Wild Nothing
TMN Exclusive Interview + A Woman's WIsdom (Official SIngle)

Few people are able to conjure up such a visceral response through their artistic medium as multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and chief architect behind one of the most lauded music projects over the last decade as has the L.A. via Blacksburg, VA (and a few cities in between) Wild Nothing frontman Jack Tatum. Clearly a pensive and grounded artiste, Tatum’s abundant knowledge of music pours throug Wild Nothing’s pop-structured, but genre-eschewing catalog. Tatum and Wild Nothing’s sound has always toyed between abstract and direct, which has resulted in some of the most velvety, lush indie-pop tunes we’ve ever exposed our cochlear cavities to.

Last week, jut ahead of the start of Wild Nothing’s current international tour, we had the chance to catch up with Jack and see what’s been going on since the release of Life of Pause and ahead of yet another hefty jaunt across the world. Check out our show preview for Wild Nothing’s upcoming Red Bull Sound Select Showcase in Denver this Saturday with Inner Oceans & Flaural at the Bluebird Theater, and be sure to read our entire transcript below.

The Music Ninja (TMN): First off, let’s just take a second to thank you for taking the time to let us pick your brain and answer a couple of questions.

JT: Absolutely.

TMN: I’ve been a very vocal Wild Nothing consumer since your excellent 2010 debut, Gemini, and this past February you added another worthy addition to the Wild Nothing long-player catalog with Life of Pause which was the follow-up to perhaps my favorite album in the last 5 years, Nocturne. So, another thanks is in order for consistently creating some of the most tasteful sounds we’ve consumed in the past decade. So let’s get into it.

Jack Tatum (JT): Wow, yeah, thank you, for those very kind words.

TMN: Obviously an artist can undergo quite a sea-change as far as personal tastes and aesthetic go in a 7-year period; and with every passing release it seems like another piece of your psyche gets revealed both aurally and stylistically. We know you’ve probably answered this more than a few times on this latest round of press obligations, but were there any significant events going on in your life that sparked this burst of creativity and some of the material on Life of Pause, or was the writing and recording process pretty similar compared to your other EP’s & LP’s?

JT: Ummm… I don’t know. Not necessarily. I don’t know, for the sake of not making myself sound too boring…

TMN: Hahaha not at all.

JT: I’ve never really been someone that wrote kind of in response to any one sort of scenario or event in my life. I guess you could kind of say with the first record (Gemini) it definitely was very much a response to the relationship I was in at the time. And it’s, you know, a very mood based record… A very sort… of I don’t know how exactly I would describe it. But, as I’ve continued to write, I’ve found that I don’t necessarily need a spark to start writing. I think especially as I’ve gotten older I have been equally writing from experience as I am just to write and out of interest, or just purely composition, or trying to achieve a certain kind of sound, or something like that. But, yeah, I put out Nocturne in 2012 and then had the Empty Estate EP in 2013. And that EP in a way was kind of a response to Nocturne, just because we had been touring on Nocturne for so long…

TMN: Yeah we actually caught you on that tour at the Larimer Lounge and it was one of my favorite shows of the year by far.

JT: … Oh yeah cool! But anyway, I wanted to do something that just felt a little looser and felt a bit quicker, and that EP came together extremely quickly. I think I had two months off in between tours, and so I just kind of wrote and recorded it in that period of time. Which I don’t usually do, I mean it’s pretty rare that I actually write something so fast and immediately go record it. I’m definitely more the type who likes to mull things over, but yeah, I think that kind of in away, that EP inspired at least a desire to start exploring new territory on some level, which I think continued into this record. And I think with Life of Pause, I wanted to kind of take that mentality but also try and be a little bit more refined with it and piece together an LP which felt a little more cohesive.

TMN: Yeah, speaking of the Empty Estate EP. You dropped that record back in 2013, marking the longest stretch between Wild Nothing releases since your inception. Sometimes, when artists get that extra time to tinker with their material, they can wind up doing too much to a track or maybe taking things too far from their original concept. Did the extra time to work on this record manifest itself in any interesting ways on Life of Pause? Did you have to throw anything out at all?

