Jack Tatum’s indie pop revival
Wild Nothing is a one-man project of Brooklynite and Williamsburg, Va. native Jack Tatum. His music unapologetically harkens the twinkling melancholy of ’80s Britpop song and production qualities. (One of his releases, a 7-inch split with Beach Fossils, is a small tribute to The Wake that was "a way to show that we love this band.") Tatum wrote, played and self-recorded his first album, 2010's Gemini, released on Captured Tracks. He went to a studio and hired a drummer for his second project, the lush and velvety Nocturne, to be released on the same label in August. On tour, Wild Nothing becomes a different creature—a full band composed of polite Southern boys who merely aim to have fun and be relatable. Find out what that looks and sounds like on Saturday at the Sunshine Theater when the band opens for Baltimore shoegaze duo Beach House. Tatum and I spoke over the phone about past, present and the definition of pop.
What drew you to the post-punk, shoegaze and indie pop genres?
It fit with what I was hoping to do with my own music. I could really relate to the styles and became obsessive about trying to emulate certain things. I've always been interested in production, and a lot of those records were super production-heavy. Like when you listen to a Cocteau Twins album it sounds really processed with unique sounds—maybe what some people would think of as excessive production. But to me it was really interesting. I was really into that when I recorded the first album. Since then I've tried to pull a few other things in—more general pop influences like Fleetwood Mac, ’70s production and singer-songwriter stuff—along with these other genres that I still really love.
How do you describe Wild Nothing?
With the first album I was definitely super honest about what it was I was listening to and what I was trying to do. So I associated it in interviews and in talking to people with a lot of older U.K. indie pop / post-punk / shoegaze bands because that's what I wanted to make; that's what my intent was. More recently I just describe it as pop music, but it's hard because I think people have so many definitions of what pop music is or what it means. To me it's just the idea of paying special attention to song structures and hooks. Classic songwriting—that's what interests me—writing three- or four-minute pop songs that are really structured.
How would you characterize the current state of youth culture?
I think we're in a particular situation right now because of the Internet—we've done away with the idea of regional trends to a certain degree. They definitely still exist depending on where you are, but in some ways [culture] has been homogenized because of the Internet. Everyone's experiencing the same things and hearing the same things as opposed to seeing things from their area. I think it's a good thing and a bad thing: We're definitely more interested in this hyper-reality of the Internet than we are in the day-to-day. It's been good for a lot of bands and artists to have this outlet, but it's also ruined things in a way. I kind of wish that we lived in a time where, depending on where you went, there's very specific trends or scenes. That's kind of starting to melt away.
Do you think certain parts of this generation are fascinated with the past?
I think every generation kind of looks to generations before them for influence, and it's always been that way. There's something about what's come and gone—it's easy to romanticize it. Once something has come and gone you can put a spin on it, and as a culture we do that a lot—we stereotype and generalize. ... I think it's always going to be more interesting to look at the past than think about your present.
What's your main goal, musically?
I definitely don't have any messages or goals for my music, in terms of how I want people to perceive it or anything. It started as something I was doing for myself, and the main thing that I hope people experience with my music is honesty. I'm not an extremely serious person, but at the same time I get frustrated with the lack of sincerity in people of our generation, and in music also—just treating everything like a joke. I hope that I'm able to produce something that's straightforward in a sense that people can see it's sincere and real and honest.
Do you ever get an itch to just put on some Motörhead and turn it all the way up?
[Laughs.] No, not particularly.