WILD NOTHING – ” The Albums “

Posted: September 7, 2018 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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In 2009, Wild Nothing’s Jack Tatum uploaded a dreamy cover of Kate Bush’s “Cloudbusting” and it spread like wildfire from blog to blog. Then a 21-year-old college student at Virginia Tech in  a quiet Blacksburg, town in Virginia, Tatum was hard at work on his debut album as Wild Nothing, 2010’s Gemini. The internet attention led to Captured Tracks releasing the LP, which was an excellent first full-length that highlighted Tatum’s near-obsessive fascination with ’80s music like Cocteau Twins and the Smiths. But more than that, it showcased a budding songwriter who could create his own gauzy and nostalgic world with a studious ear for timeless melodies.

Because of his talent and knack for developing lasting hooks, it’s no surprise that initial hype wasn’t a flash in the pan. Over four albums and almost a decade of recorded music as Wild Nothing, Tatum has constantly honed even the most compelling parts of his debut.

2012’s Nocturne, which was the product of his move from Virginia to Savannah, Georgia, and later to New York City, was a more intentional improvement on Gemini, in part due to the fact it was recorded in a bonafide studio. His 2016 return Life of Pause, which was recorded in L.A., found Tatum expanding his musical palate through subtle inspiration from soul music

Whereas Gemini was the sound of Tatum making the album he imagined in his bedroom and 2012’s Nocturne was the result of his first turn in a proper studio, followed by 2016’s Life of Pause, a multi-studio tinkering odyssey spanning time and spaces, this 2018 maturation finds Tatum arriving at total creative openness. “My entire 20s have been spent on this project, and in that sense you inherently find the limitations in what you make,” Tatum says. “With the last record I was trying to stretch out as far as I could, but with Indigo I’ve created something that has homed in on its own identity. My life has become less about chasing these creative bursts and more about learning to channel my creativity.”

Indigo, his most recent effort via Captured Tracks, is his most confident yet. Recorded in Los Angeles, it’s full of songs that cue from other acts like Roxy Music or Prefab Sprout but funneled through a lens that’s distinctly Tatum’s. Now a resident of Richmond, Virginia, Tatum has literally been unable to stay in one place, not just sonically.

Gemini

Gemini

On his 2010 debut album, Gemini, Jack Tatum’s frail vocals come warped in an oozing neon haze. Carefully orchestrated synth-pop arrangements, trebly guitar riffs and tattered drum machines blend together to create an intriguing, texturally rich glo-pop album that could come only from the young at heart.

Jack Tatum: I chose this song for a few reasons. I mean, it’s the first song on the record, but it’s also, if I remember correctly, the first song I ever wrote for this project and it just seemed like a cool place to start. The fact that it fades into the record always seemed like such a good introduction to this world, you know? I love fade ins and fade outs, even though some people hate them. When I started writing the first record, I was actually living in Virginia but I was spending the summer in Savannah, Georgia, because I had some friends down there at the time. I was hanging around in Savannah and just staying in my friend’s living room and I’d set up a recording zone there. That was the first song that I made.

At the time I didn’t really have a clear picture for what I wanted the project to sound like, I was just making stuff as I went and seeing what happened. I was obsessed with the Smiths at the time and the impetus was just that I wanted to write a song that sounds like “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.” It was basically in my own way of trying to copy that song but it ended up turning into the sound of that first record, unintentionally. And so I think through making that song, I kind of created a framework for the rest of Gemini in a way. It’s actually one of the few songs on that record that I never get tired of playing.

We started to tour quite a lot on Gemini, which was all very new to me. I played in bands in college and had been working on my own music since I was a kid, but really not on that level. We had started touring Gemini basically right when the record came out. We were touring quite a bit and I decided that I wanted to move somewhere else and I had friends in Savannah. I moved to Georgia and I was touring so much when I lived there, I never really settled in a lot ways. I only lived there for a year and, basically, I was just either touring or when I was back I was working on Nocturne.

