To listen to the music of Jack Tatum, the man behind the band Wild Nothing, is to listen to a man who wears his influences on his sleeve.
Wild Nothing’s ’80s-flaired indie pop owes debts to Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush and an entire generation of offbeat pop stars who made accessible, but interesting, pop music. On the band’s fourth album, “Indigo,” Tatum steers hard toward those ghosts after a record (2016’s “Life of Pause”) where he seemed to try and flee them.
amNewYork caught up with Tatum to talk about returning to the band’s first sounds, and how the ’80s became such an influence.
The album feels like a return to the feel of your earliest work. Was that intentional?
I wouldn’t say that’s what defines the record, or defines my ambition for the record, to circle back to where I started. But I think there is a little bit of that naturally. More than anything else, it was getting to a place where I felt comfortable giving in to my own intuition and letting this flow in a natural way. … I spent a lot of time on the last record, “Life of Pause,” trying my best to fight against my first instinct. A lot of times as I was writing a song, if I thought I would go to this chord, or have a melody go in a certain way, I would try to subvert that, as an exercise. But with “Indigo,” it was a circling back to trusting my instinct. So naturally the sound became a return to form.
How do you do that, trusting your instinct in that way, without the music becoming stale?
I’m just a different person. I’m in a different place, I’ve had different experiences, a different level of comfort and experience on the recording side. There were a couple of songs on this record where, I’ll be honest, I thought, “Let me try to write a Wild Nothing song.” Just not try too hard to think about it, just write a song based on what I think the identity of this band is, separate from myself. And when you do that, you’re going to have these pretty direct ties to songs that you’ve done before, but the natural way of things is that I’m a slightly different person, so if I’m using similar sounds, it’ll still come out different.
You turned 30 in June, meaning you were 2 when the ’80s ended. Why does that decade resonate with you?
I think one of the big things is that I’m constantly uncovering interesting music from that era, where people find this sweet spot between pop and experimentalism. You can find songs or albums where there’s really strong structures and melodies, and the songs are pretty poppy and accessible, but still done in a way where there’s enough of a twist. Parts of them are a little ugly, or skewed in interesting ways, whether it’s production techniques or in the songwriting itself with chord choices, or structure choices. I love that. Even some of the biggest people from that era, like Peter Gabriel or Kate Bush, these are people who were really successful in making accessible music, but also if you are to dig deep enough into, it’s pretty strange music. I like that.
If you go: Wild Nothing performs at 9 p.m. on November 16 at Brooklyn Steel, 319 Frost Street, Brooklyn, bowerypresents.com, $25.