Wild Nothing on “Indigo”

Finding Beauty In the Mundane

Nov 27, 2018 Photography by Koury Angelo (for Under the Radar) Issue #64 -  Kamasi Washington
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For a project borne in a Virginia Tech dorm room in 2009, Jack Tatum's Wild Nothing has, at least from an audience's point of view, seamlessly morphed into a product of post-collegiate self-awareness. Musically, personally, professionally, aestheticallyWild Nothing's four studio albums come to resemble something of a snapshot for the distinct transitional moments in their creator, Tatum's life. Released in the spring of 2010, Wild Nothing's debut album, Gemini, gathered widespread acclaim and attention for its '80s-tinted nostalgia and distinct attention to a youthful innocence. The BBC called Gemini "perfectly formed," and many in the music community applauded Tatum on his solo production and mastery of Pro Tools. The album was, after all, recorded entirely by Tatum in limited quarters. "With my first record, so much of the conversation was based around the circumstances of me making it," says Tatum. "Like a lot of other people at the time, I was part of this first wave of home musicians trying to find a place for their music. A lot of the record that I made was done entirely on my own and was very scrappy in a way that I think a lot of people related to; I think that, in turn, became my identity."

Three albums and eight years later comes Indigo, Wild Nothing's latest full-length, which plays like a more mature affair: an acknowledgement of Tatum's past work, his established auteur "identity," as well as a nod towards a more confident control of that very identity. "I've been working towards this record in a lot of ways," Tatum, now 30, explains. "I really did want to make the biggest sounding record that I could, and in some ways that crashes against that original identity that I formed with the first record."

If audiences defined Tatum's identity by the modest release of Gemini, it's no surprise that they would take note of his artistic transformation as his albums have progressed. Tatum's third record, 2016's Life of Pause, which was recorded shortly after his 2015 relocation to Los Angeles from New York, fell flat of some fan expectations. Life of Pause was no Gemini, but the contrast between the two albums displayed an impressive period of growth for Tatumthe production, alone, felt more expansive. "I really don't ever see any of my records as being that different," he reflects. "There's always this direct narrative between the records; there's always this straight line that runs through all of them, no matter what the content is."

This sense of personal understanding didn't transpire immediately. "For the past eight years, I've been reckoning with that [Gemini] identity and trying to figure out: is it okay for me to have larger ambitions? And really deciding that yeah, of course it's okay." Tatum had to build upon his past successes, and examine the pitfalls. "I feel like I've earned the right to be self-referential and be able to look back on my own body of work and really see a lot of the work that I've done in a new light, in an interesting lightto able to pick apart the things that have worked and haven't worked."

Indigo certainly sounds like the kind of an album that a person in Tatum's position would make. He recently married and began work on a fourth album (his second in LA) from the comforts of a studio. Unlike his past records, Tatum was more deliberate in the recording process: making time to record and produce the bulk of the record outside of his home. "It was less about when creativity would strike and more about just constantly finding the time and trying to be more ritualistic about my process," he says. "Maybe it's a matter of getting older; there was less of me toying around with songs at four in the morning in my apartment. It felt like much more of an adult approach, more intentional."

The act of compartmentalizing home life and work life has seemed to help Tatum's songwriting process, and the effect of his relocation to Los Angeles has coagulated to create some of the more expansive moments on Indigo. "A lot of the songs on this record are what I consider 'domestic scenes,' references to my own relationship with my wife and home life. What it really boils down to is this idea of moving through life with another person. That's really how I feel about my relationship, about that act of coupling and settling down and facing these things that on their surface might feel everyday and mundane, but that act of trying to find the beauty in those moments is something I'm very conscious of."

With tracks like "Oscillation" and "Partners In Motion," on Indigo alone, it's clear that this notion of movement, alongside another person, receives a great deal of mental attention from Tatum. It seems only fitting that Los Angeles (a concrete city latticed upon freeways, for movement; a city filled with images, falsified and saturated, for understanding the human condition) would became the unofficial backdrop of a Wild Nothing record.

"I don't have the same image of Los Angeles as I did when I was a kid," says Tatum. The city has deeply influenced Indigo in particular maybe more so than past Wild Nothing releases. "Maybe in a way it comes back to this idea of finding beauty in the mundane," Tatum explains, "in these things that might seem ordinary or ugly. In a lot of ways, that sums up Los Angeles to me. Often, nearly on a weekly basis, people are setting off fireworks near my neighborhood. At this point, fireworks have become this thing that seem weirdly normal. There have been these moments, just driving around and seeing fireworks; in a lot of ways driving around Los Angeles can be this really affecting thing. It's really easy to see how people are living in Los Angeles, and I think wealth disparity is very on-display in Los Angeles in a way that can be very jarring. I think it becomes very clear, after being here a while, of what is real and what isn't real. And having those things butt right up to one another, it's very interesting. I don't view it as being this superficial placealthough that is on display herebut it's also a very real place."

Now, however, it's time for Tatum to leave LA and return to his native Virginia. An apparently unrealized ritual, Tatum up and moves his domicile with each album he releases. Perhaps this is a way of emphasizing the life experience "snapshot" that each Wild Nothing record embodies. Maybe Tatum has run out of energy to fight the mundane. Maybe he wants to reconnect with a self that existed before his illustrious career began. "It wasn't until recently that this idea of returning there [to Virginia] and trying to put down some roots, it all started to feel very appealing. The older I get, the more it seems to make sense. These certain aspects of my childhood and these memories really start to feel very present for me. I think it's always been my home, in the back of my mind, and it's just kind of risen to the top."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Issue 64 (August/September/October 2018), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

 

www.wildnothingmusic.com

 

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Markus
November 27th 2018
12:24pm

Jack is good musician. I like listen his albums.

Chris
November 27th 2018
12:55pm

Good interview. I often listen Jacks’s songs. Thanks.

twitch
November 28th 2018
2:13am

Jack is a great musician, I admire him!