- August 2013 -
HAVE A BEER WITH WILD CUB
Formed in early 2012 by songwriter-composer Keegan DeWitt and multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Bullock, Wild Cub’s debut LP Youth was released in the United States in August 2012 and showcases the now five-piece band’s dexterity for electro-pop, tropical rhythms and quiet washes of cinematic reflection. Just one year later, the band has seen the release of Youth in the UK, with notable press attention from publications like Clash Music and The Guardian. They’ve made appearances at Seattle’s Block Party, Austin’s SXSW and last week, they debuted at Chicago’s very own Lollapalooza. We had some beers with members Keegan DeWitt (vocals/guitar), Jeremy Bullock (guitar/synths), Dabney Morris (drums), Harry West (bass) and Eric Wilson (keys/synths) before their Schubas aftershow with Palma Violets. In this interview, frontman Keegan Dewitt discusses the incarnation of the group, Wild Cub as a “blank slate” and why making comparisons is the worst thing you can do in the music industry.
The Show: Wild Cub with Palma Violets at Schubas // Lollapalooza 2013 Aftershow
Drinks of Choice: Scotch
Kristen from A Beer with the Band: What's your drink of choice?
Keegan from Wild Cub: If it's before a show I'm usually drinking tea because I really tear up my voice during the gigs.
Dabney from Wild Cub: This has been the tour of scotch, though. It starts on the airplanes. There's something about drinking scotch on an airplane that's really appealing to me.
Jeremy from Wild Cub: The last tour we were on we literally ran out of scotch on the airplane. We had way too much and had a nice little hangover.
Keegan: Jeremy was carrying his luggage with these sad, lost puppy eyes.
Kristen: I've never done scotch on a plane. I usually do whiskey or ginger ale.
Dabney: Everyone drinks ginger ale on airplanes, and I'm convinced that tomato juice is a beverage that only exists on airplanes.
Kristen: Totally agree with you. Let's talk about how Wild Cub formed as a group.
Keegan: We were all in different bands in Nashville and had done the singer-songwriter thing or played with singer-songwriters. We all moved there as musicians from different places and were trying to figure it out. Nashville, in a nice way, is based around people's names. You go to see this singer-songwriter or that singer-songwriter. Wild Cub allowed all of us an opportunity to not have our names on the record and not have our faces on the record.
Kristen: And how do you think that changed things for the music itself?
Keegan: It allowed us to create a real record that existed on its own, outside of ourselves. People's interpretations of records, of music and of artists is way more interesting and dense and compelling than anything than we would give them individually. If the record were a bunch of our faces on the front, it wouldn’t be interesting at all. Instead, if it can be all black with a simple photo and just the name "Wild Cub," which is pretty much meaningless, paired with a compilation of songs that are each an isolated little moment, it allows people to apply their own musical and personal experiences and add that depth to the songs themselves. I think some artists try to make songs that have everything packed into one, and I admire those people, but that's something I'm not good at. The thing I feel like I excel at-- and that these guys do extremely well-- is setting cinematic scenes where people can visualize and bring up emotions based on those visuals. Wild Cub is a blank slate that you can bring your own experiences to rather than it being a vehicle for us to get attention.
Kristen: That makes complete sense. You're here for Lollapalooza and earlier today you played at the BMI stage. How'd it go?
Keegan: It was really fun. The nice thing about touring-- in the summertime especially-- is that as we grow as a band, we get to make pit stops along the way. We played [Capitol Hill] Block Party in Seattle, which is a big festival. We get the full onslaught of different show types. We'll play to 1,200 people outdoors one night, and then we can go to a small club like this [Schubas] and play to 250 people. And they're both super awesome appearances, but really, really different. There's this kind of fantasy with bands when you're opening club dates where you're like, "People might show up early and see one of our songs," but with Lollapalooza, and especially any of these festivals, it's really great for people who would not normally see us to buy-in some time and hear us play. So, that's really cool. You can look out and think, "It's not a bad thing that 2/3 of these people may have never heard of us."
Eric: It's also cool because you get to walk around and see and hear the other bands. We enjoy it just as much as any kind of listener does. It's kind of like a very stressful vacation for us.
Kristen: Do you get in family fights on those vacations?
Keegan: Not too bad. We were joking about that earlier. We've all had different incarnations of bands. We've all played with so many different people and now we finally have this group where we all just really enjoy being out with each other. This tour has been filled with a lot of great experiences and memories.
