After embarking on his biggest tour to date in support of 2012’s ‘Nocturne’, Wild Nothing’s Jack Tatum needed to do something drastically different. “I started feeling the urge to try new things even before I decided to sit down and write,” he explains of the process that led to 2013’s ‘Empty Estate’ EP. “I had my own mental backlash. It was partly exhaustion and partly feeling a need to move on from these songs. I feel like I had a bit of a reactionary period.”
After this frustration was given an outlet through the EP - “it felt good to slowly separate myself” - and the ‘Nocturne’ tour was completed by the beginning of 2014, Tatum’s opinion of his older material wasn’t so harsh anymore.
This state of mind led him to the begin work on ‘Nocturne”s follow-up, ‘Life of Pause’. “When I was thinking about the next full-length, it was still about wanting to do something different, but while still making it more consistent than what I tried on that EP. I knew that I wanted this record to be more cohesive, and a better overall statement of what I’m trying to do and trying to accomplish in the future. I think by doing that I had to take into account what I’ve done before, and I’ve always wanted there to be a natural evolution between the albums.”
‘Life of Pause’ was recorded in Stockholm and Los Angeles, the latter of which Tatum and his girlfriend have relocated to from New York permanently since the album was finished. “It’s a bit quieter, or at least it’s easier for it to be quieter,” he explains. “There’s inherent limitations [for an artist] living in New York. Space is an issue, and money’s always on the back of your mind.”
Tatum speaks of having to tame his desires for what 'Life of Pause' could become in the beginning simply because of logistics and location, with a lot of the fleshing out of songs having to wait until studio time was booked. "Whenever I had bigger ambitions, I had to plan for them in advance. I had to get really good at just sitting at my desk with one guitar and one keyboard and figuring out what I had to work with. Unless you're U2 or something, you can't afford to just go into a studio whenever and sit around and write music." As a result, every song on the album has a pre and post-studio version, making the birth of 'Life of Pause' very much a two-part story. "I can't help but see things through to the end as much as possible when I'm in the writing process, and I like to know where things are gonna end up before I book studio time."
2014 was largely spent relocating to "a normal, unassuming life" for the Virginia native, who took some time after the 'Nocturne' tour to readjust to life off the road. "Everyone needs some time to just live their life in order to be inspired. I think that's especially true of musicians. Everyone pulls inspiration from different things, and you need some time away from writing in order to be able to write again. It sounds obvious, but that's how that goes. I hadn't lived [in New York] for long, and had been on the road so much that I was only spending a month there at time, so it was the first time that I felt fully immersed in it, and comfortable living there."
Tatum speaks of never needing to "jump on a new album", and although it had been a long time since 'Nocturne', pressure wasn't reaching him with regards to its follow-up, "perfectly content to take as long as I needed." After the album was slowly and meticulously crafted in his apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Tatum headed to the Stockholm studio of the likes of Peter, Bjorn and John (John (Ericsson) drums on the record) with producer Thom Monahan for several weeks, an experience that Tatum found pleasingly uncomfortable.
"It was a bit of a brutal environment. It was very cold and dark a lot of the time, but also extremely peaceful. It allowed for me to really immerse myself, and I don't think I'd have had the same level of focus anywhere else. There was a lot of nervous energy that I was able to funnel into the record, and between that and jet lag, I wasn't sleeping much. I was just so excited."
"I had to get really good at just sitting at my desk with one guitar and one keyboard and figuring out what I had to work with."
— Jack Tatum
Tatum takes the time to reflect on his own perception of 'Life of Pause', and where he's come since the destructive period of 'Empty Estate'. "I do think that it's the best record that I've made in a lot of ways. I feel like it's the most varied, and the most adult," he explains, while also playing down the need for a "completely drastic re-direction".
"For people that are familiar with what I've done in the past, it'll make sense. I think there's a lot of parallels and familiar elements, but at the same time I think it's a different sounding record. I think I had certain goals with my other albums, and pretty specific ideas in terms of the things I wanted to reference, and what 'kind' of music I wanted it to be, but I feel like with this record I wasn't thinking about genres so much. Of course there's going to be stuff that it sounds like, and boxes it can be put in, but I wasn't consciously trying to make it do so."
The one thing Tatum wants from the reception of 'Life of Pause' is an understanding of his development, and an acknowledgement that he's not one to look backwards. "I hope there's a recognition of growth. I don't want people to automatically assume that they know what something I put out is going to be like. I would hate for someone to see that Wild Nothing is putting out a new album and think 'oh, I know exactly how this is going to sound'."
Wild Nothing's 'Life Of Pause' is out now. He plays a London show at Oslo tonight (13th June), with shows in Leeds (14th), Glasgow (15th) and Manchester (16th) to follow.