Jack Tatum of Wild Nothing on a Musician's Hectic Lifestyle, Shoegaze and Europe

In 2009, Wild Nothing started out as Jack Tatum recording music on his laptop as a hobby. After posting a few songs to Myspace, Captured Tracks gave him a record deal. His debut album Gemini, released in May 2010, was featured on many year-end lists. Last year, he went on two European tours.

Joined by a live band, Tatum is about to start his first headlining tour. Wild Nothing is scheduled to play at The Rhythm Room Wednesday, February 2.

We caught up with Tatum to talk about Wild Nothing's beginnings, a musician's hectic lifestyle and the current wave of shoegaze.

Up On The Sun: How do you feel about your first headlining tour?

Jack Tatum: I feel really good, actually. It feels like we've been touring for a while because the album came out in May, and pretty much since then we've been touring regularly. I'm excited to do it with another band that I like. It feels like the right time to do this and see how it goes.

UOTS: How was your European tour?

JT: It went really well, we've been to Europe twice now, the latest one being about a month or so ago. It went well, it was interesting, there's slight differences between touring here and touring over there. I think it's a good way to change things up going over there and playing shows. This last tour we did over there was actually kind of miserable because I had Mono and I didn't know it while we were on tour, so I had to struggle through it.

UOTS: Tell me about your recording process. What's it like being a one-man band?

JT: I've been recording since I was 15 or 16 to certain levels. I've always been interested in doing it myself and I made it work writing all the different parts on my own. When I started working on the album, it felt natural to me to want to do it all myself. I've never really tried to write songs with anyone else. I just did it in my bedroom, so it wasn't anything terribly special.

UOTS: Do you think you're going to do the same thing for future releases, or will you work with your live band?

JT: I haven't quite decided yet. I'm hoping to start the writing and recording process for the next album, hopefully soon, I guess after this tour. For now, I'm content just writing by myself and we'll see how it goes. I haven't started doing that quite yet.

UOTS: How did you get signed to Captured Tracks? Did you give them a demo, or did they find you?

JT: I had recorded a few of the songs that ended up on the album on Myspace. I wasn't really looking for anything, or trying to do anything with it at the time, but I just added a couple smaller labels like Captured Tracks. Mike [who] owns Captured Tracks decided to listen to it on a whim and messaged me a few days later and asked if I wanted to do a record. It was all very out of the blue and just kind of a lucky break.

UOTS: How do you feel about Gemini being on so many "Best of 2010" lists?

JT: It feels really good. It's incredible, honestly, for something like that record, just because I did do it all myself. It felt really personal to me and I didn't really think of it as anything other than just something for me. So, for it to have done as well as it has and end up on year end lists is kind of baffling to me, but it is really, really cool.

UOTS: Who is the girl on the cover of Gemini?

JT: I actually don't know who the girl on the cover is. The photo was taken by this woman, Joanne Rutkowski. I just found the image on Flickr, I forget how, but I got in touch with her about using it and she let me do it. It's a bizarre photo and I really like it. It's hard to take your eyes off because it's so strange. That's what I liked about it.

UOTS: Was it already composed like that?

JT: No, no, that's just the photograph that she took. I don't know exactly how she achieved it, if it was manipulated or some sort of double exposure or something.

UOTS: I saw in earlier interviews that you were considering moving to New York. Did you end up doing that?

JT: No, I actually didn't end up doing that. I was thinking about it for a while, I think it was when we had just gotten back from our first European tour. I know a lot of people in New York, I have a lot of friends that have moved up there and have met a lot of people up there since...with the record label and everything. I was considering it for a while, but it never ended up happening. I think after touring for a while, I got tired of being in that kind of environment. Music is everywhere and it kind of takes over people's lives and I wanted to get away from that when I wasn't on tour. I actually moved to Savannah, Georgia with my girlfriend and some other friends just recently, like a couple weeks ago.

UOTS: I assume that's a larger music scene than Blacksburn, VA?

JT: Yeah, but at the same time it's not. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot going on here musically, but it's what I wanted because I like the idea of a music scene being a place where there's music going on. At the same time I kind of felt like part of my inspiration was coming from a place where that didn't exist. A place like Savannah is great because it's still a good-sized town and there's a lot going on, but I can still escape from the whole competitive music thing if I want to.

And that way you can just live your life and it's not all about being a musician.

JT: Yeah, exactly. You get tired of living that kind of lifestyle when you're on the road and everything; you're always surrounded by music. I love it, but at the same time, it's nice to escape from it.

UOTS: Do you get tired of all your comparisons to The Cure, or is it flattering?

JT: (laughs) I don't get tired of it, no, but it is flattering to me because a lot of the bands I get compared to, I intended for that, or those were the bands I was listening to, so no, I'm not offended. But it gets a little tiring when that's the only thing that people tend to say, but at the same time, I only have myself to blame for that. That was what I was going for and what I wanted.

UOTS: Do you think you'll be exploring different sounds in the future?

JT: At least for now, I think there's still a lot that can be pulled from those genres. Those bands have had a huge impact on me in terms of the way I write and what I look for in [the] music I like. In a lot of ways, I think those things will still be there, but it's also important to me to challenge myself to do something else. It's not that those are the only bands that I listen to, it's not the only genre of music that I'm interested in. I think the important thing to me is if I'm able to keep writing pop songs. I love the idea of a classic pop song whether it's Motown or 80's indie pop. That's what's sparked me as writing songs that have hooks and structures. That's what I look for when I'm making music.

What are you listening to right now?

JT: I really like the new Destroyer album. I'm trying to think of other new stuff...I really like the new Minx record, Minx is another band on Captured Tracks. For older stuff, I get in these moods where I listen to the same stuff over and over again. I've also been listening to Chameleons...oh, I don't even know. Actually, I just got my record player set up. It's been in the closet for months and months, so I can listen to my records, which is really exciting to me.

UOTS: I've been listening to Destroyer a lot as well.

JT: Yeah, it's really good. I've liked him for a while. Destroyer's Rubies is one of my favorite records too. I love them.

UOTS: How do you feel about today's resurgence of shoegaze?

JT: I think it's great, anything to get people to listen to and appreciate that music is fine by me. I think it's interesting how- this is true of any musical trend- a lot of times you see these waves of interest raise for different genres and it's funny that now has been the time for that to happen a little bit more than other times. In the 90's people didn't pay much attention to that as they might now. The shoegaze term gets thrown around a lot with bands nowadays, whether that's something they intended or not, I'm not really sure.

UOTS: Aside from the tour and maybe working on a new album, what are your plans for 2011?

JT: I don't know. After this tour we don't really have much going on. This summer, we might go back to Europe. I think we're doing a couple Canadian festivals, maybe. The big thing for me is hopefully working on that new album and getting out new material. But for now, I've also been writing songs, so we might try to do something with that.

UOTS: Where there any European countries that you particularly liked?

JT: Yeah, absolutely. The whole thing is such a culture shock in a good way. I think we had overall a pretty warm response over there. In particular the UK has been good for us both times we've gone over, especially London and Manchester. For me especially, because a lot of the bands I idolize are from the UK. I really enjoyed Sweden. Germany's always fun, Berlin's cool. It's hard to pick a favorite.

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Melissa Fossum
Contact: Melissa Fossum