“Before our first records came out, we started emailing each other works in progress, and we still do that to this day,” Payseur says. “We’ll just send each other stuff that we’re working on because I think we trust each other’s feedback and know it’s somebody who’s going to give it a genuine listen.”
Having both made their mark on the indie rock genre over the past decade, Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing will visit the Vogue on Tuesday, Oct. 5 as part of a co-headlining tour that commemorates the 10-year anniversary of the bands’ debut albums (Wild Nothing’s Gemini and Beach Fossils’ self-titled).
Ahead of their Indianapolis show, our Seth Johnson caught up with Payseur and Tatum for a joint Zoom interview, discussing their longtime friendship and looking back on the success of Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing’s debut albums. Read their conversation below.
SETH JOHNSON: I know the two of you are close friends. Can you talk to me a little bit about how you first met?
JACK TATUM: When did we meet?
DUSTIN PAYSEUR: Probably in like 2008.
TATUM: It was in Virginia, I would assume. Because at the time, you were coming down to Virginia semi-frequently.
PAYSEUR: Yeah. I was dating someone who lived down there, and I’d just take the bus down from New York pretty regularly. I met Jack, and we were into the same kinds of music. I think one of the first nights we met Jack was playing a show with his old band Facepaint. I remember thinking, “Damn, this band is actually sick.” And I’m kind of a hater. [laughs] But I was impressed, and I was like, “This guy is pretty cool.” Over time, we just got closer. Then, Jack moved to New York, and we were just hanging out and playing Mario Kart every day.
TATUM: Yeah. I feel like we definitely got a lot closer once I moved to New York, obviously.
PAYSEUR: We had a lot of the same life experiences at the same times, so we just were kind of going through the same thing.
TATUM: And still are. [laughs]
PAYSEUR: Yeah dude! First album released at the same time and now first baby released around the same time. [laughs]
JOHNSON: How did the topic of doing this tour come about? Who broached the subject?
PAYSEUR: I think it’s something that we’ve both wanted to do for a really long time, but it just never really made sense. I mean, it did make sense I guess. It just didn’t seem like it made sense. [laughs]
TATUM: Everything on paper made a lot of sense, but we never really played that many shows together. I think it was more because we were both on such a similar trajectory, where we were playing the same sized venues at the same times. So there was always this discussion, like “Well, we can’t play a show together because one band has to be bigger than the other.” It was just the stupid shit that people always think of. But then, when it really came time to do this tour, it was like, “Why haven’t we done this before? It’s so dumb that we’ve never done it.”
JOHNSON: You mentioned that Wild Nothing’s debut, Gemini, and Beach Fossils’ debut self-titled album came out at the same time. Take me back to those early days on Captured Tracks. What was it like being on the label back then?
PAYSEUR: I think there was a real sense of community — it was this tight-knit thing. Everybody made different kinds of music, but you could tell we all kind of had similar record collections and we were just pulling our own parts from it. We had this overlap where we were just a bunch of music nerds pretty much. [laughs]
We just had a lot in common. I think it was a lot of people who came from a DIY ethos just making shit happen. Everybody was recording themselves. Everybody was doing the grind of a tour where you’re sleeping on floors and stuff. It was this big sense of community where you were kind of going through the same thing with everybody, and everybody was really doing it for the love of the art.
TATUM: Yeah definitely. We were all doing it because we wanted to do it. We were all ambitious people in our own way, but I think a lot of it was born out of this idea, like “Oh shit. We can actually do this. People are actually paying attention to this.” But it wasn’t set out with that intention.
PAYSEUR: Yeah. I was genuinely surprised when things started taking off. I’d been making music forever already, and I know Jack had been making music for a long time too. It had always just been something we did because we loved it, and it didn’t really seem any different than projects we had done before. But all of a sudden, people were paying attention. It was like, “Ohs shit. We’re actually on tour. We’re actually doing the things that we wanted to do.”
JOHNSON: Along those same lines, where were the two of you at personally when you wrote your debut albums?
TATUM: I was just finishing up school. The entire time I was in school I was working on music. I had this band that I kind of threw together just so I could play shows, and I wrote songs specifically for this project Facepaint. And then, all the while, I was doing home recording stuff on the side for things that didn’t fit into that mold, and I think that’s where the first few Wild Nothing songs were born.
Mentally, I was pretty scattered. I was just finishing up school, so I didn’t have a plan in place for what I was going to do afterward. I wasn’t particularly interested in my studies, but music went very quickly from being just a hobby to something I could realistically do. And that seemingly happened over night, which threw me for a loop in a lot of ways both good and bad.
