Wild Nothing: ‘I Had Bigger Expectations For Myself’

Number 25 on DIY’s Albums Of 2012; Wild Nothing.

Wild Nothing’s Jack Tatum had released his dreamy debut ‘Gemini’ when he was still in his early 20s. Then this year he followed that up with the wistful beauty of ‘Nocturne’. Building on the sound of his debut, Tatum suceeded without ruining what made that album such a warm hug of a record. It was an album which was more expansive sound than that debut and one brimming with tender melodies and earworm synth hooks.

It’s also a record littered with references to night-time and dreams. Unashamedly inspired by the Eighties, Wild Nothing’s sound is all hazy, washed-out dreampop conjuring up images of New Order, The Cure and his beloved Fleetwood Mac (more of that later).

Yet, while ‘Gemini’ was a home-recorded word-of-mouth hit, with ‘Nocturne’, Tatum had to deal with the anticipation. He’s seemingly taken all this in his stride to deliver one of the albums of the year. We got together with him, to discuss the success of the record, how his year’s been and what he wants for Christmas.

How’s 2012 been for you?
It’s been good. I feel it’s just getting underway for some reason – we’ve only done one big American tour and we’ve just started this tour in Europe and the UK. So everything still feels fairly new with this album. It’s been a lot easier so far - a totally different experience than the last record. Then I didn’t know what to expect from everything but knowing what to expect has made everything a lot less hectic.

Have there been any highlights for you in 2012?
Well, a couple of weeks ago we played two back-to-back nights in New York at the Bowery Ballroom, which is a New York institution. Doing that was really special to me. That was fun.
I feel happy, I feel that the hump is over at this point with this album. I think with the second album you’re learning what you can do, the second album is a difficult album for a lot of people but I think now I’ve got passed that.

What’s the feeling when you release an album? Is it relief or anticipation of what the reaction’s going to be?
Yeah, it’s good cos it’s not this thing that you’re sitting on any more. For me the album was done for three or four months before it came out so you kind of feel like it’s this whole long waiting game and I think once the album is finally released there’s a feeling of relief. I was more worried leading up to the album and what people were going to think but there was a sense of relief when it was finally out there.

Did you have any ambitions for the album? Was it a different feeling that you wanted to achieve?
I was going for something a bit bigger and a bit wider in scope. I think with ‘Gemini’ there wasn’t a whole lot of forethought with that album. Going into the second album was definitely different as I had bigger expectations for myself and the people that I worked with did too.
Definitely with this album I tried to do a few things differently and sonically there’s a bit more going such as having live drums. And I think also this album is very much a cohesive whole – whereas I think with ‘Gemini’ there were certain songs you could pull out and say they are definitely the best ones.

Now you’ve played it live do you view the album differently or are there any songs you might changed?
I haven’t really noticed anything like that but I think one of the things with this album was that I was going into it thinking how it was going to be played later. That was always in the back of my mind so once we finally did start playing them together as a band it seemed quite a bit easier than it did with ‘Gemini’.
That was an entire album of songs that I had no idea how to play live, and it kind of felt I had to retrace my steps with the band and try and make it work. So this time it was always at the front of my mind how to make the songs work live. And so far it’s the best we’ve ever sounded.

So when you record you play every instrument?
Yeah I still did this on this album. Except the drums – I didn’t play the drums.

Is there a reason – is it control or you just enjoy playing them?
There’s an element of control freakness to it. That’s something that, I wouldn’t say I struggle with, but I think a lot of people who work in the creative industries get used to doing things on your own or doing it front of other people. And I think as an introvert I was more comfortable being creative on my own. It’s just how I know how to make music. And also for more boring technical reasons it made making this album a lot easier as I didn’t have a whole lot of time to work in the studio so it was easier for me to know all the parts myself streamlined things.

Could you see yourself changing this approach in the future?
I think I’ll always do that in some way - I don’t think I’ll ever stop making songs like that because I’m always working on my material at my house or whatever so that’s never gonna stop. In terms of the band and this project I don’t know what’s going to happen. I think there’s definitely some wiggle room in terms of the future.

You wrote a lot of the album in Georgia. Do you think environment affects the sound of what you’re creating?
I think so. I think definitely my lifestyle influenced it. Being in Savannah. It’s just a very slow pace of life down there and I think I got into a routine and kind of – trying not be cheesy, cos that’s the name of the album – but I felt like I was nocturnal when I was down there. My schedule got flipped upside down and a lot of the time I would stay up all night and sleep the rest of the day. And we were touring a lot so whenever I was at home it was never for more than a few months at a time so I never really felt rooted there or allowed myself to ‘live’ there in a lot of ways, it was always transitional and I think that definitely influenced the album, more so than the physical aspects of the state itself.

Is there a theme to the album? Is it a dreamy night-time idea?
Yeah it’s a lot of that. A lot of it’s similar to ‘Gemini’ in subject matter – it’s all pretty much circumstantial stuff: about moments or memories or relationships – and it’s portrayed in a half remembered way. And I think this album was cathartic in a lot of ways because it helps me if I can see things for how they are – that’s definitely how I am now. The first album I was romantic in a lot of ways and now I’m kind of jaded, not in a bad way, that’s just how it is.

When you record it on your own and then put it out to the world it must be pleasing to see the reaction?
It only really starts to hit home after we started touring cos you know you put the album out and there’s a certain amount of feedback you get and reading certain things which I did for a while but I stopped cos it’s unhealthy and you get this skewed opinion of it. We put together a new band with a couple of new members and started touring and it’s been really good so far and it’s nice. I feel like there’s a new fanbase in a way and it’s great to see how people are responding to it.

Is there a particular track that people are responding to? One that surprised you?
‘The Blue Dress’, which I didn’t really think would be one of those songs, but since we’ve started touring it’s been one of our favourite songs to play live and people really react to the energy of it. I also really enjoy playing the title track cos that’s my favourite song on the album and ‘Paradise’ has been fun to play cos it’s pretty upbeat.

I once read that you said your music is shaped by what pop music used to be or even what it could be in an ideal world. Is there anyone around at the moment who you would say is making music like that?
Gosh I’m so out of the loop with current music. I’m one of those people that looks backwards. There’s been a few. Most of the current bands are ones we’ve toured with – on Captured Tracks our label in the States. We’ve watched Mac Demarco play a number of times and he’s such a character and those songs are really good. And we’ve just done a tour with DIIV and I really like them as well. But they weren’t the type of pop records I was talking about when I said that. I think when I said that I was thinking about Fleetwood Mac because they’re one of my favourite bands and also because I’m totally impressed and surprised that there was a time when that band was the most popular band in the world. Because it is totally pure pop music but the songs are pure popsongs and I don’t think a band like that could exist in contemporary pop music. I’ve been thinking about that and people like Prince even and early Madonna that was hugely popular music.

And finally if we could get you anything for Christmas what would you choose?
I kinda wanna get a new bass. I’m so practical I’m sure it would be something musical. Every time I get a chunk of money I immediately blow it on an instrument that I don’t necessarily need but I want. I’ve really been wanting to get a Rickenbacker bass for years. It won’t be this Christmas but hopefully in the future.

Wild Nothing’s ‘Nocturne’ is number 25 on DIY’s Albums Of 2012 list. Find out more here.