Because I’m young. I’m kinda stupid. I’m human.”

Sunday, July 12: Williams breaks his wrist as well as bones in his hand and thumb while attempting a kickflip over a drainpipe while skateboarding. With a cast and a bottle of Vicodin, he still plays the July 15 show at Bowery Ballroom. [On a side note, I saw Williams chasing a white pill with a swig of PBR at the Strange Boys show at The Casbah on July 6, way before the skateboard accident, so I’m not positive that the Vicodin was, well, obtained legally. You can read about that here.] 

Saturday, July 18: Both Black Lips and Wavves play the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. While there are no reported run-ins between the two, Pitchfork does on-site interviews with both Williams and the Lips. Again, while Pitchfork’s not-so-intrepid Zach Kelly asks Williams nothing about Swilley’s comments, they do ask The Black Lips about Williams as if to stir the shit even more. This time, drummer Joe Bradley does not let Pitchfork readers down:

Pitchfork: I talked to Wavves earlier today…

Bradley: Did he break down in tears? 

Pitchfork: He did not break down in tears…When is your imminent breakdown?

Cole Alexander [guitarist]: We’ve had it multiple times.

Swilley: We’ve had it a few times but never in the public eye.

Alexander: We make an art of breaking down.

Tuesday, July 28: Williams plans massive North American tour after having surgery on his wrist. The itinerary includes two shows in New York on September 24 and 25. Two days later, The Black Lips reveal the rest of their summer tour plans, which includes a stop in New York on September 26. Black Lips later add a date on the 25th opening for Yo La Tengo at the Roseland Ballroom. Do you smell what the Rock is cooking? 

Saturday, September 5: Both The Black Lips and Wavves play the FYF Fest in Los Angeles without incident (thanks to Tyler Johnson for pointing this out).

Friday, September 25/Saturday, September 26: In the early morning on Saturday, Williams and friends–which included his girlfriend and tour manager (Mark, I presume. Can’t remember his last name)–head over to Williamsburg bar and hipster haven Daddy’s. Swilley arrives later and from there, naturally, reports are conflicting. NY blog Pop Jew in Brooklyn was the first to report on the fight:

“Now, I didn’t see exactly how the fight happened, but I had heard the gossip a few months back about Jared (from Black Lips) talking shit about Nathan on the Internet. Pitchfork went as far as to wonder if Nathan and Jared would have a confrontation when they both played this summer’s p4k fest in Chicago. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

Well, I suppose last night was the perfect storm. I didn’t see the beginning, but I did see people dragging Nathan and Jared apart, and then Jared and a popular DJ running at Nathan again, spilling beer all over everyone (including me), and punches being thrown. The lights at Daddy’s were turned on, the cops showed up, but Jared and the chick were not ready to stop fighting and were even trying to fight other people outside the bar. Jared was bloody. Nathan was fine. Insane. Weirdest indie rock moment I’ve experienced.”

Music website, Brooklyn Vegan later picked up the story and Williams issues an “official  statement” to them at 5:03 p.m.:

“Talking shit about me on the Internet is one thing, I can handle that all day but when some dude is just looking for a fight at 4 in the morning talking shit to my face and his girlfriend is spitting in the face of all my friends it’s a whole different story. I have no problem wih black lips or anybody else that i havent met but jared has been at me every chance he had. I just want to play music and have fun. It was unfortunate that it escalated to that point but he got what was coming to him.”

Sensing something’s fishy about Williams’ statement (“a walking spaghetti noodle with a terrible haircut doesn’t typically beat up rednecks- much less while wearing a cast on one arm.”), L.A.-based music site Buddyhead calls Swilley to get deets. Never one to be upstaged, Swilley channels his inner redneck and drops a F-bomb-laden (no, the other F-bomb) tirade against Williams:

“First of all, I just wanna say that Wavves was NOT involved in that fight. That faggot didn’t even touch me.

I’ve never ‘come after’ that kid, it wasn’t four a.m., that wasn’t my girlfriend, no one was spitting, and I didn’t attack him. I don’t give a shit about that kid and his music.

What happened was, after we finished our set I went to Daddy’s with some friends and saw that faggot from Wavves talking to a photographer friend of mine. The only thing I did was walk up to him and say ‘You’re that faggot from Wavves and I don’t like you’. He smiled a bit but didn’t say anything.

After that, I went outside and saw their tour manager hanging around with some guys. They started getting all chuckles with me and so I told them I wasn’t gonna have it. After that, Wavves tour manager hit me square in the face with a bottle. Blood started pouring out and six dudes fucking started kicking me until I blacked out.

All I remember is getting hit with the bottle and my friends dragging me to another bar. They wrapped my head up until I looked like a Confederate soldier.

So yeah, I lost the fight.

I also missed three flights. I’ve been in the airport all day having stewardesses cleaning my head because it kept cracking open. You can’t go on board if you’re bleeding.

Bottom line is that faggot from Wavves didn’t even hit me. Never touched me. And he should’ve, cuz he had a free shot.

