Wild Nothing on His New “Laughing Gas” EP and the 10th Anniversary of “Gemini” | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, July 7th, 2020  

Wild Nothing on His New “Laughing Gas” EP and the 10th Anniversary of “Gemini”

Still Going Strong a Decade On

Feb 11, 2020 Web Exclusive
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Jack Tatum has been making music under the guise of Wild Nothing for over a decade now. Indeed, 2020 represents something of a milestone year as it marks the 10th anniversary of Wild Nothing's debut album Gemini. 

Not that he's ever been one to rest on his laurels. On the contrary in fact, having released three more long players since alongside a batch of singles and EPs. The most recent of which, the EP Laughing Gas, came out last month on the Captured Tracks label. It followed Wild Nothing's fourth album, Indigo, which came out in August 2018, also via Captured Tracks.

Here, Tatum, who has moved back to his native Virginia after stints in New York City and Los Angeles, looks back on his career whilst sharing his vision for the future.

Dom Gourlay (Under the Radar): Your new EP Laughing Gas is out [now]. How old are the songs on the EP?

Jack Tatum: They were all recorded around the same time as the last LP, Indigo. So I guess they date back to 2017. They're a bit on the older side. I intended for them to go on the record at the time, which is typical for me and I guess most people when they're writing a bunch of songs. Once I'd started whittling them down I didn't think they'd work on the record, but at the same time they were also too good not to be released.

Were there any other songs recorded around the same time which didn't make it onto the album and, if so, will they be released in the foreseeable future?

Not really. Maybe one or two. There were other ones going into the actual recording of the album when I was just demoing things at home. They were just far less finished. By the time I had the songs I at least thought would end up on the record, it was basically just the songs on Indigo and the new EP. I knew I wanted to finish them in one way or another. I just didn't want to have 17 songs on the album. That would have been excessive.

Listening to the five songs on Laughing Gas, they each give a sonic representation of different eras of Wild Nothing. Almost to the point where any of them could have slotted onto your previous records. Was that deliberate?

I agree. The EP touches on a lot of stuff. For instance, the song "Blue Wings" was a deliberate attempt to go back to the sounds that I was working on with Gemini and Nocturne. That's probably the most recently written song on the EP. It wasn't meant to go on Indigo until it was being mastered and then I decided to save it for later instead. If any of the songs could have ended up on the album it would have been that one. But at some point I had to make a decision. If I'd put songs like "Foyer" and "Dizziness" on Indigo then I'd have probably wanted to rethink the whole record. I'd have wanted to steer the record in a different direction and it just felt too daunting. Also, all the songs that did make it onto Indigo felt at home together.

Are there any more new songs in the pipeline? Are there any plans for a fifth album?

I've not got anything set in stone but I'm always writing. These songs are pretty old at this point but its not uncommon to sit on songs like this. I think this happens to be a more extreme case of that. There were plans to release this EP at various points over the last year but it kept getting pushed back for one reason or another.

You have quite an extensive catalogue of work now spanning the previous decade. Is there any one record or era you're particularly fond of and if so, why?

I think they all caught me at a different time in my life and ended up meaning something different to me every time. In terms of the effect that it's had on my life I don't think anything can compare to the first record. Certainly in terms of how that dictated the next 10 years of my life. How much that record changed my life and made me think differently about my creative process. It forced me to reassess a lot of things about myself and also get comfortable performing in front of people. Every record has been different in terms of fan engagement. People constantly come up to me wanting to talk about Nocturne because it means the most to them. In terms of the relationship I have with my fans that seems to be the most important record so it's taken on a life of its own in some ways. Whereas the third album Life of Pausewhich proved to be a struggle both creatively and criticallywas for me the most rewarding record that I've made. Mainly because I made that record for myself.

You're playing some 10th anniversary shows for Gemini in May. Was that always something you'd planned on doing?

No, certainly not. There's been very little expectation for my career from the start! Which isn't to say that I haven't had faith in myself or what I'm doing. It's more a case of things hitting you as they come. For me personally I've always had to live it in that way and try to be as present with what I'm working on at any given moment.

Beach Fossils are also on the tour as joint headliners. How did that come about?

I've known Dustin [Payseur, Beach Fossils] for a long time. I've actually known him since before our first records came out. He was dating one of my friends that I went to school with in Virginia so I met him shortly before Beach Fossils got signed to Captured Tracks. Then I ended up getting signed just a little bit after that and we've been very close friends ever since. In terms of a career parallel I don't think anyone could fit the bill better than him or in terms of us both going through a lot of the same things at the same time either. So I've always felt a kindred creative spirit with him and we've never really played shows together even though we've been on a similar path. There's been talk of doing things but it's never really intersected that way. We wanted to try and do something eventually. We even have the same booking agent so eventually decided to throw around this idea of doing something together around our first albums. They came out on the same label on the same day and really set us both going in a similar direction so it just seemed very appropriate. We knew people would be excited about it and we'd have a blast doing it. So once the idea was out there it just seemed second nature and the right thing to do.

