Wild Nothing – Life In General Is Strange

Adjagas, communication & escapism – Jack Tatum of Wild Nothing talks with Siobhán Kane.

Adjagas, communication & escapism – Jack Tatum of Wild Nothing talks with Siobhán Kane.

Jack Tatum‘s work as Wild Nothing is the kind that becomes important to you as soon as you hear it, perhaps because he truthfully renders an interior imaginative and romantic life. His music sounds otherworldly and yet familiar, referencing The Smiths and My Bloody Valentine, certainly – but retaining a kind of individuality that is hard to explain. Considering the depth of his compositions, it is hard to believe that he mainly writes and records alone (just like Miracle Fortress), but it is perhaps because of this singularity that he is able to create work of astonishing emotional power.

It seems appropriate that he gained some attention with his cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Cloudbusting‘ in 2009, which (along with some demos) led to him being signed by Captured Tracks. In one way, even unconsciously, it was like laying down a musical gauntlet, with that particular song stemming from Bush’s thrilling Hounds of Love record, and the lyrics of ‘Cloudbusting’, which are all about memories and the need for invention and bravery in difficult times; in essence, the need to dream. Wild Nothing’s cover of the song is notable for the way it serves the original, but adds another kind of atmosphere, where the layers of glowing instrumentation become as important as the lyrics themselves.

He expanded on that in his 2010 EP’s Golden Haze and Evertide, which then led to Gemini, his full-length record that was also released last year. It partly surveys eighties dream pop, but rather than using that time and sound as a cursory reference, it becomes the true beating heart of his music, and Gemini sounds as natural an album as something like Loveless or Meat is Murder. There is something both subtle and all-conquering about his lyrics, romantic delivery and melodies that sound like the ones you have when you are dreaming, but cannot fully grasp once you have awoken. And like the sad songs that populate the journey of the lonely farmer’s daughters in The Ballroom of Romance – shattered hearts, and broken dreams – Wild Nothing is there to see and feel it all, and bring you succour through something like the tormented, beautiful prose poem that is ‘Live in Dreams’, “our lips won’t last forever/and that’s exactly why/ I’d rather live in dreams, and I’d rather die“, and when he sings “pretty face, could you make the jump with me?” – you find you already have. Siobhán Kane talks to Jack Tatum.


You played in other incarnations before Wild Nothing emerged, how would you explain your evolution from that period to becoming Wild Nothing?
I think it was as simple as just slapping a new name on the songs I was working on and just going with it. I don’t really think about what I did before Wild Nothing. That’s just getting into things that I was doing when I was really young, like eighteen years old. I don’t think about that stuff much anymore. They aren’t really projects that I intended for the world to know about.

Your version of Kate Bush’s ‘Cloudbusting’ was truly beautiful, and it is a real achievement to create a stellar cover of any of Kate’s songs, because they are so layered. How did you find the process, and can you explain your relationship to her music?
Kate Bush is one of my favorite songwriters. To me she has always been the archetype for doing your own thing and not caring about how you fit in to any sort of musical history. I think she is one of my most exciting people in music because of it. Some of her songs are downright beautiful, others are kind of freaky, and the majority of them flirt with being really goofy. But that’s who she is and she is better off because of it. As far as the cover I did goes, I don’t really think as hard about what a cover should be as some people might. I’ve had so many people be like, “Wow it was really brave of you to cover Kate Bush,” and it’s like, really? Am I not allowed to just cover it because I like it? I never intended for it to be a statement, and I also never intended for it to get out as much as it did. It wasn’t my idea to put it out as an A-side single, and really it was never meant to be anything more than a gift to my girlfriend at the time. But, with all that being said, it’s an amazing song and I had fun working on it, just as a fan of her music.

Something like ‘Take Me In’ has more of a post-punk sense to it, is that a sound that has become more important to you as your have progressed with your production work?
I wouldn’t say it’s something that is more important, it’s just something that I play around with from time and time, and with that song in particular. I think it would be unwise for people to expect a post-punk album from Wild Nothing. Even though I listen to so much of that stuff, I’m definitely more interested in what you can do with pop music. I just like to play around though.

There seems to be a sense of a strong love of idiosyncratic songwriters; The Smiths spring to mind immediately, for the atmospheric soundscapes, the grasp on literary, and sometimes archaic language- are they a real influence?
Absolutely, The Smiths will always be an extremely important influence for me. They tend to float in and out of my life depending on what’s going on or what other things I’m listening to. But of course. I certainly connect with what they did.

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