Give a little love

Give a little love

Wild Cub introduces artfulness to dance jams

By Tim Anderl

Photo: Wild Cub performs on Feb. 10 at The Basement in Columbus; photo: Allister Ann

Nashville, Tenn. band Wild Cub, led by songwriter/composer Keegan Dewitt and multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Bullock, delivers songs that transition seamlessly between electro-pop, cinematic and danceable new wave and groove with tropical rhythms. This evocative approach isn’t wholly surprising, considering DeWitt has performed extensive work in composing film scores that includes two films showcasing at the Sundance Film Festival this month: “Listen Up Philip,” directed by Alex Ross Perry and starring Jason Schwartzman (“Rushmore,” “Bored To Death”) and Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men”), and “Land Ho!” directed by Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz. DeWitt also scored the 2013 Academy Award-winning short documentary “Inocente,” the 2013 Sundance Audience Award for Best of NEXT winner “This Is Martin Bonner,” and 2010’s “Cold Weather,” among other films.

Fresh from a December tour that included sold-out shows with Bastille, the band is set to launch a four-week U.S. headlining tour in support of its debut, Youth. With some of the tracks recorded and produced by Jim Eno (Spoon), Wild Cub is perfectly poised to delight fans and tastemakers alike. Dayton City Paper recently chatted with Dewitt about the band’s approach and influences.

What were the main catalysts that inspired Youth artistically? 

At the time, I was really steeped in the writing of Philip Larkin. He was really trying to dig towards what it meant to progress from adolescence into something a bit more nuanced. His poem “When First We Faced And Touching Showed” especially impacted the themes on Youth. This idea that we are so formed by all of the experiences we’ve been through as we grow up, and although they are painful, they are critical to our identities. I also started to identify with a lot of themes that Jonathan Lethem was exploring, about maturing and how people begin to take shape based on what they are given or not given, what they use and misuse. His interview in the Paris Review hit just as I was about to record vocals and finish lyrics, I turned to the guys in the room and said “I think I’ve figured out what the record is.” -Keegan DeWitt

What were the circumstances surrounding the recording of the album?

We took apart Jeremy’s house and recruited our good friend (and soon after, drummer) Dabney Morris to produce. We decided on a whim to essentially turn the place into a small, intimate studio to finish these sketches that Jeremy and I had been working on between one another in our separate home studios. It was a way of forcing Jeremy and I to complete this idea of forming Wild Cub. -KD

What was it like working with Jim Eno?

He is a hero for us, his bravery to really use exclusivity as a construct in music. His taste in terms of what to use and, more importantly what not to use, is pretty impeccable. He represented something I admire most in art: restraint. He knows when to hold back, and then when to very, very tastefully deliver. Every Spoon record is such an exercise in that exact thing. It felt so nice to be able to just defer to Jim on that. So often, you spend time wondering “should we?” or “shouldn’t we?” With Jim, you just trust him without question. -KD

I hear some Peter Gabriel influence in your sound. Has he influenced you?  

Gabriel is certainly a huge inspiration for Eric [Wilson, keys]. I appreciate where we intersect with him in terms of trying to embody emotional energy in songs. He does such an artful job of blending true intelligence and depth – both musically and lyrically – with raw emotion. That’s so much more difficult than you’d think. He is a great reference for how to do it correctly. -KD

What difference do you find in composing for film and for an album with Wild Cub?

As I said above, restraint is something we try and straddle and that we admire a lot. Film composing is special in that you can really use something very, very minimal to maximum effect. The virtue of pop music like Wild Cub is we can create something that is massively layered, something with so many different contrasting emotions and impulses. So much of what we do is trying to shine a light on complex emotional moments and allow people an opportunity to identify with and bring identity to those things within themselves. In pop music, we get to harness a complex collection of elements to illustrate just how layered and chaotic those emotional moments can be. That’s exciting. -KD

What are you most anticipating or look forward to from your forthcoming tour?

It’s a silly metaphor, but it applies here: “If a tree falls in the woods does anyone hear it?” It is one thing to record a group of songs in your homemade studio and throw it up on BandCamp, it’s another to get the very rare opportunity to share it with large groups of people every single night. We are extremely grateful for that. These songs take on a new depth, a new meaning, every single night. We get to bring them to people, explore them physically on stage. It’s an entirely different thing that we are just beginning to explore. -KD

 

Wild Cub performs on Feb. 10 at The Basement, 391 Neil Ave. in Columbus. Hands is also on the bill. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 DOS. All ages. For more information, please visit wildcubmusic.com.

 

Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Anderl at TimAnderl@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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