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Saturday December 20th 2014

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Hangout Fest ’14—Making Thunder Clatter

By Sarah McCartan

Typically a band is formed prior to making an album. In the case of the anything but typical Nashville-based quintet Wild Cub, things shaped up a bit differently.

At the backbone of Wild Cub is singer-songwriter and film composer, Keegan DeWitt, who moved to Nashville from New York to shift his focus from writing film scores to making music full-time. In conjunction with multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Bullock and supporting band-members, Wild Cub shares the unified drive to tell stories by creating moments through the intricacies of rhythm and melody.

At the heart of this passion is Wild Cub’s organic formation built around their gently captivating debut album “Youth.” Although originally self-released in 2012, “Youth” was rereleased this year since Wild Cub has joined the Mom + Pop record label family.

The IN caught up with DeWitt to chat about “Youth” and the Wild Cub journey.

IN: Musically, how have things changed for you since relocating to Nashville from New York?
DEWITT: Music was always the thing I did to keep a diary. That’s how I ended up scoring films. Once I got to Nashville, I realized the world does not need more white guys playing acoustic guitar. I realized it especially didn’t need me, and that wasn’t how I would tell stories more effectively. I really enjoy telling stories in a more fragmentary way. Other peoples’ attachment to a song is always so interesting—that’s 50 percent of it. I try to make music in a way to give sparks in darkness to peak emotions inside of anyone listening.

IN: How did you team up with Jeremy and the other members of Wild Cub?
DEWITT: They were floating around similarly to me. We all bonded over the fact that we wanted to be in a band rather than be singer/songwriters and all enjoyed electronic, rhythmic sounds and portraying emotions in a less literal way.

IN: Where did the name Wild Cub come from?
DEWITT: It was random, but part of the larger thing. I just wanted to keep our faces off of it. It’s great. It’s fine. It’s Wild Cub. It’s stripping away identity, eliciting emotion, raising questions and letting the music speak to personal experiences.

IN: Were you trying to achieve a certain aesthetic by recording “Youth” with a tape recorder?
DEWITT: It was recorded in a closet. I have a personal pride in that. It is literally homemade and as personal as you can get.

IN: Do you think your breakout single “Thunder Clatter” gives individuals a pretty fitting introduction to Wild Cub?
DEWITT: So much of it is capturing attention in the first 30 seconds. I’m glad we have that because it’s unique in how it’s constructed. To me it’s both personal and representative. I wrote that song the week I met the person who would become my wife.

IN: Do you approach your songwriting for Wild Cub in the same way you do a film score?
DEWITT: Film gives you the opportunity to be as minimalistic as possible and use restraint. There can be a single note and it can have huge repercussions because you’re getting this thing in tandem to music. With the band, I enjoy that there are so many pieces to it. The big emotional moments in your life are really complicated—happiness and terror and self-doubt and misguided concepts. With a band and a full record and full song, you can hint at the complex emotions. Vocals can be questions, strings can be doubt. It’s never that literal but you have so many options at your disposal and can paint the complicated big emotions.

IN: Including Hangout Fest, it seems like you are working quite a number of festivals into your tour. Is this a setting you feel allows you to reach a wider audience?
DEWITT: It’s interesting because when you’re in the middle of it, it’s a mess. There’s so much shit going on—is anyone absorbing this? But then they do. People go to festivals that may not go to other things. Maybe they are walking to get a burrito and hear your set and stop.

For us doing the fest—you get to go and be a nerd and stand on the side of the stage. We leave super excited about making music again, which can be elusive traveling every single night.

IN: You recently returned to South By Southwest (SXSW). How have things changed since playing the fest last year?
DEWITT: Instead of doing eight shows and not knowing what the hell was going on we still did the eight shows, but they were all packed and really fun. In general that’s been the shift. Less about us trying to introduce ourselves, and more about living up to expectations. Instead of playing and being like, “I hope a couple people come,” it’s now hoping it will be a show where we just connect.

IN: Any bucket list dreams for Wild Cub?
DEWITT: The coolest thing about this year is we got to pick a lot of things off the list that all of us wanted to do with music: go to London, play a sold out show, play Jimmy Fallon. It’s exciting. Whatever happens next will be larger and more exciting than what we are doing now.

WILD CUB
Friday, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
BMI STAGE