Interview- Bean Counting 101 with Wild Nothing
Give or take a Jack Rose (R.I.P.), Jack Tatum is the most successful musician to emerge from Blacksburg in at least a decade. The early home recordings he made as Wild Nothing while studying at Virginia Tech had enough melody cutting through the fuzz that it only took a MySpace friend request to attract the attention of Captured Tracks head honcho Mike Sniper, who oversaw the release of Gemini in early 2010. That album in turn drew substantial acclaim from Pitchfork, whose "Best New Music" award can almost single-handedly turn an obscure record into a sales juggernaut, at least in relative terms. Not that it matters–- no matter how grim the economics of indie rock might get, Tatum's generation will probably be a lot harder to discourage.
The Hook: You got started after the music industry had pretty much burned to the ground. Does that make it hard for you to expect financial returns from this?
Jack Tatum: It's kind of exciting in a way, because I think if you do it right and are patient, there's still money to be had–- not that that's, like, the important thing. I think there's still such a big place for live music, and I don't think that's something that will ever go away.
The Hook: What was the best reaction you got to the Pitchfork endorsement?
Jack Tatum: I think some of my friends set off some fireworks or something, but that's totally dorky and I don't even want to talk about it.
The Hook: One of the more interesting perspectives I've read in defense of Pitchfork's enthusiasm for lo-fi bedroom-recording indie-pop projects like yours is that it's a valid cultural response to the economic collapse of 2008, art as a response to circumstance.
Jack Tatum: That sounds like reading too much into it. What I do is not really a response to anything. I recorded it the way I did not because the economy was failing and the music industry was failing, but just because I was a 19-year-old kid that didn't have any money to begin with.
The Hook: So no matter whether the music industry is broke, or the American workforce is broke, college students are always broke.
Jack Tatum: Yeah. But now because the music industry, well, it's pretty much failed at this point, you don't have to record in a studio anymore. I didn't spend any money at all making the record.
The Hook: So in a sense the return you've made on that must be pretty substantial.
Jack Tatum: Yeah, absolutely.
The Hook: One of the things that pops up when I search for you on YouTube is an interview which was sponsored by Converse. Did you hear that they opened up a recording studio in Brooklyn which is free to independent musicians?
Jack Tatum: That kind of stuff is bizarre. I guess a lot of it has to do with making your company seem cool and hip or something. Converse tries to give away their shoes a lot. I got a free pair. We played a show, and for whatever reason Converse was sponsoring it, so we got free shoes and did an interview.
The Hook: If you had to pick a big soulless corporation to sponsor your next tour, who would it be?
Jack Tatum: Hmm, that's a good question. Maybe Reese's?
Wild Nothing performs at
the Twisted Branch Tea BazaarTrinity Irish Pub on February 10 at 8pm. Tickets are $8 in advance or $10 at the door.