Photo Credit: Shawn Brackbill
“It sort of feels like a different life,” says Jack Tatum, on the road somewhere between Atlanta and New Orleans. Tatum, who helped bring a new wave of bedroom-recorded indie pop to prominence with his project Wild Nothing, is reflecting on his abrupt transition from laptop auteur to internationally recognized artist.
Tatum’s story begins—at least according to music mythology—in a dorm room in Blacksburg, VA. After releasing a few demos on the internet, Tatum was discovered and signed by Captured Tracks label head Mike Sniper, who added Wild Nothing to an esteemed roster of kindred practitioners that would in time include Beach Fossils, DIIV and Mac DeMarco. Gemini, the first Wild Nothing album, which Tatum recorded by himself in said dorm room with the software GarageBand, was released in 2010, inspiring a wave of critical praise that led to extensive touring with a full band.
“That record changed my life in such a monumental way, and I still don't know if I've processed it fully sometimes,” Tatum says. “I was really young. Things moved really quickly for me after that record came out, and I had to keep readjusting the level of attention that I felt comfortable with.”
Tatum expanded the project’s scope and sound for Wild Nothing’s sophomore album, Nocturne, which was recorded in a New York studio with producer Nicolas Vernhes. The album possessed a richer, fuller sound with more distinct parallels to the band’s live show, and its increased exposure prompted even more touring.
With Wild Nothing’s third full-length, Life of Pause, now under its belt, the rigorous cycle of promotion and playing has become the norm again. Despite the unrelenting schedule, though, there’s an underlying ease within the album that points towards a place of newfound comfort for Tatum.
“I think in a lot of ways, Life of Pause is a portrait of domestic life. Things were pretty normal for me after touring for Nocturne [ended], and I really needed that to happen—to become a homebody again and be in a serious relationship,” Tatum says.
That normalcy allowed Tatum to create at a relaxed pace. He expanded on the art-pop inclinations of the Empty Estate EP, which immediately followed Nocturne and served as “a necessary stepping stone” for trying out new ideas. He let some ’70s soul influences creep in and even flew to Stockholm to record with John Eriksson of Peter, Bjorn and John.
That’s not to say the writing and recording of Life of Pause was a leisurely affair; there were still the usual logistics of time, place and cost to take into account.
“It's too terrifying for me to ever book studio time without a record being pretty fully thought-out,” Tatum says, “so I ended up spending a long time working out kinks in New York beforehand.” The album itself, he acknowledges, is “a pretty Frankenstein record—written in New York, recorded in Stockholm and Los Angeles then mixed back in New York.
“Things deviated slightly while we were [in Stockholm],” he says, “but for the most part, I had things pretty planned out. I'm cool with a bit of improvisation, but that also leads to more dead ends sometimes, which can make you pull your hair out when you're shelling out a ton of money on studio time.”
As the band travels the country for its third wave of touring since Life of Pause was released in February, it’s hard to say if Tatum’s ease is here to stay. “For me, this record was coming from a much happier place, but as I get older, I can't help but question my place in the world,” he says. “Existential melodrama.”
Regardless, he’s grateful for the path he’s traveled and knows it’s a hard one to come by these days.
“Sometimes it really is just about luck and timing, but I take an optimistic outlook,” Tatum says. “I do believe that really good music finds the right ears, eventually, more often than not. The thing I'm really grateful for is the fact that Gemini allowed me to be in the position that I'm in now—still doing what I love and exploring new ideas.”
WILD NOTHING Dream-pop band fronted by singer-songwriter Jack Tatum. See story on p. 12.
SMALL BLACK Synthpop group out of Brooklyn, NY.
GRAND VAPIDS Local alt-rock band with a dense, dreamy, slowcore-inspired sound.