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Each year, there are only a few albums that truly grab me like a 9th grade romance and just won’t let go. Holding hands in the hallway and leaving notes in my locker. Always there – but not in an unhealthy way just yet. Jack Tatum’s newest effort, Wild Nothing has done just that, becoming an obsession, sans all the stalking, but with the same amount of life lessons. Moody, yet bright – dreamy, yet urgent – it hits all my sweet spots and sets me to swooning. It has more than earned the blitz of interbuzz radiating around it and come Saturday, we can see the expanded live version (with Abe Vigoda and the always excellent Deleted Scenes at the Hotel.) We had a few minutes with Jack to discuss things I love (parents, Savannah, beards) and, well… avocado… here goes!

Are you still in Blacksburg? It seems like Tech is always part of the DC area due to so many people in the region attending, but when you are actually there it seems like a million miles away, much sleepier than Williamsburg even.
No, I actually just moved to Savannah this past month. For a while I wasn’t really living anywhere and just coming back to Williamsburg from time to time. You’re definitely right though, it felt like every other person I met at Tech was from the DC / Northern Virginia area. I never really thought of them as being connected though really.

Do you think that sleepiness contributed to the project and process?
Yeah in a lot of ways it did. I think anyone that has lived in Blacksburg or has visited, if you don’t completely immerse yourself in the kind “campus experience” then there is very little there. That was never my thing and very much tried to separate myself from the school as much as I could to be honest, which made life even sleepier probably. But I don’t know, it was just a good place at the time to be kind of detached from a lot of things. There was hardly much distraction from music for me and I found it very easy to have my own little word apart from everything else.

What is your feeling on the constant references to The Cure? While you have mastered the Robert Smith single string melody line, it seems terribly lazy to me. The allure is that the sound references that 80’s era without pinpointing any specific act.
I don’t particularly mind it really. I wouldn’t call it lazy, but it certainly tends to happen a lot and has maybe become an easy way to bypass a lot of the other influences which seem to me equally as obvious. It’s funny though, I actually like The Cure a lot more now than when I was making the record. But yeah, the whole idea with the record was kind of like making this complete blob of all the things I liked about 80’s shoegaze and dream pop and indie pop or whatever. I never pinpointed one thing over the next I don’t think.

What music do you really feel is a heavy influence on your writing and recording?
I mean a band like The Smiths or My Bloody Valentine are kind of the touchstones for a lot of stuff I was into. I always say them though because its pretty easy, in the same way reviewers always say The Cure I guess haha. I don’t know. I pull from a lot of individual songs by bands that I wouldn’t necessarily find important enough to mention, and some contemporary indie like Jens Lekman or Destroyer, etc.

Do you feel like keeping your beard (ha!) keeps you connected with that US college town culture despite your anglophile tunesmithing?
Haha, hmm. I don’t know. I haven’t thought of it like that. I think I’m just cursed with being a pretty hairy dude that hates shaving. I know what you mean though. I look more like a member of Fleet Foxes than someone who makes 80s inspired indie pop. If that keeps me rooted in the Virginia roots though then I’m cool with that.

How has the recording process worked with “Gemini” and the “Golden Haze” EP?

They were both just done by me in my bedroom. Nothing terribly cool.

Do you see the next record being recorded in a more expansive studio and bringing in other players, and if so, is there the fear that departing from the existing process will alter what made the last record so special to fans?
I actually do really want to try and do the next record in more professional studio, or at least do something to step up the fidelity from the first two releases. I love a lot of “lo-fi” music, but it’s not really me, and it’s not really something I intended on doing. I recorded it all myself but I spent a lot of time cleaning everything up as much as I could. There is the worry that it might lose something in the transition, but I’d like to think the actual songwriting will translate. And besides, if everyone just likes my music cause they think its cool and lo-fi then that kind of sucks anyway. I don’t want that.

What made you feel like you couldn’t continue to morph into this writing style with Jack and the Whale and it needed a new project name?

To me it just felt like a new thing. Jack and the Whale felt super old and juvenile to me. It was just a silly name I gave to anything I recorded for a while, but it began to feel very high school to me. I wanted to seaerate myself from that. Just a fresh start I guess.

Things really took off and Wild Nothing has already allowed you to play in Europe etc… what has been the craziest experience on tour so far?
I don’t know, we’re like the tamest band ever haha. We’ve been to a lot of cool places and done a lot of cool stuff, but no Guns N’ Roses stories. This totally was NOT fun but definitely crazy; I had mono for the entirety of our second European tour but I didn’t really realize it. I gave up drinking for a month and had tonsils that looked like cotton balls. It was the worst thing ever. I took more ibuprofen than any human being should ever take just so I could sing at night.

How different are the songs as a live experience – and how has that worked for you giving up some of the control necessary to exist as a live act?
They’re pretty different. I wouldn’t say that they are so different that people that like the record are going to feel alienated, but they definitely take on a different feeling. It’s kind of just the same old story that happens for a lot of bands. The songs get a little faster, a little louder. That’s kind of the exciting part of live music though. I wanted the songs to have the kind of energy that got me really excited when I would go see shows when I was younger.

Do you feel like there is a pressure to “grow” Wild Nothing out of the bedroom per se? In that same regard – don’t you feel like that insular feeling and singular direction is what people connect with?
Yeah I do. I think you can maintain a lot of that feeling and connectedness while still growing things to another level. I don’t ever want to stop doing what I want and writing the kind of songs that make me happy, but I’m also perfectly content with reaching a wider audience.

What does your family think about this becoming your job per se?
My parents rule so they’re super excited.
Where did your cover image for Gemini come from? I still can’t decide if I like it or if it is terrible – haha.
Haha, yeah I know what you mean. Its something I found on flickr actually. A photographer named Joanne Ratkowski. I’ve talked to a lot of people who love it and some people that I hate it so I totally understand. Its a weird one.

Don’t you wish you had some bizarre past or famous girlfriend so everyone could stop asking you the same questions in every interview? Can we work on this?
Oh man. Yeah I’m kind of a super boring dude to interview haha. I’ll see what I can do. Some people just have normal upbringings and not famous girlfriends. What can I say?


Favorite painting of all-time?
Robert Rauschenberg’s Factum I & II

Favorite sandwich of all-time?
Anything with avocado.

Which one do you love more?

Probably the avocado sandwhich haha.