Anatomy of a Song: Wild Nothing on "Partners In Motion" | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, November 28th, 2023  

Anatomy of a Song: Wild Nothing on “Partners In Motion”

Indigo Due Out Friday via Captured Tracks

Aug 30, 2018 Wild Nothing Photography by Koury Angelo (for Under the Radar) Bookmark and Share

A song is a chance overlapping of countless variables in an artist’s life. Anatomy of a Song is a place where those variables can be dissected and examined. In this edition, Wild Nothing (aka Jack Tatum) discusses “Partners in Motion.” The song is found on Indigo, Wild Nothing’s fourth album, which is out this Friday (August 31) via Captured Tracks, and was previously our #1 Song of the Week.

The album is the follow-up to 2016’s somewhat underrated Life of Pause. Virginia-bred/Los Angeles-based Tatum recorded the demos solo and then spent four days at Sunset Sound’s Studio with drummer Cam Allen and guitarist Benji Lysaght to track the record live (Tatum played bass). Then producer Jorge Elbrecht (Ariel Pink, Gang Gang Dance, Japanese Breakfast) came on board to build out the rest of the album’s sound, including using parts of Tatum’s original demos. Elbrecht and Tatum mixed the album over 10 days in Denver and then Tatum put the finishing touches on Indigo at his Glassell Park studio in Los Angeles. Sonically, Tatum was going for a 1980s vibe. Read on as Tatum discusses the musical and lyrical inspiration behind “Partners in Motion,” which is followed by the song itself.


That track is one of my favorites on the record. It’s slightly different from some of other tracks, in that I started the track off really bare bones: I set up a drum track on this drum machine called a CR-78, this classic Roland drum machine that lots of people have used. The most famous example I can think of is Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.”

So I set up a loop with this drum machine and then started building things over top of that. I’d become interested in working with a lot of digital synths. There are a lot of digital synths that came out in the ‘80s that were on so many records that you hear from that era. Like, the Yamaha DX-7 is one of the ones that has been on most records from that era. So yeah, I found this weird rack synth that I bought from a guy in the Valley, on Craigslist, and ended up using that for all of the keyboard parts of the song. I set up this drum loop, had these keyboard parts going, and then just built the song off of that. That became my bed for the song.

I wanted to write a song that would be a bit dancier, a bit more vibrant than some of the other songs I’ve written in the past. In some ways it relates back to a song on Nocturne called “Paradise”-all the guitars and these various sorts of chimey, higher chord phrases. There was this video that I’d watched, where Nile Rodgers is talking about the Bowie record Let’s Dance, and he’s explaining some of the ways that he’d taken the original chord phrasings that Bowie had brought to him and kind of “Chic-ifying” these parts, coming up with new ways of playing guitar. That influenced me to come up with some different guitar parts.

Once the song was built up to a certain point, my producer and I took the song into a studio at Sunset Sound; we were in the same room that Prince used all throughout the ‘80s. So we basically crammed as much as we could in the four days we had this space, because studios are so expensive. We tracked most of the songs live after that. With this song we took in all the keyboard parts and the drum machine running throughout the whole song, and then I played bass, this guy Benji Lysaght played guitar and then Cam Allen played drums. So the three of us basically tracked the song live on top of the tracks I’d already created. So that was really different to how I’ve worked on records in the past: a lot of the guitar parts are pretty improvised; Benji was really great at taking the progressions I’d made and just jamming around on them.

There are a few things in this song that I haven’t done in the past. There’s a section in the bridge where there’s a big key change-I’ve been really wanting to find a way to work in a super goofy key change into one of my songs and this was the first opportunity where it felt appropriate. It’s not as structured as some of the other songs on the record, there’s no clear chorus.

But I really enjoyed the way that it turned out. At some point in the process I was writing the lyrics for this song, and I’d been helping a friend build this super elaborate dollhouse for his daughter. I started getting fixated on this idea of dollhouses-it was interesting what it represented, this idea of peering into someone else’s life, into their house, and thinking how strange this was. And so I started thinking about this concept of peering in on someone’s life as if they were living in a dollhouse, and in some ways it’s like peering in on my own life. You have these very domestic scenes: a couple sitting down drinking coffee, someone obsessively arranging picture frames on the wall-which is something that I do. In some ways it’s about making fun of myself, but also about painting this picture of things that do happen in my life. Some of it is about this guilt and being a consumer, and caring about your house being nice. There are a lot of things on this record that are about coming to terms with societal norms.

Read our 2016 interview with Wild Nothing.

Wild Nothing Tour Dates:

Tue. Oct. 16 - Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
Wed. Oct. 17 - Atlanta, GA @ Terminal West
Thu. Oct. 18 - Birmingham, AL @ Saturn
Fri. Oct. 19 - New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa
Sat. Oct. 20 - Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall
Sun. Oct. 21 - Austin, TX @ Mohawk
Tue. Oct. 23 - Santa Fe, NM @ Meow Wolf
Wed. Oct. 24 - Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
Thu. Oct. 25 - Santa Ana, CA @ Observatory
Fri. Oct. 26 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Regent Theater
Sat. Oct. 27 - San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
Tue. Oct. 30 - Portland, OR @ Revolution Hall
Wed. Oct. 31 - Vancouver, BC @ Imperial Vancouver
Thu. Nov. 1 - Seattle, WA @ Neumos
Fri. Nov. 2 - Boise, ID @ Neurolux
Sat. Nov. 3 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
Sun. Nov. 4 - Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
Tue. Nov. 6 - Omaha, NE @ The Slowdown
Wed. Nov. 7 - Minneapolis, MN @ Cedar Cultural Center
Thu. Nov. 8 - Madison, WI @ Majestic Theatre
Fri. Nov. 9 - Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall
Sat. Nov. 10 - Detroit, MI @ El Club
Mon. Nov. 12 - Toronto, ON @ Opera House
Tue. Nov. 13 - Montreal, QC @ Corona Theatre
Wed. Nov. 14 - Boston, MA @ Royale Nightclub
Fri. Nov. 16 - Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel
Sat. Nov. 17 - Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
Sun. Nov. 18 - Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club

(Men I Trust open all shows.)

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