Three years ago, Jack Tatum was living in an off-campus apartment in his hometown of Blacksburg, VA where he recorded a number of indie pop songs that would later become his debut Wild Nothing album, Gemini. The record went on to catch fire with music critics, launching Tatum into a sort of indie fame which he later escaped from in Savannah, GA, where he spent a few months writing his second album, Nocturne.
Wild Nothing has come a long way from the days in that off-campus apartment. With Nocturne out today, Tatum spoke with Complex on the time he spent holed up in Savannah, recording at Rare Book Room in NYC, performing with a live band, and his tour with DIIV that set off earlier this month.
Interview by Lauren Nostro (@LAURENcynthia)
I saw your show with Grimes and DIIV earlier this month at Pier 84, what did you think of playing such a huge venue?
I definitely prefer playing club shows to big outdoor shows, but it’s fun, it’s great. I prefer club shows because I feel that it suits my music better. There’s something that’s more intimate about it and it’s different than looking out and just seeing a giant crowd of people.
The last album was so all over the place in terms of instrumentation, which was largely due to me not knowing what I was doing and not thinking about playing shows.
I know that when you record it’s mainly you, so what’s it like playing live with a band?
It’s great. We’ve been playing as a band since the beginning and two of the guys who are with me now have been there since the beginning. We’ve seen a few people come and go but the core of the band is still the same. It’s fun. It used to be frustrating a few years ago when we first started, especially because the last album was so all over the place in terms of instrumentation, which was largely due to me not knowing what I was doing and not thinking about playing shows. We’re a five-piece band now so it's been fun. It’s different, everyone puts their own spin on it and it’s not just five versions of me playing the song. Everyone has little vague things they change.
Was the writing behind Nocturne different because you did anticipate going on tour and doing live shows?
Yeah, it was a lot different. I wasn’t super strict on myself about it, but I was thinking about it a lot. We spent almost two years on the road playing songs and it was something that was on my mind after that. When I was working on the next record, I wanted to think about how the songs were going to be written and how they might be translated later. There’s a certain sense of trying to do that on this record and having live drums on the record was one big aspect of that. I'm trying to bridge that gap of Wild Nothing as a band versus as a recording project. I think that’s something that’s really going to help.
I read that you did a lot of the songwriting down in Savannah, Georgia. What made you choose to go there?
I was living in Blacksburg when the album came out. That’s where I went to school. We started touring a lot so I was just on the road. I didn’t even have an apartment. I was just floating. When we finally had a tiny little break, we had two months where we weren’t going to play any shows, I knew people in Savannah so I moved down there. I wouldn’t say it was on a whim but I had this window of time so I moved down there. I liked the place. It was cheap so I was there for about a year and was on and off tour. I started writing the album down there.
I thought I wanted to be down there as an escape to get away from music, but I was around music all of the time and I started hating it.
This was right after you got a lot of recognition for Gemini and went on tour for a while. What was that experience like for you?
It was crazy. My life took this unexpected turn and I was traveling way more than I thought I was going to be. In a lot of ways, I wore myself out. When I stopped touring and went back to Georgia, it was the first time I had a few months to myself to just relax and think about writing again. There was a lot going on and I think I started getting restless down there. Initially I thought I wanted to be down there as an escape to get away from music, but I was around music all of the time and I started hating it. After a couple of months of being down in Georgia and just not doing a whole lot musically, I started to miss it and I started to squirm in my own skin because I didn’t really know what to do with myself.
What were you doing instead?
I was working on music and just recording. I wasn’t working or anything when I was down there. I think that was a large part of it. I started going crazy and there was nothing else to do but worry about what I was going to do musically. It was stressful at first but it ended up being okay. I was able to find a comfortable pattern of writing and working on music while I was down there. It ended up becoming a bit obsessive because I didn’t really do much else than work on music. I wasn’t particularly social or anything. I would pretty much hole myself up and work on music.
Are you happy with the final product?
Yeah, I am. There were a lot of times when I was bored as shit and I didn’t know what I was doing.