JT: Yea, yeah definitely. I think given how much time did pass in between, there is a lot of unreleased material in some form or another. I do so much recording at home still, just demoing things, and I think I’ll always do that. I did that with Nocturne, and I did that with this record, where I demoed all the songs beforehand and, sometimes that can be pretty in depth where I pretty much know exactly how I want the song to sound before I go into the studio, and other times it’s a little looser. But, yeah, there was a lot of stuff that got left behind for one reason or another and I think that was just part of trying to figure out what I wanted to do.  And there were a lot of songs that sort of felt like a continuation of Nocturne, and that was fine, and I liked them but I think ultimately I wanted to do try and do something a little different. It was partly just seeing if I could, and partly because it just felt healthy.

TMN: So then, would you say thematically this is a pretty far departure form Nocturne? You said there were a few songs that were written as sort of a follow up to Nocturne, that ended up getting left out, but do you think Life of Pause is its own independent concept?

JT: I mean, I do kind of view it as its own thing, but at the same time, I think for people that are familiar with the music, if you listen to it, it makes sense. I don’t think it’s anything that’s going to throw anybody for a complete loop.

TMN: But I can definitely work out to Life of Pause more so than I did to Nocturne. *laughs*

JT: Oh yeah? *laughs* Yeah, I’ve had a lot of people say that this record feels happier, or lighter or something. But, I think it’s true on some levels. There was definitely kind of a moodier tone on the first two records. But that wasn’t really a conscious thing nceessarily with this record, that was kind of just how it went. But, I still am very proud of those older records. And at times I have the inclination to revisit some of those ideas, and I don’t know… that’s the thing. Because I’m constantly making music, this just happens to be the the most current thing I put out, or the most current incarnation and it’s alwasy sort of shifting and I like it that way, I think I would get bored just making the same record.

TMN: Nice. Shifting gears again. In the past, you recorded pretty much every instrument’s tracking yourself. How about on Life of Pause. Did you enlist any other musicians or did you attack things solo again?

JT: It was pretty much the way that I’ve alwasy operated. But, it did feel a little bit different at times. I worked with a new producer, Tom Monaghan.

TMN: Who else has he worked with in the past?

JT: I feel like the most known things that he’s done umm… He’s done a handful of Devendra Banhart records and Beachwood Sparks. And I came into him through a roundabout connection. There’s this band Medicine, they’re an older band, I guess you could call them a ‘shoegaze’ band. So, he had worked with them, and the label that I’m on, Captured Tracks had reissued some Medicine stuff, and also put out a few newer Medicine records. Anyway, so that was the connection and how I ended up starting talking to Tom and we just really hit it off. There were also several other musicians who came into the mix and I think with this record I did leave more holes in the demo process than I had before. There were certain songs where I would think to myself “Wouldn’t it be great if I had this instrument?” and “Wouldn’t it be great if I had someone come in and play the sax, or add these marimbas?” and things along those lines. Which is great, because that happened. And I think by leaving those holes I allowed myself to kind of, invite a bit of collaboration. Not a ton, but more than I had in the past *laughs*.

TMN: Totally. And you split time recording between Sweden and L.A.?

JT: Yeah we did.

TMN: How did you end up choosing between those two locations to inspire your recording process?

JT: Well initially it was all going to be done all in Los Angeles. And that’s where Tom is based. So, the initial conversation was the we were going to do it all in LA, and I had actually gotten used to that idea because we were still in the process of just talking about doing the record and I was still demoing things out and hadn’t quite finished everything that I wanted. So, I  was thinking we were gonna be in L.A., and I liked that, I started thinking about this idea of making this very sort of “American” record. And you know, L.A. has such a rich recording history so I kind of romanticized the idea in my head. But, then we were looking for a drummer for the record, and Tom had worked with Peter Bjorn and John before on some stuff. So John who plays drums in that band was available to do it, and they ended up talking independently of me, and they ended up inviting us to come to their studio in Stockholm.

TMN: Ahhhhh, that makes sense.

JT: Yeah so that’s how we ended up there. And i was actually really excited about it, because it was one of those things where the idea just came about and we were like “Okay let’s do it” and we just booked our tickets and did it. And I’d always had a personal interest in spending some time there, because I’ve always had an infatuation with Scandinavia and Sweden in general.

TMN: Awesome. Well, you’re just about to kick off a pretty serious, international tour supporting Life of Pause. We talked about how you recorded much of Wild Nothing’s instrument tracking by yourself, piece by piece. However, in a live setting, it’s obviously not quite possible for you to play every instrument at once. What will the rest of the band look like for this latest tour, and what goes into picking and assembling a proper troupe to give justice to Wild Nothing’s studio sound?

