It’s been five years since his last album Indigo, but now, Jack Tatum is back as Wild Nothing — and he’s not holding back.
Much has changed for Tatum in the past five years. For one, he became a first-time parent during the pandemic, an experience that transformed his worldview completely. “Bringing new life into the world drastically changes how you define yourself and what your purpose is,” Tatum said in a statement. “Before, I wrapped up so much of myself in my music and all of it, the writing, the traveling. That was really who I thought I was. The double whammy of having a kid and not being able to do that anymore—it exposed a lot about what is important to me. It made me understand much better why people gravitate to divine beliefs or why it feels so good to attempt to have an answer.”
Enter Hold, Wild Nothing’s upcoming album (out October 27 on Captured Tracks). With 11 dance-inspired tracks drenched with the 80s synth pop sound Wild Nothing has become synonymous with, Hold explores existential questions of ego, suburbia, and making the “right” life choices. Ahead of the release of Hold, Tatum sits down with Uproxx to talk Tom Petty, roasting celebrity houses, and family vacations in our latest Q&A.
What are four words you would use to describe your music?
Earnest, Measured, Pensive, Cumulative.
It’s 2050 and the world hasn’t ended and people are still listening to your music. How would you like it to be remembered?
Bleak Uproxx! I guess I’ll be just praying that teenagers will inexplicably get really into 2010s dream pop? I think it’s more likely that there will just be some old folks like me who are reminded of their youth and that’s a happy enough thought.
Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?
Paddy McAloon of Prefab Sprout is someone who I really respect on a number of different levels. First off just a phenomenal songwriter, both lyrically and melodically. He strikes me as someone who has been very aspirational but also very grounded in reality and with a certain humility over the course of his career. There’s only been a handful of people who have made this kind of brainy pop music with integrity in my opinion and he’s one of them.
Where did you eat the best meal of your life and what was it?
My wife and I have built up this whole mythology about a meal we had in Savannah once. We had a hummus made out of green peanuts that was honestly so good that we’re always just like, “Did this really happen? Did we make this up??”. It was served with celery for God’s sake. The rest of the meal was fine, pretty unremarkable. I don’t even think the restaurant exists anymore. The whole thing sounds so boring and doesn’t make any sense and yet we both somehow agree on this being the best thing we’ve ever eaten.
Tell us about the best concert you’ve ever attended.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at Bonnaroo in 2013. Generally speaking I’m pretty anti-festival as a viewing experience and it was raining nearly the whole time but I barely noticed cause it was just HIT after HIT after HIT.
What song never fails to make you emotional?
“Anthems For a Seventeen Year-Old Girl” by Broken Social Scene reminds me so much of being a teenager that I find it borderline uncomfortable to listen to. Definitely going through a bit of a ballad phase right now, “Why” by Annie Lennox and “Nightswimming” by REM both threaten to bring out the waterworks.
What’s the last thing you Googled?
I mean, honestly the Bonnaroo lineup for 2013 because my memory sucks.
Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever crashed while on tour?
On our first European tour a German promoter “hooked us up” with a guy who had a place for us to crash. We walk in and it’s a completely empty flat with the exception of like 3 mattresses on the ground with no sheets and what looked like a wedding dress nailed to the wall. Just insane. Needless to say, I did not sleep super well.
What’s your favorite city in the world to perform and what’s the city you hope to perform in for the first time?
We’ve only had one headlining show in Mexico City but it was definitely the most intense I’ve ever felt in terms of the response from an audience. We’ve been pretty lucky travel wise honestly. I’ve scratched off most of my bucket list thanks to Wild Nothing but I’d still love to make it to Auckland, Seoul, and Rio de Janeiro at some point.
What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?
Stop stressing about who you’re going to be in 5 years and just enjoy being a kid who doesn’t need to have anything figured out yet.
What’s one of your hidden talents?
I don’t have enough talents to keep any of them a secret.
If you had a million dollars to donate to charity, what cause would you support and why?
I couldn’t tell you specifically but I think it would most likely be something involving mental health support. I think so many people in America that desperately need support of some kind either have a stigma against it or simply feel it’s unavailable to them. I’ve personally been in that boat and I’m really ready for the conversation around mental health access to change on a systemic level.
What are your thoughts about AI and the future of music?
I think it’s fairly innocuous at the moment but once you start looking a few years ahead it gets scarier. I don’t really worry about it so much in terms of damaging the landscape of real people making music. Making and listening to music will be a part of human culture as long as it exists in my opinion and having indistinguishable AI music floating around won’t change that but I do worry about it in terms of how music is currently monetized and the ways in which it will limit opportunities for people to make a living creating music.
You are throwing a music festival. Give us the dream lineup of 5 artists that will perform with you and the location it would be held.
Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, The Blue Nile, Air, and Milton Nascimento at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall. In this dream I would not be performing, I would just be watching and crying. And like hopefully there’s good catering or whatever.
Who’s your favorite person to follow on social media?
Currently it’s watching @thedanrosen roast celebrity houses.
What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?
Blank slate over here.
What is your pre-show ritual?
I feel like the truth is that we all just take turns going to the bathroom being like oh sh*t, gotta pee, time to play the show, oh sh*t. I’ll do my pretend opera singer warm ups or whatever. There’s no like 90’s kids sport movie huddles going on in the Wild Nothing green room or anything. Usually.
Who was your first celebrity crush?
Larisa Oleynik. Something about Alex Mack morphing into a blob of goo set my tiny heart aflame.
You have a month off and the resources to take a dream vacation. Where are you going and who is coming with you?
My idea of what constitutes a good vacation has changed very drastically since becoming a parent. In another life I would stuff as many things into a trip as humanly possible and avoid beaches whenever possible but not anymore. I’d take the family. Plop us down in Sardinia. Give me a little umbrella on the water. Clearly all these centenarians are doing something right.
What is your biggest fear?
I mean, my legitimate biggest fears are better left off the pages of Uproxx but I will tell you that I sincerely hate submerged man made objects. The propeller room of the Queen Mary in Long Beach is the most wretched, horrifying place I’ve ever been and even just thinking about it makes me queasy.
Hold is out 10/27 via Captured Tracks. Find more information here.