Wild Nothing

Breathing through conjoined straws in bubble bath immersion, one truly sinks into the abandon of Nocturne as though into an ocean of felt and tissue paper, ensconced in a shoal of hermit crabs and mantis shrimp. FAULT Magazine spoke with Jack Tatum of Wild Nothing about his latest release, various adventures and creative juices.

Interview by Era Trieman
Jack Tatum: Photograph by Shawn Brackbill

If you were to describe Nocturne as a dish, what would it most closely resemble?

Man that’s difficult, cause I’m trying to think how I would describe the album… it’s pretty dense but not necessarily onerous by any means. There’s a lot going on in a multi-layered way, but it doesn’t necessarily weigh you down… maybe a lasagne? Now I’m just thinking about what I want to eat…

 

How amenable is your music to being performed acoustically?

We’ve done a couple of little sessions on this tour, though for the most part it’s a really difficult transition to make. I think certain tracks are more suitable than others. ‘Shadow’ [the lead single from the new record] seems to really work acoustically as it’s more chord based, but mostly the tracks are so multi-layered and effects-driven that certain parts don’t translate so well. Both Gemini and Nocturne rely quite a bit upon synthesisers, a Roland Juno-106 I own and a Korg PolySix that was used extensively in the studio too.

 

Would you tell us about Nicolas Vernhes and the Rare Book Room?

Prior to recording I’d met with a handful of people to figure out where I wanted to take the record sonically, and almost immediately it felt as though Nicolas could take my ideas in the direction towards which I’d aspired. The Rare Book Room is not your average recording studio either, mostly because he lives above it. The studio itself has a more homely feel, loaded with gear and fun toys for audio geeks [which I profess to be]. It never felt stale there, just a very comfortable environment to get a studio quality record with someone I really enjoyed hanging out with on a personal level. Jeff Curtin from Small Black came in for a few days on drums, but other than that it was just us two.

 

Was it an intuitive understanding you shared or did he really challenge your preconceptions and ideas on approaching the record?

I’d expressed a real interest in learning more about production and he was totally willing to let me take on that more involved role too. I had pretty specific ideas about how I wanted certain things to sound and so was able to take certain segments of home recordings and integrate them into the sessions, that’s the case with most of the title track guitar parts for instance.

 

Which record has most impressed you over the past twelve months?

The latest Tame Impala record, Lonerism. Either that or Chromatics’ Kill For Love… I’m pretty out of the loop in terms of new music; I’ve not been keeping up much.

 

You’ve recently performed support slots for Beach House and The Walkmen. What was your experience of those shows?

It was only about three shows with The Walkmen, but the Beach House tour was pretty extensive, we went all the way across the United States and back around. Those shows came just before the album’s release, so it was the ideal opportunity to play new tracks. I’m a huge fan of what Beach House do, and I learnt so much from watching them perform every night, particularly so on a technical level, using that as an attainable goal to strive towards.

 

You cite Antonioni’s Blow Up as an influence. explain?

I like films where you’re not necessarily supposed to be rooting for anyone. It’s a little bit elitist, a bit full of itself, I also find the protagonist totally icky and frustrating too, but I’m cool with that. It’s not so much the characters but the picture that it paints of London during that time. It’s more of a mood thing, like the scene where The Yarbirds are playing in this underground club, it reminded me of so many shows I’d been too, totally dead crowd, just really funny. I got such a kick out of that, nothing much has changed. The closing scene feels especially poignant, though I can’t really put my finger on it. I like that vagueness, meaning left to interpretation.

 

You’d enrolled in creative writing classes at college – are you of the opinion that creative writing can be taught well as a subject?

It takes a certain amount of inherent talent or knowledge or interest, I suppose. I’d thought about studying architecture for some time, but ended up in the liberal arts, a kinda weird place to be. Creative writing classes can be beneficial, particularly the group critique. Having that experience of other’s berating your output is good; it guides you, pushes you. It’s good to have someone explain what it is they either like or dislike about what you do, you can learn from that.

 

You also dabbled with journalism, do you have a positive outlook on the medium?

When I was younger I spent a long time thinking I wanted to be a writer, maybe a music journalist, for some reason I thought that was the more realistic path. I was making music all the while but I never really thought that was something I could realistically do, at least I could write about it. But now I have so many qualms with music journalism, especially the internet culture, I find myself becoming more and more frustrated with it, so it’s funny that I’d originally strove towards it…

 

In what ways does writing poetry differ from writing lyrics?

At school I would write some poetry and short fiction, the process is sort of similar with lyrics, very much observational, but I generally try to separate them. I feel a lot more free with poetry or fiction, there’s more room to try things, whereas I feel a bit more confined within the song, having to fit words into a context. I revel in the simplicity, love songs in the vein of pop music; you can almost express a lot more in the simpler terms.

 

Do you have an all-time favourite lyricist?

There’s quite a few. I’m a huge fan of The Go-Betweens. In fact just yesterday I got to interview Robert Forster, which I was really excited about, he is definitely one of my favourite lyricists. All their songs have this literary quality, I don’t feel I’m there yet, I don’t even try to push to that level, but its definitely inspirational. More contemporarily I also really like Destroyer, he has some really interesting moments.

 

What are your insider recommendations for NYC?

I’ve been there almost a year, spending a lot of time around my neighbourhood – Greenpoint, north Brooklyn. There are a lot of places I feel at home, a lot of good stuff beside the river around Franklin avenue; I regularly eat at this French restaurant called Le Gamin, it’s pretty low key. Also on that street is my habitual bar, the Pencil Factory, though there are other spots, this sweet donut place, Peter Pan, tonnes of stuff…

 

Where do you envisage yourself five years from now?

At this rate probably still recording albums the same way. I was really happy with how things went in between Gemini and Nocturne, being able to take some time off and occasionally working on music. I’ll definitely start working on another record at some point, maybe some other projects too, working with some other people, try something in a different style?

 

Would you consider Wild Nothing as ostensibly being a component of a scene, who would you identify as your peers, or do you not really consider the notion?

I think we’re part of some strange sort of musical corner. I feel somewhat connected to a lot of artists on our label. It derives from Iggy Pop and shoegaze, but also contemporary indie-pop. From Captured Tracks I particularly enjoyed a record by Chris Cohen, Overgrown Path, and I’m hoping more people pick up on that. Beach Fossils also have an album coming out somewhere down the road soonish, their frontman Dustin actually lives in Greenpoint too, we hang out quite a lot and speak about collaborating all the time, but how things go we constantly get caught up doing our own things.

 

Are you a believer of horoscopes?

No. not really. I totally give off that impression right? [laughs] I’m marginally interested by it, perhaps slightly intrigued by it, but I don’t necessarily believe in it. At times it’s a fun thing to play along with the discussions, especially where personalities are involved.

Nocturne is out now on Captured Tracks