JT: Initially when I had first started doing this, it was kind of a challenge because I had made the first record all by myself and it was a matter of assembling a a band after the fact. But, I was living in VA at the time  because I went to school in VA ,and grew up in VA, and two of the guys who are still in the band and have been since the very beginning, Nate & Jeff, went to school with me, so we’ve been playing together for ages. So that’s great because right off the bat we have this very easy relationship, and everyone has a good sense of what it’s going to take, and we’ve done this so many times now. Meeting up and rehearsing and learning new songs, so it’s all pretty smooth. And other members have come and gone, but the lineup we have for this tour is going to be really good. It’s pretty much  just what we’ve been doing for a while now with the five-piece band. Pretty typical ‘rock’ band setup of two guitars, bass, keys and drums. We’re actually in the process right now of rehearsing and getting all the songs together for this tour which is really fun. But, it’s a lot to figure out, a lot of pieces of the puzzle to fit together.

TMN: Yeah, and I feel like when you’ve layed down a record yourself completely, it might be fun to hear another person’s interpretation of that composition.

JT: Yeah it is cool. And I think when I was younger, 6 or 7 years ago, I kind of fought that a little bit and might get a little frustrated if something didn’t sound how I wanted. But, the older I get and the more I play with these guys, it feels good. I like the idea that they’re going to play a little bit different than me. And we’re pretty in sync at this point, so it’s cool, I like that the songs breathe in a different way. They’re not that different from the record, but it’s definitely the live version.

TMN: Yeah, it provides two different experiences as well where you’re not just listening to the record anymore.

JT: Yeah exactly. Because they are two different experiences and I think they should be treated that way.

TMN: So, you mentioned Captured Tracks earlier. This was officially Wild Nothing’s fifth release with them. They must be pretty great to work with since you’ve returned time after time to release with them. Do you see yourself putting out all of your material with Captured for the foreseeable future?

JT: You know I have had an awesome relationship with Captured, and also I think a pretty unique one really because when you think about where Captured is now right now, they’re much larger than where they were when Gemini came out. And it’s great, because I think they’ve really sort of stuck to their mission which has always been to sign unknown bands, and build them up, and also I think what started as a very niche thing, and very genre specific thing has slowly evolved now to be more inclusive of different kinds of music which I think is really cool. And obviously you have the success of Mac DeMarco and DIIV, and so they have bands that are really sort of like, beefing up the label so to speak. But, the great thing about it for me has been that we both sort of started on an even playing field in a way because, you know, I didn’t know what I was doing in the beginning when I started this band, and the label was still a small operation at the time. And they’ve done an extremely good job of growing with their bands. As Wild Nothing has found more success over the years, they’ve always been… there’s never been any slack. They’ve always been like “Okay, we’re gonna do what we have to do”. So yeah it’s great. I’ve put out a lot of stuff with them, and I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future but we have a good relationship and I don’t think that’s ever going to change.

TMN: Awesome, awesome. Well okay, enough of the standard drivel, but thanks for answering the standard fare. Let’s break into a little more of the random fun stuff. Let’s hop in a time machine. What was your favorite album, record store and the band you most identified with at the tender age of 18?

JT: At the age of 18… I was still in Virginia. I turned 18 at the end of my senior year of high school… Well, there’s a record store, this chain of record stores called ‘Plan 9’ which is in Virginia and I want to say the only one around anymore is in Richmond, the original, but at the time there was one in Williamsburg. But, that was like my childhood record store and I went there all the time and found out about so much stuff there. In Blacksburg though where I went to college at Virginia Tech, and there wasn’t really a record store per se there.

TMN: What about an album or something that you maybe gravitated towards when you were 18?

JT: Man, this is making me feel old because that was like ten years ago now!

TMN: It’s like a question you’d get in therapy…

JT: *Laughs* Yeah I don’t know, when I was in high school I was very much trying to keep up with what was new. I was really into Broken Social Scene my senior year. I was really into Phil Elvrum & The Microphones too.

TMN: Okay, how about nowadays. How do you find new music these days, and who have you been listening to and have there been any artists currently within the landscape of music inspiring you to sort of push your craft as an artist?

JT: Yeah definitely. I find about music in a lot of the same ways that I used to. You know, just from friends, but I do a lot of digging too. There have been kind of a handful of random sites that I go check out, but mostly I listen to older music now, I mean at a certain point I kind of gave up trying to keep up with everything that’s happening that’s new, and I just can’t keep up anymore. So, I’m much more interested now in just kind of finding weird gems from past decades and stuff like that.

