When the shoegazy dream-pop group Wild Nothing emerged from the ether in 2010, their music sounded as though it, well, emerged from the either. Full of gauzy synths, muted guitars and brittle vocals, the band’s debut Gemini—which actually leads off with a song called “Live in Dreams” — was actually the work of just one man, Jack Tatum, who recorded the album while attending Virginia Tech. He assembled a band and began touring, and now Wild Nothing has returned with new album Nocturne, which sounds a little clearer and lot more lively than the debut. With that in mind, here are five facts that sort of explain how Tatum (& Co.!) got to this point.
1. Wild Nothing Main Man Jack Tatum Works Alone, But Isn’t Afraid of a Little Help
While Wild Nothing tours as a five-piece, the whole thing is the brainchild of Jack Tatum who recorded the group’s first album, Gemini, in his bedroom, Prince-style. For this year’s Nocturne, though, he demoed all the songs himself but got some help in the studio. Having relocated to Brooklyn, Tatum worked with producer Nicolas Vernhes, who has recorded Björk, Spoon and Deerhunter, to give the record some space. In part because of this, songs like the recent single “Shadow” breathe in a way Gemini‘s songs didn’t, as its ragged, bouncy Robert Smith-like guitar line echo off scratchy snares (that aren’t produced by a drum machine).
2. Tatum Occasionally Indulges Improv Over Reproducibility in the Studio
While making Nocturne, Tatum was more conscious that the songs he was writing needed to be played live, but there were a few instances where he just let his dreamy side take over. One of those is the jammy, shambolic (for Wild Nothing) middle section of the five-minute “Paradise.” In an interview with Pitchfork, he said, “‘Paradise’ has a really extended, almost ambient part, and I don’t know how we’re going to do that live. I don’t care. I just wanted to do it.”
3. Sleeplessness May Be a Good Thing Creatively for Tatum
When Wild Nothing released “Shadow” earlier this year, it came with a statement that sort of explains why Tatum uses the lunar cycle at the top of Nocturne‘s cover art and its attendant singles. “There was a great deal of restlessness that went into the creation of this album,” he said. “The moon cycle has come to represent this for me; a slowly changing symbol of where these songs feel most at home, a sleepless state of mind.” Maybe that’s why his official website is a moon chart with tour dates attached. (Today’s lunar luminosity is at 88 percent!) While not on the album, the single “Nowhere,” which features Twin Sister’s Andrea Estella and came out earlier this year, has the lyrics, “In dreams, I wake you up,” which may be a blessing and a curse.
4. Tatum Is Not Afraid of Heart-on-Sleeve Sentimentality
Just watch a few minutes of Tatum’s ultra-sentimental clip for 2010′s “Chinatown,” and you’ll see vintage footage of a cute kid in a yellow sweatshirt experiencing a wide range of emotions as he travels through Paris in search of his lost dog. The scenes come from a 1968 short film by French filmmaker Richard Balducci titled “Clown” (watch it in full here). With Wild Nothing’s soundtrack of rattling rhythms, plucky guitars and swirling synths, it becomes a little more whimsical throughout most of the song, but the end scene becomes more hopeless than the original when coupled with Tatum’s lyrics about running away.
5. If You Listen Close Enough You Might Hear Some Fleetwood Mac Influence in “Nocturne”
In recent interviews, Tatum has mentioned how much of an influence Fleetwood Mac has been on him. He has said Nocturne‘s title cut supposedly has a theme in it that references the London rockers’ Rumours album. Tatum says he relates more, though, to the band’s 1982 LP Mirage, which gave birth to the singles “Gypsy” and “Hold Me.” “They’re a huge inspiration for what it means to write a pop song, and the idea of hooks and harmonies—the idea of a refrain,” he told eMusic. “It’s something that really inspired me on this album.”
Wild Nothing’s Nocturne is out now on Captured Tracks. Stream it below via Hypetrak: