Catching up with Wild Cub on their recent world tour
Wild Cub, a four-piece originating from the US musical mecca of Nashville, are quickly becoming critic-favourites with their infectious blend of pop rock music.
Following the successful re-release of debut album
Youth earlier in the year - lead by the brilliant Bose-approved ‘Thunder Clatter’ - Keegan DeWitt and co. have gone from being Vampire Weekend’s support act in the US to fronting their own world tour. Before their recent show at Hackney’s Oslo, Subba-Cultcha caught up with the group to discuss all things Wild Cub.
Subba-Cultcha: For those readers out there who don’t know of Wild Cub, can you tell us how the band come about, and how long have you been making your music? Wild Cub: We had all moved to Nashville for separate reasons, to be songwriters or producers or musicians. The one thing that linked all of us together was the desire to be in a band. We were all drawn to the idea of letting the music and the moments we are creating with the music be primary. Nashville especially is filled with a lot of solo artists with a record cover with their face on it, their name in big block records. I really wanted to eliminate that from the equation, just let the first moments for anyone encountering the music to be… what is this? Rather than “who is this?”
SC: What’s been the biggest hurdle or greatest obstacle that preceded your current success? WC: In the early stages, you are essentially spending almost all of your time just trying to get people to listen. Every show, every conversation, every bit of press… it’s all just about saying “we are worth your time to listen”. That can get exhausting and maybe a little reductionist after a while. In many ways, one of the most regarding and exciting by-products of our success so far has been that we can focus less on that. Now, we can truly shift our efforts into the work, both of writing and recording as authentically as possible, but also in terms of being able to communicate nightly with a full audience who has come specifically to see and hear us. That’s been really rewarding.
SC: How do you personally measure how well you’re doing as a group - what would you like to achieve as wild cub? WC: Well I try to remember that, two years ago, we took over Jeremy’s [Bullock, guitarist] house and started to turn a bunch of demos into what would later become our first record. At that moment it was a huge gamble for each of us. We had worked really hard to establish a certain amount of success for ourselves as solo artists and we were all setting that aside and gambling that Wild Cub would be as rewarding as we hoped. At that moment, the primary hope was: “I hope this reaches someone. I hope people hear this.” If those things happened, we felt like we would have been successful, so in those terms, we feel really lucky. Now it’s an even more exciting prospect to think that, from here forward, people hearing the music and it reaching people is a foregone conclusion. That frees up a lot of energy to be spent on the art.
SC: Nashville has established itself as a hotbed for breeding musical talent. Why do you think this is, and how do you feel it’s affected your sound? WC: I think, just as with anywhere, you are constantly both at odds with your hometown and in kinship with it. In many ways, we were really turned off by the music row “get paid to write for other people” industry in Nashville. We also couldn’t have been less excited by the multitudes of white guys with acoustic guitars (of which I was one!). I’d say that was a big reason why we all gravitated to one another in the first place. I don’t think that really fed into any of the sound of the music specifically, but it certainly drew us together as friends who were very turned off by that generalization of the Nashville music world. In the year or so since we really have become busy, not only have we not spent much time in Nashville (about a week total with all the touring), but there has been an incredible influx of very very diverse bands and musicians to emerge out of our city. We are proud to be part of that, and I’m sure it’s all connected in a certain way. The music business went to crap, and out of that, there was a lot more room in town for a more interesting and less business oriented brand of artists to emerge. It’s probably also worth noting that all but one of us are from places all over the US, so Nashville mainly served as an amazing low budget hub. It gave us all something really special, the chance to make music full time. We weren’t working fifty hours a week as a waiter to pay to live in a big city. We were able to live within our means and make music full time because of the cost to live in Nashville, and that was a huge part of our ability to succeed.
SC: Are there any home-based musicians you think we should be aware of here in the UK? WC: This list could take up a couple pages honestly, but a few are Roman Candle, Caitlin Rose, Diarrhea Planet, Tristen and my close friend Bryan Cates. In many ways, Bryan is easily the most talented person I know, and currently… he’s only on the radar of a small group in Nashville. Hopefully that changes.
