Wild Cub released Youth in January. Apt, as the Nashville band is still living it and quickly making waves at the same time. Having already made an appearance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, the band makes a stop at the Bottletree on Wednesday opening for American Authors, they of the current Top 40 hit Best Day of My Life. Wild Cub will return to Birmingham in April to open for Vampire Weekend at Sloss Furnaces. So things are going well.
Lead singer Keegan DeWitt spoke to Weld about the band’s quick success and its Nashville home.
Weld: You moved to Nashville several years before forming the band. What advantages did you find in the relocation for achieving your goals?
Keegan Dewitt: It seemed really important to be able to pursue whatever my passion was with the entirety of myself. I moved to New York when I was 17 years old; it fundamentally formed me as a person during my nine years there. I still, in many ways, am a New Yorker before anything else. That being said, I was spending all my time trying to afford being a New Yorker. [Laughs] Moving to Nashville gave me the opportunity to make music — both songwriting and film composing — my full time job.
Weld: While you’ve been there, that scene has evolved a lot. What distinguishes Nashville in 2014 from Nashville in 2008?
KD: When I first moved, almost every songwriter I knew was chained into some mediocre publishing deal. They were lured in for whatever the reason was, and they were wasting all of their creative momentum writing every single day, trying to get a cut on someone else’s record. Now, I look around and that market has tightened considerably, in a good way. The country music can keep its own, and all those songwriters who were trying to split their time (much like I was in NY) either stopped entirely…or really began to dive in head first to be creative entirely for themselves, even if the money was lacking.
Nashville now has some of the most talented, diverse and really, really interesting bands and artists.
Weld: This band has barely been together two years, and your album has barely been out two months — how do you already find yourselves pairing up with American Authors for this bill and coming back next month to play with Vampire Weekend?
KD: It’s absolutely like they say…it seems like it happened quickly, but it never does. We have worked nonstop, whether touring or shooting videos are finding and creating remixes, from the moment we first wrapped the record. A lot of the momentum we have now can also be easily credited to the amazing relationships each of us built in our lives before Wild Cub.
More importantly, we’ve been incredibly lucky to surround ourselves with a small group (a family is a better word) of incredibly driven and generous people. Our management at C3, our lawyer Jeff Colvin (who is a Birmingham native), our publicist Amanda Pitts…these are all people who have taken on our project as a total passion, even when there was no one responding to emails or flat out saying “no” to us.
Weld: How does this sound translate to a live show?
KD: We’ve intentionally built a show so we can do two things: 1) Always find a doorway to emotionally connecting with the material and 2) Break through whatever setting, weird vibe or strange people we may encounter on any given night. Tour teaches you that pretty quickly. Three of us play drums, we all switch instruments, we move as much as possible. We’ve built the show so no matter where we are, how big or small the room is, how cold it is outside, how hesitant the crowd may be…we can penetrate it.
Weld: I have a friend who is love with “Colour”, but can’t quite distinguish all of the lyrics. Can you share those lyrics?
KD: Well, here is a good non-answer to this question. … We found out almost instantly that with every track on the record, there is not one version of the song. It’s one root, and then a thousand versions of that song. My point being, when someone hears the song, they own it, in their own way. They have their own affiliation and connection to it.
The one thing that is always true is that their version is so much more interesting. So much more dense and nuanced and personal than anything I could tell them literally. And I’m so happy because I created the entire record with that in mind. These are little sparks, little moments, just little hints that are asking listeners to bring their own relationships, their own memories, their own impulses and meet me halfway and fill in the absences.
So here is my favorite one for “Colour.” A radio DJ said, “You titled the song ‘Colour,’ but you only mention two colors, black and black, which is the total absence of color.” That was my favorite understanding of it, something that I had sort of wanted to hit towards, but didn’t want to say specifically.
For me, the song is about relationships in your 20s. It’s where you abuse the people who care about you the most. You really beat up on each other, and often, you are trying to create this person as you perceive them rather than for who they actually are. It’s about discovering how to connect with someone else, understand yourself and the cost of it all is a lot of cheap treatment of the other person. You don’t really absorb the permanence or temperance of it all…you may be beating up the person you are truly meant for. You might be laboring and laboring over someone who is in fact just a fiction that you’ve propped them up as in your brain. It’s this whole black hole of being in your early 20s and trying to understand things.
Added to that, it’s that idea of the “black black shadow at the center of love.” … You are in pursuit of it, you are trying…but relationships are only as real as the fit of the two entities to each other. A reflection. Something has to be perceived to exist. So what if they are both just faking, groping in the dark, not ever really perceiving each other? All just in trying to understand the essence of the thing? Then maybe it’s just nothing at all…the absence of colour.
But also, who knows? … I’m still figuring it out.
Weld: We’re quickly approaching festival season. Which one are you most looking forward to playing?
KD: Hangout Fest is one of the most amazing festivals we’ve ever been part of. An incredible line-up, an incredible location, and after touring all winter in the polar vortex, some much needed sunshine and umbrella drinks.
Weld: Who are the top five American rock bands of all time?
KD: Oh god, that’s so hard, especially because I started writing music as a teenager because of Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher! I can tell you the American musician I am most fascinated and inspired by at the moment: Arthur Russell. His record Calling Out Of Context is perfect.