We meet Jack Tatum, aka Wild Nothing, in a London tattoo parlour where the sound of buzzing needles is pounded into the background by aggressively loud heavy metal music. Sensing this is not an ideal interview venue, and with no plans to get ink himself, we finally settle in a bar close by. Jack is in London as part of a European Summer tour taking in headline shows and a few festivals along the way. He’s keen to talk about the band Summer Camp who he saw perform recently but we’re here to talk about his own music, chiefly ‘Gemini’ his stunning debut album which has emerged from nowhere to become a front runner in the albums of the year polls. Drinking a peppermint tea, Jack begins by filling us in on just how Wild Nothing was born.
DiS: How long have you been writing songs as Wild Nothing?
Jack Tatum: I’ve been writing them specifically as Wild Nothing since about last Summer but I’ve been writing songs for a lot longer than that. Last summer I moved away and lived in Georgia for a while where I decided to head in a different direction and ended up at Wild Nothing.
DiS: You’ve been in bands before this right?
JT: Yeah, I was. I had a solo thing (Jack and The Whale) that I sort of did just for the hell of it and I was in a band called Facepaint when I was in college too. I don’t really do those anymore though.
DiS: What were you studying at College?
JT: I did Communications and Creative Writing, I wanted to be a journalist. I finished in May.
DiS: Where did you study?
JT: It was at Virginia Tech.
DiS: What’s that like?
JT: It’s OK, it’s a huge school. I forget how many people were there at any one time but I think it’s at least twenty thousand students. It’s mostly for engineering student and they do a lot of sports. In the States there is a lot of pressure to go to a good school and I never thought about what I wanted to do so just went to Virginia Tech because it was the best around.
DiS: What is it Virginia like to be young and in a band?
JT: There is not a lot going on that isn’t to do with the University, most of the city is taken up by the campus so there aren’t many places to play if you’re in a band. It’s a nice place though - it’s in the mountains so it’s a great place to go hiking and see the mountains and the river and stuff.
DiS: When you started writing songs as Wild Nothing was there a syle you were trying to achieve or was it something you sort of discovered by accident?
JT: A little bit of both. I’ve always been interested in a lot of the 80’s indie-pop bands from Britian like The Smiths and The Cure and last Summer I started listening to that stuff again in a lot of depth and getting inspired by it so I felt natural to write that way. It just made sense for me to write in that way.
DiS: Are you a fan of The Stone Roses? It feels like they could be a pretty big influence on your music?
JT: They’re one of those bands who I have heard select tracks but never really invested my time in them. I really want to sit down and listen to them because people have compared me to them but I just haven’t had the time.
DiS: How did you first get into The Smiths?
JT: I don’t remember exactly how but they are one of those bands like New Order and Joy Division that have that reputation of being really amazing. I slowly got into it over time and I just love that band, I honestly don’t think they have a single bad song and it’s rare that you can say that about someone.
DiS: Like The Smiths, a lot of people have described your music as being bleak. How do you feel about that?
JT: I definitely see why people thing that and for the most part it’s true but I don’t think it’s totally bleak. A lot of the time it’s more of a stylistic choice like the bands I’m influenced by used. It’s not fake bleakness though. To me the album is half optimistic and half pessimistic which is pretty much my outlook on life really. I’ve heard people describe it as bleak but I’m not sure it all is really.
DiS: One of the most striking things about the album is its front cover, could you tell us a little bit about it and who made it?
JT: Yeah it’s actually made by a woman called Joanne Ratkowsky (CHECK). I just came across that picture randomly on Flickr when I was looking through peoples pages on there. I really liked the image and asked her if I could use it for the cover of my album and she agreed. It’s a really weird picture though, I don’t even know how she did it - I guess some sort of double exposure.
DiS: Do you feel any allegiance to people like Washed Out or Toro Y Moi who are operating on their own as well?
JT: It’s a totally different ball game when you’re sitting in your bedroom writing things and not taking them to your band mates to work on. It’s not easier or harder this way but it’s definitely different. I don’t know many people who work like that but I am friends with Dustin from Beach Fossils who does everything on his own, he’s signed to the same record label as me.
DiS: Do you use a lot of sampling in your music like a lot of people do at the moment?
JT: Not really, at least I try not to. There is one sample in the song ‘Chinatown’ though. It’s a Chantelle Golya (CHECK) sample and I used it because I was staying at my parents house and listening to a lot of old 60’s French girl pop. I really liked this one little bit of the song and decided to use it in my song.
Gemini is out now via Captured Tracks. Wild Nothing return to UK in November for the following live dates:
November 6th NME Weekender, Camber Sands
November 11th Cargo, LONDON