PAYSEUR: I was in New York, and I had already dropped out of school because I wasn’t very good at it. [laughs] I went to New York with pretty much no money and no plan. I was just trying my best to get on shows and was trying to get a band together, while recording the whole time.
Similarly, I sent out the demos to a ton of labels for a previous project. I either never heard anything back or it was like, “Sorry, but thanks for sending this.” I kept working on stuff and eventually just sent this one out as a hail mary. It got picked up and started taking off really quickly. I think that caught us both by surprise a little bit, but it was also something we were working really hard for.
TATUM: One big difference about the way we approached things early on though… You [Dustin] were way more focused on the live show and playing out. I remember at the time you were playing so many shows in New York. Whereas, by the time Wild Nothing’s record came out, I think we had probably played less than 10 shows.
I remember the very first tour we ever did. We did this super short run opening for Neon Indian, and I was just so wildly unprepared. [laughs] The band sounded like doo-doo at the time. There were just a lot of growing pains and a lot of learning how to even be a performer.
JOHNSON: I thought it’d be fun to ask you two to speak on each other’s debut albums. So Jack, can you speak on what stands out to you about the self-titled Beach Fossils debut, and Dustin can you speak on what stands out to you about Gemini?
PAYSEUR: It’s funny because we were just talking to each other about this recently. I was revisiting Gemini, and it was just making me feel this huge wave of nostalgia for that time. I think that record is a perfect time capsule. It’s a direct injection of emotion from being that age and going through those feelings you have in your youth. Early love and early heartbreak. I think Gemini is one of the truest representations of what it actually feels like to be young and to have your emotions be so intense. I think that’s why it still resonates with people so much.
TATUM: I have a lot of similar feelings about your first record. It’s hard not to view that record through my own lens, where it reminds me so much of that specific period of my life as well. For both of us, starting out on the label and becoming friends, we were just around each other’s music so much. Like, I’ve heard all those songs so many times.
On that record, I just hear attempts at escapism, which has always been something that draws me to music I like. Also, hearing your songs, both in the songwriting and the way you produce your songs, was really inspiring. I love when you have friends, where it’s just like, “Oh, how did you do that?” It just kicks off your own creativity, ya know?
JOHNSON: Dustin, I’m curious to hear more about your upcoming project The Other Side of Life, which features Beach Fossils songs reworked as jazz piano ballads. Where did the idea for that come from, and what did you enjoy about the process of putting the album together?
PAYSEUR: That was actually really fun to make. It’s also a really unique record because it’s the only record I’ve ever made where I don’t play any instrument. I just get my moment to sit back and sing.
I’ve had a true love for jazz for a really long time. It kind of changed my life when I was a teenager. I was into metal, and then I was into punk. I was really only into music that was pretty hard. At the same time, I started getting into early garage rock and psychedelic folk, and then I got into jazz, expanding my horizons in that way.
Once I started listening to jazz, I was like, “Oh my god. This is the best shit I’ve ever heard.” Because growing up as a kid in the ‘90s, when you think of jazz, your only reference is like Kenny G or something. [laughs] But I got older, and the first album I listened to was Birth of the Cool by Miles Davis. I was just like, “Wow. What is going on here,” and I listened to it over and over and over. That was the first record I actually found myself crying to, which is amazing because it’s instrumental. But then, I just started digging through the crates at the record stores and grabbing all the jazz records that were from that same era.
I had always wanted to make something like that, but I’m not that kind of musician. I don’t have that technical ability. I can’t play an instrument that’s typically found in jazz music, aside from guitar, but it had always been a dream of mine to somehow make a record like that. So I teamed up with a good friend of mine, the old drummer of Beach Fossils Tommy Gardner.
We had worked together on music for so many years, and he knows exactly where I’m coming from. So it was really easy to explain to him exactly what I wanted and give him references, and he really nailed it. I think he did a stellar job at making those songs exactly what I envisioned. I’m really happy with how it came out.
JOHNSON: On that note, I feel I should ask you to speak on anything you’ve got in the works as well, Jack. Anything on the horizon for Wild Nothing as of now?
TATUM: I’m just toiling away, trying to get another record out there eventually. I’m in that period of throwing a million ideas against the wall and seeing what sticks. So yeah, I’m staying quiet for the time being. I’m excited for this tour. I’m hoping it will reinvigorate me a little bit. It’s so hard being at home with very little input. You need experiences to help churn this stuff up.