Nocturne

Nocturne

Nocturne, the sophomore album by Wild Nothing, is a window into singer/songwriter Jack Tatum’s “ideal world” of pop music. Written largely while living in Savannah, GA during 2011, the songs that became Nocturne speak to a new Wild Nothing where the lines between Jack’s influences and personality have been further blurred. The album features some open references to past music just as his critically acclaimed debut Gemini did, but it’s also an album that feels much less rooted in anything in particular and, well, more adult.

Gemini was written before there were Wild Nothing fans or even a live band; Nocturne is different. With an unexpected fan base to turn to, Jack spent more time perfecting his craft. The obsessiveness of Nocturne is inherent in it’s gentle harmonies, orchestrated synths, wandering voice, and songs that speak of his post-Gemini experiences as he explores new paradoxes of pop. And yet, Nocturne isn’t obvious, it is a strange and distinctive musical beast, the product of an obsessive pop vision that creates its own reality.

The writing process for Nocturne was very isolated, and driven by being in this new environment where I never really felt like I had the time to fully settle or immerse myself in the city. In that sense, I just threw myself completely into the writing of this record. Around that time that I set this precedent, which I didn’t really mean to do and it’s kind of like a habit, but I realized that I’ve moved every time that I’m about to release a record. I don’t know if I’m subconsciously or doing it on purpose now or what. It’s funny. I moved to New York right around the time that I was finishing Nocturne up, after that, I moved to Los Angeles before Life of Pause and now before Indigo I’m in Richmond.  With “Nocturne,” I was just like, “OK, this is the sound of the record.” That usually happens where there’s this one song and it’s just something about it that just clicks and every following song revolves around it in a sense. The original demo is also very true to the way it ended up. In some ways, it was me trying to introduce more of a pop lean into my songs. Which isn’t to say that the first record didn’t have pop moments but I think with “Nocturne” I was looking to Fleetwood Mac and figuring out why I love that band so much and how I can write songs like that.

Life Of Pause

Life of Pause

When Jack Tatum began work on Life of Pause, his third full-length, he had lofty ambitions: Don’t just write another album; create another world. One with enough detail and texture and dimension that a listener could step inside, explore, and inhabit it as they see fit. “I desperately wanted for this to be the kind of record that would displace me,” he says. “I’m terrified by the idea of being any one thing, or being of any one genre. And whether or not I accomplish that, I know that my only hope of getting there is to constantly reinvent. That reinvention doesn’t need to be drastic, but every new record has to have its own identity, and it has to have a separate set of goals from what came before.”

Nocturne, marked the first time he’d been able to bring his bedroom recordings into a studio, to be performed and fully realized with the help of other musicians. There has been a set of wonderfully expansive EPs in between each – hinting at new directions and punctuating previous ideas – but with Life of Pause, Tatum delivers what he describes as his most “honest and mature” work yet, an exquisitely arranged and beautifully recorded collection of songs that marry the immediate with the indefinable. “I allowed myself to go down every route I could imagine even if it ended up not working for me,” he says. “I owe it to myself to take as many risks as possible. Songs are songs and you have to allow yourself to be open to everything.”

After a prolonged period of writing and experimentation, recording took place over several weeks in both Los Angeles and Stockholm, with producer Thom Monahan (Devendra Banhart, Beachwood Sparks) helping Tatum in his search for a more natural and organically textured sound. In Sweden, in a studio once owned by ABBA, they enlisted Peter, Bjorn and John drummer John Ericsson and fellow Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra veteran Pelle Jacobsson, to contribute drums and marimba. In California, at Monahan’s home, Tatum collaborated with Medicine guitarist Brad Laner and a crew of saxophonists. From the hypnotic polyrhythms of “Reichpop” to the sugary howl of “Japanese Alice” to the hallucinogenic R&B of “A Woman’s Wisdom,” the result is a complete, fully immersive listening environment. “I just kept things really simple, writing as ideas came to me,” he says. “There’s definitely a different kind of self in the picture this time around. There’s no real love lost, it’s much more a record of coming to terms and defining what it is that you have; your place, your relationships. I view every record as an opportunity to write better songs. At the end of the day it still sounds like me, just new.”