He’s coming to Atlanta October 3rd and we’re gonna get ugly on him. We’re gonna destroy their van, we’re gonna destroy their faces, we’re gonna get crazy on em’. Nasty style.”

Saturday, October 3: I think Buddyhead’s little poster sums it up best:

HOWLERINTHEHILLS

My take: Okay, so here’s the thing. I’m originally from Atlanta and still have peeps in and around the music scene there. They’ll share their stories of Brent Hinds from Mastodon getting 86’d from bars for being a crackhead, how Michael Stipe hits on them, or how The Coathangers are total poseurs from Alpharetta (the Atlanta equivalent to Rancho Santa Fe).  Swilley’s name has come up every so often over the phone or while I’m in town and even though I’ve never met the guy, I get the sense that he’s a royal prick. The kind of guy who was probably picked on as a kid and later, when his mediocre garage-rock band became famous, started channeling his own inner bully. I’ve met Nathan once at the previously mentioned Soft Boys show and he was a nice guy, if not a bit shy (important to note that he had no idea who I was). 

I’m certainly free with my opinions so I can’t blame Swilley for doing the same. The difference here is that Swilley seems intent on criticizing Williams for things that he himself has done. I may be a dick, but I’m not a hypocrite. When The Black Lips were first starting out, they were notorious for being too fucked up to play and canceling shows. Swilley might be an old hand at the whole sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll thing by now, but that doesn’t mean he has to shit on someone for not being able to handle their drugs when he himself used to be the same way. He calls Williams a “dick” without ever meeting him (oh, wait, but his “friends” told him that Nathan was a dick). He calls Williams a “baby” when his friends gave Nathan drugs and he got too fucked up to play. Swilley has done that so many times! The only difference is that he, more often than not, played anyway and it usually sounded like shit even by Black Lips standards.

I’ve never been huge on Wavves either. But whatever my opinions on either band I think it’s clear that Swilley fucked up and got what was coming to him. I’m always quick to jump to the defense of anyone from my hometown, but when you call someone out on a public forum like the internet that’s disingenuous and impersonal. There’s another word for it: PUSSY. Hell, I’m guilty of it myself. And I suppose one thing that Swilley and I have in common, is that we wouldn’t say anything on the internet that we wouldn’t say to someone’s face (if, indeed, he did tell Nathan that he didn’t like him on Friday night). It seems that until the fight, and even now, Williams had been taking the high road in not responding to Swilley’s dissing. Swilley can get all high and mighty and talk revenge and Confederate strategy, but when your mouth writes a check your ass can’t cash, you deserve an ass beating.  Whether it was the tour manager, the girlfriend or the bouncer at Daddy’s, I don’t care who did it. That’s the Southern way. That the way.

Oh, and one more thing: I seriously doubt anything will happen in Atlanta. I think it’s pretty clear that Swilley talks a lot of smack and doesn’t necessarily back it up. I’ve got my people going out to the show so if anything happens, you can bet you ass I’ll report it here.

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. gugu permalink
    September 28, 2009 - 11:40 pm 11:40 pm

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  2. September 29, 2009 - 12:18 pm 12:18 pm

    http://www.sadtrombone.com/

  3. Seth Combs permalink
    September 29, 2009 - 12:27 pm 12:27 pm

    Oh, Scott, Scott, Scott. I have failed you once again. My pillow remains soiled in tears.

    Next time I’ll just post cool Scarface and American Psycho videos followed with a review on a book that no one else but you could possibly find interesting. 😉

    Rather than post funny little sound effects, why not let me know what you really think?

  4. September 29, 2009 - 2:19 pm 2:19 pm

    i think i love the sad trombone.
    http://www.sadtrombone.com/

  5. Seth Combs permalink
    September 29, 2009 - 2:47 pm 2:47 pm

    Touche, my friend. Touche.

  6. September 29, 2009 - 3:02 pm 3:02 pm

    seriously though? here are my thoughts:

    1. i can’t believe how buddyhead is exploiting this conflict . I find it disreputable, and even though Buddyhead has always done music biz gossip, i think he’s out of line here.
    2. Jared from Black Lips: First, he picked the fight. Second, he lost the fight. What else is there to say about that guy?
    3. I think that music bloggers imitating gossip bloggers is the death of music blogs, and I did it as much as anyone, but when you’re aping TMZ for page views, anyone who does that, is pretty much a prostitute.

  7. John E. Utah permalink
    September 29, 2009 - 3:27 pm 3:27 pm

    Personally, I think Black Lips dude just can’t get over that his band isn’t in the lime light anymore. That’s how it is nowadays with this garage/lo-fi music world we live in. One minute, your the coolest thing with the biggest stache and cut off cords, then another band comes along with an even shittier, I mean lo-fi, recording and they’re wearing toms (or whatever those shoes are) and riding fixed gears!

