Following the commercial and critical success of second album Nocturne, Jack Tatum (aka Wild Nothing) is back in London to play a rare headline show at The Lexington, which of course sold out pretty swiftly. Since Jack was plucked from MySpace nothingness in 2010 by Captured Tracks, he's released two albums and toured with the likes of Beach House and The Walkmen. Debut album Gemini, a bedroom-recorded self-produced affair, brought Jack to the attention of various blogs and websites, and delivered a level of hype wholly unexpected by the man himself. "I wasn't thinking about people listening to it, people hearing it live, I didn't expect it to gain the success that I did."
When it came to writing his second album, Jack felt the pressure. Having been picked up by major sites, including a flattering 8.2 review on Pitchfork, he chose to split time between Brooklyn and Savannah to write and record Nocturne. The result is a more commercially accessible album, one that's easier to listen to, easier to play live, and Jack admits there was intention behind that. "With this album, I was always thinking about how it might translate to the other guys in the band and how we were going to bring it to life," he admits. Critically, the album was also incredibly well received, without a lukewarm review in sight.
Now that he's bringing the new album to a headline show, Jack says he's more excited than nervous to finally play it to the anticipating fans.
This is your first headline gig following Nocturne, are you nervous?
Not so much anymore; I feel like the bigger the show is, the less nervous I get, because there's sort of that anonymity factor. I honestly get more nervous when we play a show where we know a lot of people, like if a bunch of my friends of my family come down. My parents love to come and see us play whenever we're passing through Virginia, which makes me more nervous, because it's more stressful. Most of the shows we play are on this smaller level, which is great when you're able to see how people are responding to the music, because you kind of don't get that as much with bigger shows.
Your sound isn't one that you'd usually associate with a live music setting, particularly the first album. Were you nervous about how your sound would translate whilst playing gigs?
With the first album that was something we spent a lot of time on, which was difficult because that album was really written without any thought as to how it would work in a live show, because it very much was a home-recorded project. It's been a lot easier and smoother, the translation from this album to a live show, than it has before. I think the songs on the new album are fitting better live, and we also expanded the band so that helps a lot.
There was a really positive response to your second album, were you expecting it to be as well-received as it was?
I wasn't sure, I knew that I was really proud of it, and in a lot of ways liked it better than the first album. I felt like, even though I did everything myself with the first album, I had more control with this album because I was able to do what I really wanted to do before, but didn't have the means to do. Having live drums and recording in the studio, and trying things that I wasn't able to before, means that this album is like a real complete thing. All the songs fit together as a whole. I wasn't entirely sure what people were going to think, but I was a little bit worried about the second record, just in the way that you are as an artist.
After the success of Gemini, did you feel pressure to make a more commercial or "poppy" sounding album? Or a pressure to maintain what other people had enjoyed so far?
I do think that this album is maybe a bit more accessible, but it wasn't to help us gain fans or anything, because if anything I felt more pressure to keep things similar to the first album. I really didn't want to alienate anybody that had listened to my music! I still draw from a lot of the same inspirations and influences, but I definitely did find myself leaning towards these more pop-oriented sounds. I think it worked out for the best, and I kept what I wanted to keep, as well as expanding it.
How do you approach writing songs? Is it a natural process or do you have an idea of what you want to write about beforehand?
The subject matter is something that I always deal with last, because I write the music first, but I always feel like there's a mood to the song and that'll inspire what it is that I want to say. Often what I have to say isn't very important though! You know, they're pop songs. It's personally meaningful to me, and a lot of the time it's relatable, because it's about doubt or relationships or whatever.
Was there a conscious effort to make it a little less personal than the first album?
Yeah, definitely. But then it was also kind of inevitable, because of the way that I wrote the first album. I wasn't thinking about people listening to it, people hearing it live, I didn't expect it to gain the success that I did. It really was very personal, that album! This one is a little less so, but it's still very much the subject matter that I tend to deal with, and I'm kind of used to sharing stuff.
Many people assume that Wild Nothing are a band, does it bug you that people may not know all this hard work is down to you, or do you like being able to hide behind a moniker?
Initially, the reason why I gave it a band name is because I didn't want it to be my name. I think unless you have a really cool name, it's a bit boring! If I saw a record by Jack Tatum, I'd be a bit like 'ehh'. I also think it implies a singer/songwriter thing, which I didn't want to be the association people were making! I wanted it to sound like music that a band would make. I can't even remember how I came up with the name, though. I think it was just assembling random words, probably how most band names come about!
Your new video for 'Paradise' stars Michelle Williams. Tell us how on earth that came about
It was actually down to the director of the video, who's good friends with her. He sent over a bunch of songs to her, just to see if she'd be interested, not really expecting anything, but she liked it and wanted to do it! That was really cool, and I got to meet her very briefly, and she was very nice and humble and shy and cool.
There's a photo of her and boyfriend Jason Segel carrying a copy of your LP, do you know of any other famous fans?
That was really cool! Yeah I saw that, I thought it was so cool. Actually, my friend works in a record store in New York, and she said that one time Jason Schwartzman came in and bought Gemini, which is pretty cool, but I don't know about anyone else!
You and Beach Fossils have both released your work through Captured Tracks, toured together, and released your debut albums at the same time. Do you two have a healthy competition going on?
Dustin is actually a really good friend of mine, and we hang out all the time, so it's more of a mutual support, really. We're always bouncing ideas off of each other, and he's actually the first person I showed Nocturne to. The whole Captured Tracks label really does feel like a family, because I'm good friends with the people that work there, and the bands. It's very much like a big support, which you don't see with a lot of bigger labels these days. Even though the bands don't all sound the same, it comes from a mutual appreciation of music, so it works really well.
Your videos and artwork all have a very defined idea and vision behind them, is the aesthetic aspect important to you as well?
Yeah, definitely. Record imagery is so important, like when you think of records you love, you always think of the album cover, it's like iconography. Especially with this album, and the singles, we really wanted it all to fit together, but also be really simple, cohesive, and not too flashy.
What kind of music are you listening to at the moment?
A lot of old stuff. Some 60s stuff, I've been listening to The Birds a lot. Actually there's this old Bee Gees album, like from before they were a disco band, and it's like beatles-esque, a little bit psychedelic rock.
Where do you see Wild Nothing going next?
I feel really lucky to have even gotten to the point where we are, and I hope it still grows, but I don't want to outgrow what it is that we do and the roots of where we started. We're gonna tour a lot this year, and that'll be really good. I just want to keep doing this, and making records, for as long as I can.
Nocturne made it into our Top 25 Albums of the Year list, which you can read about here.