SC: You’ve just been touring with vampire weekend - how was that? WC: For us, their record Vampires… was one of the really great records from last year. Not just a few great tracks, but an incredible record. I recently took a trip to France with my wife and I drove through the countryside watching the sun come up listening to “Hannah Hunt” at 4:30 in the morning and it really turned me inside out. They are a band that has really walked the line of being popular and large while still releasing impeccably fantastic records. The lyrics are incredible, the arrangements are incredible, the melodies…. So in general, it was a total privilege to get a nod from them saying “come play with us.”
SC: Is it more nerve-wracking playing huge venues or on watched-by-millions TV shows like Conan o’Brien and Jimmy Fallon? WC: It’s tough to say because every show can be so different. Sometimes it’s a massive show in front of 5,000 people and it feels stale and you can’t connect, sometimes it’s a show in front of 120 sweaty people crammed together and it’s the opposite. You could reverse that sentence and it’d be true as well. With TV, it’s an entirely different set of nerves. For me, I forget my own words when I get nervous, so I spend a lot of time pacing around singing a song I wrote myself and have sung about a million times… just trying to remember the words! One thing I really enjoy about live shows is that they are moments. They are a happening and then they are gone. With TV, you get setup in this stilted stale environment (although the people are amazingly nice!) and then that gets immortalized on the internet forever. You get to see an entire comment thread with somebody sitting at their computer at 3am in the morning talking about how stupid your face looks!
SC: Wild cub’s music is the perfect soundtrack for…? WC: Driving at night with someone asleep next to you.
SC: Ahead of your own headline tour, what are you most excited about? How is it being away from home for such an extended period of time? WC: Being away for so long is tough, especially when I have to be scoring a film and working on remixes. It’s a lot of me hunkered down in the back of the bus working on a small keyboard and laptop. That being said, it’s been really satisfying to be able to meet so many incredible people and hear and experience their connection to our music. Like I said earlier, when we began this thing, we weren’t sure anyone would even hear or care about our record. To be able to travel the world and meet so many different and incredible people with such diverse attachments, interpretations and memories created to our music feels really incredible.
SC: What does the average day on the road entail for Wild Cub? WC: The simple answer here is driving! But usually we are up early and trying to exercise and catch up on emails. I will try and get everything ready for what I might need film-score or remix wise all downloaded and then we’ll hit the road. On the road, I spend a lot of time on the phone with our management and scoring. Every once and a while I’ll squeeze in some PlayStation baseball or read. Usually, in the afternoon, we will have radio. We’ll do a quick performance, do an interview, meet a bunch of nice people and then head to the venue. Then it’s load-in, sound check and some more scoring for me if I can squeeze it in. Finally, we play. Repeat that every day and you get the idea…
SC: What’s your favourite thing about touring England? WC: I grew up obsessed with British music. Every week I’d pay $10 for an imported version of Q Magazine, then I’d go to the record store and pay extra to get imported versions of any record I could that I had read about. I first started writing songs listening to Blur, The Verve, Pulp, Oasis, Manic Street Preachers, Supergrass, etc. so for me, England is a bit iconic. I honestly feel like the Brits have an appreciation for quality music that is unrivaled. They’re taste, with a feel funny exceptions, gave birth to so many incredible artists that were fundamental in shaping my music brain. Although I still don’t understand how Q can rank the 100 greatest songs on what seems like a yearly basis!
SC: Have you been here before, and if so what was your highlight of the trip? WC: We have, we’ve been over twice in the past couple months and I had travelled throughout England in my regular life a lot. My favorite memory from this year was our first every show in London, a sold out, very sweaty, and very magical show at Sebright Arms.
SC: Your website and videos are very nice on the eyes - how much creative control do you have on these? Do you think a visual aspect to music is important? WC: Like I was saying earlier, we really cherished the fact that Wild Cub gave us an opportunity to make the music and the themes and the moments in front of everything else. We try and make sure that everything - the videos, the artwork, the t-shirts - feels connected and intentional and is all in service of the larger aesthetic of the record. Wild Cub’s debut album
Youth is available now.