Embracing the Future & Remembering the Past: A Conversation with Wild Nothing

This May makes ten years since Jack Tatum of Wild Nothing released his debut album, ‘Gemini.’ Now, he looks towards the future while remaining influenced by the past with his dreamy, synth-inspired EP, ‘Laughing Gas,’ which is infused with abstractions, catchy melodies, and more.

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It’s safe to say Jack Tatum of Wild Nothing knows a thing or two about what it takes to make a successful dream pop/synth inspired song. His most recent EP release, Laughing Gas, puts Tatum’s talent at the forefront with a variety of tracks that are somehow both future-minded and deeply rooted in the synth music that characterized the 1980s.

Laughing Gas – Wild Nothing

The EP isn’t quite like anything Tatum has released before, though it’s obvious with one listen how the musician’s earlier releases have helped bring him to this point. The story Tatum tells through the songs on the EP isn’t always linear, and it doesn’t have to be. His voice manages to evoke feelings of calmness yet unsettledness, chaos yet certainty, and instills in the tracks a sense of vastness and versatility while remaining idiosyncratic. Laughing Gas introduces Tatum’s listeners to yet another iteration of Wild Nothing while offering insightful, and often gut-wrenching, commentary on how we live our lives. It’s been ten years since Wild Nothing’s debut album was released, and Tatum revels in that: he’s not afraid to try something new but doesn’t divert too far from the sonic cohesion that constitutes Wild Nothing’s brand.

Atwood Magazine spoke to Wild Nothing’s Jack Tatum about his most recent EP, musical evolution, and his creative process in this exclusive interview!

Listen: ‘Laughing Gas’ – Wild Nothing


Atwood Magazine: So, to start, let's talk about your creative process. I know you've mentioned in the past that you write melodies before lyrics. Was that also the case with the songs on Laughing Gas?

Wild Nothing: Yeah, yeah it’s pretty much the standard for me when I’m writing. It hasn’t always been that way, but that’s kind of like what makes the most sense for me and my process I think. I always start my songs kind of like trying to build from the bottom up… and sort of like creating some sort of base that I’ll build these melodies upon. I always think of the vocal melody as just like, you know, another instrument at first. Just for me, that’s what makes the most sense. I think too it can be nice in some ways because then depending on whatever sort of mood is built within the song, I can kind of like cater the lyrics to that afterward. And for me, if I already have a melody, then it gives me this framework to begin writing to.

I think that's really interesting that you can kind of cater the lyrics to the sound in the song. I think you can definitely see that in this EP and also your other work. So, as for the lyrics, there are some really beautiful and poetic ones on Laughing Gas. Where did you draw your inspiration from when you were writing lyrics for this EP?

Wild Nothing: I feel like the lyrics that I’ve always been the most drawn to are [written by] people that kind of play within the realms of …keeping things a bit more on the abstract side. And I think part of that has to do with just having studied poetry in school and having an appreciation for, you know, meanings that aren’t always necessarily surface level. I mean I think there’s a lot to be said for very direct and specific imagery and sort of direct addresses of certain emotions or whatever. But I think for me, what I enjoy the most is kind of finding a way to sort of like convey images that leave things slightly open-ended. That’s been sort of a goal of mine with a lot of my lyrics, for better or worse, but that was definitely the case with this one too.

Yeah, and I think that, you know, you bring up a really valuable point when you leave things a little bit open-ended, your listeners are able to fill in the gaps and bring their own experiences to the table and that makes the song so much more personal?

Wild Nothing: Yeah, I think it’s a taste thing, too. I know a lot of people who are a lot more drawn to traditional forms of songwriting and songs that do tell very clear stories. And there’s certain artists and songwriters that I like for that reason, too. I have an appreciation for that as well. But I think that, yeah, I find it fun, and I too like the idea that someone can read their own meanings into your songs.

My next question is...the title of the EP Laughing Gas I thought was very unique and catchy when I heard it. What inspired you to title this body of work that?

Wild Nothing: So whenever I’m trying to come up with song titles or album titles it inevitably always stems from something in the lyrics. I always kind of – it’s rare that I’ll come up with a title beforehand and try to kind of like write around that, I always just sort of like, write freely and then once I feel like I have the lyrics for a song, then I’m kind of like, ‘Okay, well what is going to be, like, representative of this?’ So yeah, there’s a reference to laughing gas in the last song of the EP, and this just kind of … you know, it’s talking about being in love…

I like this image of the laughing gas, kind of like…this thing that I think we all sort of, like, try to chase this bliss but with a darker side, you know what I mean? It’s sort of like, you know, when you’re under the influence of laughing gas or whatever, everything is fine, but it’s this manufactured thing, it’s not a real feeling.

Wild Nothing © Ryan Patterson

Yeah, and that's a really good answer and really interesting. So, next question is, could you walk me through the recording process of this EP?

Wild Nothing: Well, all the songs on this EP were recorded at the same time that I was working on the last record Indigo. So they’re all actually like quite old. You know, like a lot of these songs I started demoing as far back as like 2017, and, yeah. I originally had them all sort of grouped into one folder of music that I was working on, and then when I was recording the last record with Jorge Elbrecht, we just recorded all of them, we spent some time in Sunset Sound in L.A., and basically…tracked. We did some basic tracking for all of these songs, all at the same time. I didn’t know what was going to end on the record or not. I was just kind of recording everything to see what felt right.

I know you're doing a couple of performances with Beach Fossils in a few months. Is there like one specific song that you're looking really forward to performing live?

Wild Nothing: Well, yeah. We’re going to do the whole first record..in full…we’ve never done anything like that, so it’s going to be interesting. There are a handful of songs on the record that we just, never have played or intended or play. So I’m excited about that, I’m nervous about it, obviously, there are songs on that record that we haven’t played for good reason (laughs). They’re difficult to sort of arrange for a band or whatever, but it’ll be a fun challenge, and I think all the people that I play with are up for it and are good sports about it so it’ll be fun.

When I listen to your discography, I'm so impressed with how your sound has evolved but also, I think, how cohesive it is in its entirety. And that probably sounds kind of like a contradiction, but I think it is true. How would you describe your musical evolution throughout the years? And where are you hoping to go next?

Wild Nothing: You know, like, I think if nothing else that sort of feels like what I really wanted to do with this project, kind of create this discography that at once feels cohesive but you know, has signs of growth. That’s always been, I think, the intention that every time I release a record, I’ve never really wanted to alienate the people that have been supportive of my music, but at the same time, there are always new things I want to try. It’s been a game of gradual gains, I think, in terms of what I want to do creatively from record to record.

In terms of Wild Nothing, you know, like I want to keep making Wild Nothing records and continue to do that, you know? There are so many other things that I am interested in, and so it’s kind of like, ‘How do I do those things?’ and I don’t know, I’ve always played around with the idea of, you know, starting a new project for a record or releasing a record just under my own name and you know, I’ve talked about doing more electronic dance music or doing a record that’s more kind of like singer-songwriter type stuff. So, I don’t know. And I have examples of all this stuff on my computer, just things I’ve been working on over the years and it just never felt right for Wild Nothing. So I don’t know what will happen there. But I think another thing too, you know, the older I get, the more interested I am in collaboration in general, in all of its forms, just, you know, starting to get more into production and helping other people kind of like realize their vision because that is like, just as rewarding to me, I think is as working on my own music.

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