    Does anyone remember when the black Lips played at the Casbah around this time last year? The most annoying band ever. Constantly screaming into the mic about how they were going to stop playing if they don’t get more alcohol, and about the crowd not being cool enough, etc.

    Maybe it was about time that Black Lips got black lip’d. AnybodY? “Utah, give me two!”

  8. Seth Combs permalink
    September 29, 2009 - 3:29 pm 3:29 pm

    Well, to quote Perry Farrell, “What can you say when you’re a whore?”

  9. John E. Utah permalink
    September 29, 2009 - 3:37 pm 3:37 pm

    Ugghhhh…. I think most whores would say, “Hey Seth. The usual?”

  10. John E. Utah permalink
    September 29, 2009 - 3:38 pm 3:38 pm

    And… ya’ll got the tour managers name wrong. Nice investigating!

  11. Seth Combs permalink
    September 29, 2009 - 3:41 pm 3:41 pm

    The “whore” response wasn’t directed at you Keanu, but rather the man who commented before you. And I have investigated the manager’s name and have not gotten a response from either camp. If Mark is no longer Nathan’s tour manager then that’s my bad.

  12. September 29, 2009 - 3:43 pm 3:43 pm

    Seth Combs, at least Cat Dirt has more useful things to say about San Diego Music. You publish the same stories that nobody cares about. I really hope Todd K. gets your job because he seems to be the only saving grace. On a lighter note, your artwork does look way better! Nice job Adam!

  13. Seth Combs permalink
    September 29, 2009 - 4:35 pm 4:35 pm

    Wow, that kind of hurts my feelings. Hold on a sec, I’ll ask Ace and Todd what I should write about next….

    They said I should write that, since I don’t work at American Apparel, I must not be in touch with what readers REALLY want or what bands are cool. I’m sorry. I’ll quit today.

  14. September 29, 2009 - 4:36 pm 4:36 pm

    Personally, I would say… “Better working conditions for prostitutes…” but that’s just me. What do I know about the journalism business? Nothing.

  15. Seth Combs permalink
    September 29, 2009 - 4:44 pm 4:44 pm

    BTW, love your band. You guys were great at Tower Bar a few weeks ago. I was the bearded douche in the front. Tear. 😦

  16. September 29, 2009 - 6:42 pm 6:42 pm

    I would say you got me, but you don’t. Where a person happens to work does NOT constitute their likes of art, culture and, in this case, music. If it did, then i’d be wearing Deep-V’s while trimming a mustache with whatever band that happened to be on pitchforks front page blasting out of a mac. Unfortunately, that’s not me. Sorry. “Utah, give me two”

    Thanks. Glad you liked it! Tell Ace I say, “Bueno”.

    SDFucko Rules!

    BTW… Wavves and crew did laundry in Brooklyn yesterday. I’m assuming i’ll read about it in next weeks issue.

  17. Seth Combs permalink
    September 29, 2009 - 7:16 pm 7:16 pm

    Wavves did laundry yesterday?! I’m on it with my investigative reporting skills.

    SDFucko rules, huh? I actually love his site and have told him so. But talk about dumbing it down and writing about the same shit. The thing is man, I do what I do with my own name. I talk shit, burn bridges, but I never lie or hide my opinion. Up until the Street Scene review, I never had anything positive to say about Wavves. With Crocodiles, I love their music, but I gave them a bad review at Street Scene because they sucked. And those are just recent examples. I do exactly what SDFucko does but I do it with my own name, because I don’t need to hide behind an anonymous blog (I also write better than a second grader). To nitpick over one blog post and say that I do the same stories without citing any examples makes me think you don’t read any of my shit. All I did here was repost some info on a local guy and give my own opinion on it. That’s all. If you get in a fight with anyone I’ll be sure to write about that as well.

    But really, I appreciate your passion and your music. Your right that where you work doesn’t dictate much, that is, unless you work at Greenpeace or the like. I apologize for being snidey, but I thought it was low blow time.

    See you on the 16th Farmer. I like you and I like that you stir the shit.

  18. gugu permalink
    September 29, 2009 - 7:57 pm 7:57 pm

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  19. Seth Combs permalink
    September 29, 2009 - 8:34 pm 8:34 pm

    Yep.

  20. October 1, 2009 - 3:20 pm 3:20 pm

    Hey, I bet I can do more drugs then you and still play a shitty show. Faggot! It is nice being a trust-fund baby so I can do what ever the hell I want, and face zero consequences. You are gay. Hey, I have to start fights cuz I am “so bored”, you know, like they say in the song that I am secretly jealous of because it has gotten more press than my shit. You know what? I think I am gonna fuck up every possible opportunity that comes my way so I can just go to that scenester party back in my hometown where everyone thought I was awesome and there was free beer.
    —-ok, that is pretty much what I read in that interview. This from someone who actually kinda likes both bands. This is ridiculous. You are not so awesome that you can spit in the face of opportunity and potential success. And please try to think of a better dis than “faggot.” It makes you both seem like some bro-ee-, bible bangin’, red-necks.

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