Kristen: Anyone at Lollapalooza that you're really looking forward to seeing?
Keegan: Well, we flew in on Friday and we were busy all day yesterday doing interviews.
Harry: ...But I was able to catch St. Lucia and Haim and I enjoyed both of them.
Eric: I am completely unashamed to say that I enjoyed the hell out of Postal Service last night.
Keegan: And I was really into the Vampire Weekend set.
Kristen: What's the most un-rock-'n'-roll thing you've done in the past year?
Keegan: Have a baby. No, wait, let me qualify that. Have a baby with someone I'm married to and still spend time with.
Eric: Mine is being in a band with someone that has a baby.
Keegan: And hang out at Lollapalooza with the baby.
Kristen: I've seen tons of babies at Lolla, rocking out in their strollers. Those are some rad parents to take their kids to a festival.
Keegan: I'm not kidding, I had a ten minute interaction with a two-year-old girl at the festival. I don't know where her parents were. She came over and was dancing and then she wanted to sit next to me so she sat next to me. And we just sat there for a while. I didn't know how friendly I should be because that's also a weird dynamic. I kept asking her where her mom was and she just kept saying, "Mommy." I talked about her shoes, then she just let out this big sigh, got up and just wandered off.
Eric: She was like, "The Wigs are playing. I gotta go."
Kristen: In all honesty, it's pretty cool that the festival is kid friendly. What's the best advice you've ever received?
Keegan: To tie it to the kid thing, the best advice I've ever gotten is that you can't compare your progress to other people's progress. All creative and professional journeys-- and even your personal path in life-- happen at their own tempos. It's truly worthless to compare yourself to others, especially in Nashville where there are so many bands. We're really pleased to have all these great friendships [with other musicians] and it's always like, "So and so did this thing," or "So and so got that thing," and for us, we have those moments, too. It's nice to just continually remind yourself that with some people it happens right off the bat and then it never happens again. For other people it takes all that time to happen, and others they wait forever and it's like, boom, and it happens all at the tail end. The best thing is to never compare, no matter how old you are or what label you're on. If there's one heartening thing about the music business being filled with a bunch of crazy weirdos and it not making any sense and being pretty broken is that there's an opportunity to find success or satisfaction at any turn. And you're not really sure where it's going to come from. You just need to have a good attitude about it. Especially when you go to different clubs everynight-- and it's not true here at Schubas, everyone is really nice-- but you meet a bunch of people with really shitty attitudes. And it comes directly from that thing. Everybody has this expectation of when they were supposed to "make it"...If you can somehow strip yourself of that and look at it as an exploration, especially when you've got five people who you really enjoy spending time with it, it becomes a lot easier.
Kristen: You mentioned Nashville. What's your favorite thing about it?
Keegan: This is technical, but because it's so cheap it allows all of us to be able to pursue the arts almost full-time, if not full-time. I lived in New York for seven-and-a-half years, and it's a big difference between there and Nashville. There, I had a job and I was doing a shitty job at my job, and I also wasn't doing that great of a job at my creative stuff because I was busy at my job to pay my rent. The nice thing about Nashville is it allows you to feel a little bit more at peace about what you're doing creatively. We are about to move to L.A., though.
Kristen: You recently released a new song "Blacktide." Is that a precursor for a forthcoming album?
Keegan: Essentially we've just been crazy busy on the road. We've written plenty of stuff, but if there's anything that we've all learned from having different bands, it's really amazing to have a single record out. I have nothing against having eight records out, and hopefully we'll have that eventually, but it's nice to be pretty precious about the releases. When we do come out with new stuff, we'd like to have two solid months where we can record and release it. We had "Blacktide" and it's been done for a while. People kept talking about Youth as this nostalgic, fun retrospect on being young, and that's not how I ever felt about it really. I always felt it was about aging, getting older and surviving youth in your twenties. I felt like "Blacktide" was a nice bookend on the end of that. I kept asking myself, what does it mean when you exit youth and you encounter those first disenfranchisements of getting older and the refinement of aging? How do you maintain some sort of optimism about what you're going through? It was nice to release "Blacktide" a little over a year after the release of Youth because it felt a little more mature, a more thoughtful rumination on the same theme. Now that we've released it, I feel like we can close the book on that. It's also a great way for us to be able to build our profile with people and gain listeners. It's a nice way to reward the people who have been there since the beginning, but also let people who just came know that we're always working on new stuff, changing and evolving as musicians.