I had a feeling about this song when I wrote it. When it was in the demo phase, it sounded a little bit different and I didn’t know if I could include the song on the record. To me, when I first wrote it, I thought it sounded like a mainstream pop song, at least the way that it was in the demo. I might’ve gotten too deep into my own head there. In retrospect, there’s always songs where I think it should’ve been a single. It’s equally discouraging but encouraging to see that the song in particular had been streaming so well based off of nothing other than just fans liking the song. It’s amazing to see but I keep thinking it should’ve been a single.

It’s my favorite song on the record, too, for a number of reasons. I like that it has a pretty intentional hook on the chorus. I like that it’s a pop song that also has roots in a lot of soul and R&B records that I was listening to.

For whatever people’s opinions of that record are, I really love Life of Pause. I think a lot of fans kind of didn’t know what to do with that record but I feel like I’ll always have this song. This song was the perfect encapsulation of what my intentions were making it. “Whenever I” is not only a favorite song off that record, but it’s probably one of my favorite songs that I’ve written, ever.

Indigo

A lot of the songs on Gemini were like that, where I’d have an idea and record it in one day and move on. There might even be a few weeks where I wouldn’t record or work on anything. Whereas with this record, I finally set up a studio space in Los Angeles, that was kind of separate from my house so things had to be more intentional. It was weird. This record was much more about getting into a schedule of creativity, which sounds really dull but it was actually really interesting and just a different way to work. It was just like, “OK, I’m going to go into the studio to work for a little while and just see what comes out of it.”

It was one of the only songs on the record that I wrote in one sitting. I was just at home and I think my studiomate, who I was sharing my L.A. space with, was using the studio, so I was just at home. I wrote that song on acoustic guitar, which I rarely do except for maybe one or two per record. I started strumming around on some chords and wrote the lyrics, which I also rarely do. I’m such a procrastinator when it comes to lyrics. It was just a song that came together very quickly and I feel really proud of it.

To me, it sounds like a classic pop song. It’s got all the things in my mind that, that I love about listening to bands like Fleetwood Mac or Prefab Sprout or any reference point that I’m constantly looking to for inspiration. I actually personally think of it as an encouraging song about love but also has the vibe of that everyone is going to get their kicked teeth in. It could also be cynical about things as well.

the EP’s

Empty Estate

Empty Estate

In 2013, Tatum bookended the Nocturne-era with an EP, Empty Estate, that marked a real musical departure of its own; summery synth work and boisterous guitars an approach that swapped dream-pop for drone-pop.

In retrospect, it looks like a real precursor to Life of Pause, in spirit of intent if not in terms of its execution. “I thought that EP was great. A lot of people didn’t,” he laughs. “You know, one of the things that happened as I was finally getting off the road around that time is that I was beginning to relate to the music I’d been playing night after night. When I put out Gemini and Nocturne, I felt far too close to them to be able to analyse them, and there was a lot of paranoia in me about that. Especially in terms of going from being a new band to putting out a second record, because that’s when people really begin to form impressions about who you are, and what you’re interested in, and what you’re capable of.”

“Knowing that really bogged me down, and I had a lot of self-doubt about the music that I was making, so Empty Estate was this total reactionary thing, just me throwing a lot of stuff against the wall. I think that was probably the start of the shift towards trying to do things differently, and play around with a lot of fresh ideas.

The 7-song EP was recorded in Brooklyn at Gary’s Electric by Al Carlson in January and finds Jack Tatum exploring new sounds, new instruments and a new voice for Wild Nothing.

a great video from the “Empty States EP by Wild Nothing

The Body In Rainfall, Ocean Repeating (Big-eyed Girl), On Guyot, Ride, Data World, A Dancing Shell, Hachiko

Golden Haze EP

Golden Haze

Collecting the previously unavailable Evertide EP, a Gemini B-Side along with two new tracks, the charming and gorgeous Golden Haze EP is the culmination of Wild Nothing in 2010 and a stop-gap between the band’s debut, Gemini, and sophomore album, Nocturne.

Golden Haze, Quiet Hours, Take Me In, Your Rabbit Feet, Asleep, Vultures Like Lovers.

7″Single

To Know You

To Know You

On February 19th, 2016, Jack Tatum will return with his Wild Nothing album, Life of Pause, the follow-up to Nocturne. It features the first two singles “TV Queen” and “To Know You,” which you can purchase now digitally or as a limited edition 7″!

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