In 2013, Wild Cub self-released an album called Youth—“We had a great publicist who helped it get some traction, but it kind of petered out,” recalls frontman Keegan DeWitt. “I was in France at a film festival with my wife and I remember saying, ‘Well, it seems like everything has sort of died down. We made the record, it was great, some people heard it, that was nice. It seems like it’s time for me to go score movies full time now,’” he says. Little did he know that a song from the album, “Thunder Clatter,” was spreading across the digisphere like wildfire. “A week later we got back to Nashville and my lawyer was like, ‘Where have you been? The song got discovered! It’s number one on Alt-Nation!’” Within in the week, the band flew to New York to discuss re-releasing Youth with a record label, and a whirlwind couple of years of touring to promote the album ensued. “I feel uniquely lucky that I got to write a song about meeting my wife, and it’s the song I got to play a million times on Jimmy Fallon and Conan and all over the world,” DeWitt remembers. “I’d get emails from people who would tell me ‘I met my wife to this song,’ we felt like it couldn’t have been any better.”
Then, the time to make another album rolled around, and Wild Cub found themselves face-to-face with an unexpected struggle. “We thought we’d go into a big studio with a big producer, that that was the next step, especially since we made our first record in a converted house in Nashville, we didn’t know what we were doing. It’s funny, we spent the first year and a half touring that record being embarrassed about it, hoping no one realized we made it in a bedroom,” DeWitt laughs. “I remembered a conversation I had with one of my mentors in high school; he said ‘A lot of the stuff that’s unique about your voice as an artist, a lot of times, is stuff that you’re embarrassed about, that you don’t realize is an asset at the time. The things you think are really cool about your artistic voice probably aren’t as interesting and cool as you think they are, and the things that are really unique about you are these things that are sort of embarrassing.’ It’s true of people as well—the impression of yourself you try to send out into the world is way less interesting that who you actually are,” he says, when he and his bandmates figured out that their plans were not unfolding the way they imagined. “It was a big moment to realize that, in the big studio with the big producer, we weren’t going to be able to create something that was representative of who we really are,” he reveals. “I remember packing up our stuff, walking out, the door closing behind us and standing in the parking being like, ‘Well, shit.’ Those are exciting moments too though, we went back to the drawing board.”
DeWitt says that the label stopped caring about the record due to the amount of time between releases, and the band had no idea if anyone would be around to listen to their new music. “It was kind of freeing in a way,” he levels. “Our job is to make music that is an authentic expression of our musical and emotional voice in some way, and it will come out how it does. We decided the only way really break the curse of the bad vibes we had around the record was to go find a house to convert for recording,” he continues. “We found one in Palm Springs with a pool; we would spend half of the day recording, and the other half swimming and playing golf.” The trio hooked up with Daniel James from the band Canon Blue, who DeWitt calls a “computer whiz who could take these things we had created and Frankenstein them together.” “He made sense of it all; he took these recordings that were genuinely at risk of getting ‘cursed’—anytime you take something in and it doesn’t work on the first glance, it’s easy to have a bad vibe about it, it’s tough to open it back up,” DeWitt explains. “He went away for two weeks, then we met up with him and he played us the songs, he had moved this part over here, and taken away these five things we didn’t need, and added a thing here. It was really exciting. We also got to work with Mark Needham, who’s done a bunch of The Killers’ records to mix the record. It was really fun.”
Wild Cub has traveled the States supporting the new album, Closer, which was released in September, but there’s one show left—Lightning 100’s Nashville Sunday Night live radio broadcast at 3rd & Lindsley on October 8th. It’s appropriate in a way, another full-circle moment for this band who made history for themselves while they called Nashville home.
“In the time that it took for us to make the record, Harry, our bassist, moved to New York, and me and Jeremy moved out to L.A.,” reveals DeWitt. “We miss Nashville though. Harry was born and raised there, and his mom still makes us cookies before the show. Lightning 100 has always been supportive, and 3rd & Lindsley has always been awesome to us,” he says. “It’s good to be back.”
[Click HERE for tickets and show information.]