So far, you've only announced shows for Gemini in the States. Will the tour be coming over to the UK and Europe or even summer festivals?

It's hard to say. I have been talking with my booking agent about potentially doing some things. But as of now these shows are the only things that are planned so we'll see. For me personally I don't necessarily want to milk it too much. I don't want it to become a circus of nostalgia but I do think it's something that's worth doing. So I wouldn't be surprised if we end up adding a few more shows around Gemini, and especially if we're able to do something in the UK and Europe that would be a no brainer. But we'll just have to see. There's a lot of stuff going on for me personally too. I'm going to be a father soon so it's hard to say how things are going to plan out over the next year in terms of touring.

You've been with Captured Tracks right from the start of Wild Nothing. What sets them apart from any other label?

I have a really strong relationship with them and the label has grown quite a bit over the past 10 years to the point its unrecognizable in certain ways from when I first signed. I haven't lived in New York in years, but when I did it was a really small operation and I knew everyone quite well to the point we became good friends outside of work. That's still the case in some ways, but there are so many people working for Captured Tracks now that I've only met briefly or in some cases not at all. But then there are certain people who've been with the label from the beginning and I still have that close relationship with them. It's really valuable to me, especially having been with the label for so long. They're just so receptive to whatever it is I feel the need to do. It's hard to imagine having that same level of cooperation with anyone else. But then again, it's all I've ever known and it's been so remarkably easy in so many ways. 

I guess having that level of freedom is key for any artist, especially one like yourself who's constantly evolving.

I think a lot of it is due to the fact both the label and the band grew together. I was working with them when the operation was very small scale and I think that's given me a certain level of freedom within the label. At the same time, they have an appreciation for me that I don't know I would get from working with other people. We've spent so much time and energy working on things for so long. It's hard to say what it would be like working with other labels but there's never been any idea I've presented to Captured Tracks that they've refused. Sometimes you want your label to do that and there have been cases where they may have said something like that but it's in my best interests. But in terms of my creative output they've always been incredibly supportive.

Do you still regard Wild Nothing as a solo project? From a writing and recording point of view if not live?

That's the core of it I guess, and probably always will be. But over the years I've acquired a level of responsibility not only for myself, but also the people I work with too. I do feel a debt of gratitude towards the musicians that I play with as well. When we're touring it's not just for me. We play these shows for all of us that are in the band and also for the people that support the band too. I like playing shows, touring and travelling. Getting that face-to-face connection with people through listening to the music. But it's hard to say whether I'd get as much out of it creatively as some people might. For me it's about those things. I think our shows are always worth seeing for the people that like our music but I don't consider myself a performer in the traditional sense.

If you had the opportunity to collaborate with anybody who would you choose and why?

It isn't something I'd really considered until recently, but now as my life takes so many twists and turns I want to start working with people more. I want to start finding new ways in which I can write and produce and just form relationships on that level. I've already started doing it a bit. There's some stuff coming out next year. Songs that I've co-written and produced for people. That is something I want to do more of because that's what I enjoy doing the most. That's where I feel my true strengths lie. Fleshing out my own visions but also working out how I can do those for other people too.

With all the changes in the music industry over the last decade, do you think it would be a lot more difficult for Wild Nothing to get the same recognition if they were just starting out now?

To be totally honest I don't think I would stand a chance if I were trying to start out right now. The landscape's so much different to when Wild Nothing began and I don't think the noises I was making back then would resonate so much with people today. In terms of starting out and trying to get a project off the ground, it does feel different. People's perceptions of music and culture at large have changed so things that didn't used to be comparable are now comparable in people's minds. There is so much music out there right now its difficult for the average listener to make a critical distinction between much of it so for that reason alone it's harder. I'm glad that I started making music at a time when it was still thought of as being desirable, which I don't necessarily think is the case any more.

If you had the benefit of hindsight and could change anything you'd done or do something differently over the last ten years, what would it be and why?

I think I would have been less hard on myself. A lot of the touring we did around the first record was incredibly stressful for me. I enjoyed it but it was surrounded by a lot of self-doubt. I wish I'd been less self-critical and enjoyed it more. There's a lot of stuff I could have done differently, I should have pushed myself harder on. I should have made a lot more music videos for one thing. I was never particularly interested in it for whatever reason. I always had that old man mentality of just wanting the music to speak for itself. Videos are also expensive, so in retrospect that's probably another reason why I didn't do that many. There's always things you could have done differently, but at the end of the day I am where I am and it's a pretty awesome, comfortable place to be in. I'm very happy with how things have turned out with this band for sure.

Read our 2018 interview with Wild Nothing on Indigo.

Read our 2016 interview with Wild Nothing.

Wild Nothing Tour Dates:

Wed. May 13 - New York, NY @ Brooklyn Steel *
Thu. May 14 - Chicago, IL @  Thalia Hall *
Mon. May 18 - Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey Live! *
Tue. May 19 - Austin, TX @ Mohawk (outside) *
Wed. May 20 - San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall *
Thu. May 21 - San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall *
Fri. May 22 - Los Angeles, CA @ Wiltern Theater *

* w/ Beach Fossils

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