Jack Tatum of Wild Nothing: An Interview

Jack Tatum

Jack Tatum, and his on-tour band, Wild Nothing, will be making an appearance at Thalia Hall next month. Here’s what Jack has to say about the band and his new album, Life of Pause.

CM: Who is Wild Nothing?

J: Wild Nothing is me, Jack Tatum. I started the project in 2009 and it just started as a recording project mostly and I was just doing everything myself. I was playing all of those instruments and playing all the songs and recording them myself. So that’s how it went down from the first record, and from there it kinda gained traction. I still write all of the music and play a lot of the instruments on the album, but it has kind of expanded a little bit since then.

CM: You have a band that comes out on tour with you, how did you become involved with them?

J: The lineup has changed a little bit over the past six years or so, but there’s a couple guys in the band. There’s Nathan who I went to school with in Virginia. I grew up and went to school in Virginia and this whole time I was working on the songs that ended up on the first record. I was sort of playing in other bands, nothing serious, it was pretty casual. So I had friends that were musicians, and I asked them if they would be interested in playing in this band and playing these songs. So they did, and they’ve been with me ever since. But like I said, people have sort of come and gone. We have done a ton of touring since then.

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Wild Nothing.

CM: What artists (past or present) have influenced to become the artist you are today?

J: I have so many. I have always been interested in alternative rock. When I was a little kid I listened to a lot of that. I’m 27, almost 28, so when I was growing up the first record I ever got was a Green Day record. So that was just kind of like the time you know? I listened to a lot of pop punk stuff when I was younger, but in the background there was always my parents music which was always around. They obviously listen to a lot of stuff you would imagine parents listen to, like Simon Garfunkel and Rolling Stones, you know. They were also really into REM. When I was growing up they were always listening to House so that had an effect on me as well. When I was writing the songs that ended up on the first record, I was definitely into a lot of British music from the 80’s, and bigger bands like The Smiths and The Cure. But my taste is always changing and evolving. I just love music. I could listen to music all the time. I don’t really limit myself to anything. I think with the new record I put out recently, that sort of shows.


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Jack Tatum


CM: You recently came out with Life of Pause, what was the creative process like when developing that?  

J: I mean most of my records start out in the same way, it’s very very casual. I’m kind of writing songs as they come to me. Especially with this record there was a lot of downtime in between records. When you look at the years, like I put Nocturne out in 2012 and this one came out in 2016, it seems very drastic on paper, but in reality it’s not all that crazy, you know? I put out an EP in 2013, and we were touring pretty much up until the beginning of 2014 and then from there I just started working on songs, slowly but surely. I did sort of have bigger ambitions for this record though, and I didn’t have a clear cut vision of what it should be. There were a few guidelines that sort of pushed this record, and I definitely did make an effort to write songs that did feel a little bit different for me. Nothing super dramatic but I did want to see where I could push myself and veer off into a few different directions. There was a lot of traveling with this record. We recorded some in Sweden, in Stockholm, and then did most of it in Los Angeles. I wanted it to be a bigger record, and sound more like a studio record. I think I accomplished that.

CM: You played almost every instrument on this record. Which instrument part was your favorite to write and record?

J: Yeah almost. There were a few parts, like I didn’t play saxophone, I didn’t play drums or marimba, but other than that I pretty much played everything. But I really did enjoy writing and recording the bass parts on this record. I’ve always liked writing bass lines for my music. I feel like it’s sort of an underrated instrument. I feel like unless you’re a musician, you don’t really think about what the bass is doing too much. It’s more like a subconscious thing. You’re aware that it’s there but you’re not really aware of what it’s doing. But for me, it’s very exciting because it can be very melodic, but it also needs to be the thing that’s holding it down and laying down the framework for a song. I like that dichotomy of needing to be grounded and also being able to move around with it and have these little flourishes that also serve as almost micro-hooks.

CM: When your career started, you were just a college kid recording in your bedroom. Thinking back on that, did you ever expect to become such a successful musician?

J: No not at all, just because it was so casual when I was working on music in college, and I always viewed it as a hobby. I never viewed it as a realistic goal. I’ve always been a realist in a lot of ways. I’m the kind of person where you ask me what my dream car is, and I mean I just bought a 2007 Volvo, and I’ll be like “That’s it. This is the car I’ve been dreaming of.” I’m not the kind of guy that dreams of a Lamborghini. So for me, I couldn’t even imagine that I would be able to get to do music as a career. It just kind of happened for me.

CM: What has been your favorite live performance thus far?

J: We’ve had a lot of memorable shows. We’ve been to a lot of amazing places. I mean I always mention going to Japan, because that’s something I had wanted to do since I was a kid. So getting to play some shows in Tokyo was amazing. We’ve played a lot of festivals all over the place, but honestly my favorite shows usually are the smaller club shows. Like this tour we’re getting ready to do, we’re going around playing clubs and theatres. That’s my favorite thing to do.

CM: What can we expect to see from Wild Nothing in the future?

J: We’re just focusing on playing shows right now, just because I did take so much down time with writing and just living a normal life – which is where I feel most comfortable. So definitely more shows over the summer and hopefully more in the fall. I’m just really excited to travel again and go back to all these places we went to on the last cycle.

CM: When you come to Chicago, is there anything specific that you are looking forward to?

J: I’ve been told that the venue that we’re playing, Thalia Hall, is amazing. My friend Colin, who plays in the band Dawes, said that he played there and it was his favorite place that they played on the entire tour. I hear that there’s amazing food right next door basically, so I’m excited for that. I’ve also got a handful of friends that I went to school with who live in Chicago. It’s always a highlight for us on our American tours. We love playing in Chicago, it’s awesome.

Get ready for Wild Nothing next month by listening to Life of Pause, and don’t miss the show on May 3rd, at Thalia Hall.