TMN: Yeah I keep relating to the LCD Soundsystem song “Losing My Edge” more and more as I get older. *laughs*

JT: *laughs* Yeah, it’s real. Very real. Yeah, but honestly even like Spotify is great for finding new music, they don’t have everything but they have a lot of stuff. And it’s also great for maybe stuff or bands you’ve heard of but never really listened to and maybe missed out on in the past that you maybe wouldn’t have taken a chance on and spent the money to buy the CD at the time, but now that you have a streaming service and it’s there and you ding into this stuff, you end up finding these gems. But, I don’t know, as far as what I’ve been listening to recently. A lot of 70’s and 80’s stuff. I’ve been really obsessed with this record by Bill Nelson, who… sort of seems like one of these guys that  just never really got his due. He was in this band Bebop Deluxe which was sort of this glam-rocky band kind of, and then they sort of shifted into synth-pop a little bit. But, I’m very much into the late 70’s, early 80’s kind of stuff right now. That sort of weird, awkward middle ground between New-Wave was out and Post-Punk started taking hold

TMN: What is your drink of choice while performing a Wild Nothing show?

JT: Probably just like water… or beer.. or tequila. *laughs*

TMN: Nice. Okay, a lot of musicians seem to develop an emotional bond with their instruments throughout the years. Have you had any specific pieces of gear or instruments that were your favorite in regards to creating a Wild Nothing tune?

JT: Yeah, yeah absolutely. I’ve got a telecaster I’ve had since I was about 15 years old and I’ve written nearly every song on that guitar basically. Well, every song that started on guitar. I have a lot where the idea came about on a keyboard or bass or whatever, but yeah it’s just been the guitar I’ve toured with the most and it’s just, I feel like everyone has a guitar that they just get used to and whenever they play a different guitar it’s weird. I mean I have guitars now that… you know I have too many guitars basically. I have a ton of guitars that are worth a hell of a lot more than this telecaster I bought for $500 when I was 15, but I just can’t, I don’t know I just can’t get around it. I just know that piece so well.

TMN: So with the tour rapidly approaching, it seems appropriate to ask. What are three items that you have to travel with while on the road?

JT: Ummm…. let’s see. I mean this might seem obvious, but I gotta have my headphones. I have to be able to listen to music and just zone out my band mates if need be. Umm… clean underwear man. You can never have enough or pack as much as you need. You don’t really get chances to do laundry that often and there’s nothing more demoralizing than perfomring with dirty socks and underwear on. And last, I’d say a book, and I’m going to bring several books on this tour. But, if I’m being completely honesr with myself, I hardly ever read on tour. I’m usually too hungover and tired from performing to read *laughs*


JT: Awesome cool!

TMN: Thanks so much again for taking the time out of your day. Like I’ve said, I wonder how many hours I’ve spent listening to your music and it was a real pleasure to chat with you.

For our friends in Denver, join us this Saturday at the Bluebird Theater for Wild Nothing, Inner Oceans & Flaural, and check out the rest of their tour dates below.

Wild Nothing 2016 Tour Dates:

04/30 – Denver, CO @ Bluebird
05/02 – Minneapolis MN @ Triple Rock Social Club
05/03 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall
05/04 – Ferndale, MI @ The Loving Touch
05/05 – Toronto, ON @ The Opera House
05/07 – Philadelphia, PA @ 714
05/08 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
05/09 – Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair
05/11 – Washington, DC @ Black Cat
05/12 – Richmond, VA @ The Broadberry
05/13 – Raleigh, NC @ Kings
05/14 – Atlanta, GA @ Shaky Knees Music Festival
05/15 – New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa
05/16 – Austin, TX @ The Mohawk
05/18 – Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
05/20 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Regent
06/04 – Barcelona, ES @ Primavera Sound
06/09 – Porto, PT @ Primavera Sound
06/11 – London, UK @ Field Day Festival
06/13 – London, UK @ Oslo
06/14 – Leeds, UK @ Belgrave Music Hall
06/15 – Glasgow, UK @ CCA: Centre for Contemporary Arts
06/16 – Manchester, UK @ Band on the Wall
06/18 – Hilvarenbeek, NL @ Best Kept Secret Festival
06/20 – Paris, FR @ Le Point Ephemere
06/22 – Hamburg, DE @ Knust
06/23 – Berlin, DE @ Lido

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