With so many music festivals set to take place around the region, the Have You Heard? crew kick things off here in Bangkok with their “Mini-Festival” bringing together three dream-pop bands from three countries—Wild Nothing (US), Veronica Falls (UK) and Last Dinosaurs (Australia)—to perform alongside fast-rising locals Part Time Musicians (Nov 6). Here, headliner Jack Tatum aka Wild Nothing talks to BK about meeting his idols and keeping things vague.
What sort of band will you be bringing to Bangkok and will you be performing any new material?
The band right now is a pretty traditional "rock" band. Drums, bass, two guitars and keys. I wanted it to be that way from the start, for our shows to be as full as possible and as representative of the records as they could be. We'll be playing some but not all of the new material. It's been important for me to try and have a good mix of all the records. I like to have some of everything.
You’ve talked about the difference that working with a producer on Nocturne (2012) made to your music; are you now open to more—perhaps greater—forms of collaboration?
It's really hard to say. I think I'll always do a large amount of the work on my own, at least for anything that gets put out as "Wild Nothing" but I definitely find myself becoming more and more open to collaboration. It's just a matter of finding the right collaborators. I'd really like to find someone who pushes me into uncomfortable territory instead of reinforcing the inclinations I already have.
You’ve gone on record saying Gemini (2010) wasn’t made with touring in mind; do you feel like you’ve come a long way as a live performer since then?
I do think that. It's been about four years now since all this started and the music has slowly been finding a home in the live setting. It's always going to be a bit difficult, the music still feels so personal and self-made in a lot of ways which I think might constrict it live. In my mind, though, the records will always come first. A record lives forever. Live shows have an energy that is difficult to capture on record but recorded music is my first love.
What role does touring play in your creative process?
Inspiration. In a lot of ways touring is the uncreative side of what I do. It's a rehashing of ideas you've already had, there isn't a great sense of newness in it. But the traveling and frustrations involved with touring often serve as some of my biggest inspiration for working on new material. A trip like this for instance, to Bangkok, feels like such a strange and unique opportunity for someone like me. It's trips like this that make me want to keep creating things.
What are the best and worst things about being on the road?
Seeing new places and meeting new people is always the best part of being on the road. It's really as simple as that. I know it's not particularly specific but sometimes touring isn't that specific in the first place. You have these experiences in very fast bursts and sometimes places and people blur together which is equally frustrating and fascinating. I've had some of the best times of my life on tour though. I've seen places that had seemed unreachable to me previously. That said, though, touring is obviously tiring and creatively stifling at times. Everyone gets homesick at some point.
You recently got the chance to interview Robert Foster [of seminal Australian indie-rock group The Go-Betweens]; is there anyone in particularly you’d like to sit down with to discuss the finer points of songwriting?
I feel really lucky to have had the chance to talk with Robert for that interview. I was so nervous at first, I don't know why. People are people and it was so exciting and interesting to have someone relate their circumstances to you like that. In a way it can be heartbreaking to have your romantic notions of a certain time or place brought back to reality but it's also what needs to happen sometimes. We're all not so different, just separated by time. There are so many people I'd love to talk to about songwriting and production. Brian Eno for one would be amazing to chat with. I've stood in the same area as Kevin Shields and Johnny Marr on separate occasions and didn't have the nerve to speak to either of them though! A lot of people say you shouldn't meet your idols, even if they're lovely people. It's just too weird.
On your last EP, you dipped your toe into repetitive, ambient music? Do you see this as a future direction for Wild Nothing?
We haven't attempted to recreate those moments live, I'm not sure we ever will. Perhaps at some point far down the road but for me those moments live on record. We play an extended version of "Ride," though, which definitely taps into a certain amount of cyclical meditation. It gets a bit krauty. I wouldn't rule it out as a future direction. I think if anything Empty Estate was just my attempt to say that I'm going to be trying things out for better or worse. I hope people are along with it.
Did you feel much pressure moving in a new direction sonically, given the critical success of your previous two full-lengths?
Yeah, there’s always some pressure. I have some serious doubts sometimes. I get pretty self-conscious and anxious about my music. I sometimes don't know where we fit into the grand scheme of things. I sometimes feel too pop to be accepted by some of our peers and too strange or pensive to fit in with others. No one wants their art to fade into obscurity. Ultimately I just have to do what makes me happy and makes me fulfilled. The only goal I've ever had is to try and make great records that mean something to people.
There's a heavy influence from past music in your work. Do you think there's danger in too much nostalgia?
Yes, I'm starting to learn that. Nostalgia seems like such a dirty word now. Everyone looks to the past, though; that's the thing. I think some people, like me, are much more open about it than others. Newness isn't inherently good. Something could potentially be 100% unique and still be terrible. That's my viewpoint. I get it that some people view looking to the past as a weakness. I view it as being smart. As musicians we're in the most unique position ever because we have centuries (in particular this past century) of popular and experimental music to pull from. There's nothing new left really. It's all just combinations of pre-existing forms at this point. I guess electronic music can still be considered the future of music, but we can already basically synthesize anything we want sonically. Where do you go from there?
Previously you’ve described your lyrics as “intentionally vague”—do you think this somehow makes the songs more relatable?
I like vague. I like searching for meaning. In films, poetry, whatever the case might be. I do think that when you leave meaning up to the consumer then you have a more relatable and extendable product. In my mind it's OK to have multiple interpretations of something that is presented to people. Look at the film Blue Velvet for instance.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Lots of things involving Ryuichi Sakamoto. Also really been enjoying the new record by The Field, Cupid's Head.
What are your plans for the rest of 2013? Any news on future releases?
No news as of yet, I'd like to take a bit of break but I'm sure I won't be able to keep away for long. I don't know when it will be but I'd imagine that the next time you see me emerge it will be with a new LP.