ABOVE: WILD CUB. IMAGE COURTESY OF WILL MORGAN HOLLAND
Like air moving through still photographs, Keegan DeWitt wants you to think of his music as a series of small, captured moments that together offer a big impact. This time, though, DeWitt is not talking about his solo work or his film scores. He’s referring to Wild Cub, the band he formed at the end of 2011 with multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Bullock. Wild Cub released its debut record Youth last August. Following a sold-out show at Mercury Lounge last month, DeWitt and Bullock will hit the road again for a summer/fall tour.
Wild Cub’s music is a catchy mix of New Wave and pop—the magic of a perfect summer night. The duo’s thoughtful lyrics and songwriting result in a carefully curated record. We’re excited to premiere a remix of Wild Cub’s track “Jonti” by Floating Action; a soulful version of the original track layered with catchy beats.
We spoke with the 31-year-old DeWitt about relocating to Nashville, scoring films, and separating Wild Cub from his solo work.
ILANA KAPLAN: How did you get into music?
KEEGAN DEWITT: At some point, I was working 50% of each thing. I was doing a shitty job at my day job, and I was giving a 50% effort at pursuing the arts. I think it was my 25th birthday, and they offered me a big promotion. I was like, “That’s terrific. Actually, I quit. I’m going to move and pursue music full-time.” It’s like something rang a bell, like suddenly you’re going to wake up in 10 years from now and you’re gonna be at this job and not have actually done what you want to do. Coming to Nashville made it really feasible for me to be able to make music at my day job.
KAPLAN: [laughs] That’s definitely a “fuck you” to The Man.
DEWITT: [laughs] When you grow up, you look around and you realize there’s a big difference with people like A and B. There are some people whose fulfillment is that of the moment when you do it. It’s not tomorrow or the next day. You get pleasant reminders. For me, it was them saying, “Let me give you this big raise.” I realized, no, I don’t want to do that at all. It’s terrifying. Leaving New York to come to Nashville feels a little bit like you’re stepping off the edge of the earth. I was born in Portland, Oregon, and it’s the polar opposite of the Deep South. It’s kind of awesome. I’m here five or six months out of the year. The rest I’m either at film festival stuff, on location to score stuff for films, or on tour. Now when I’m back, I really, really like it. I have the giant backyard with five chickens and dogs. It’s awesome in that way. It’s good, now, because I have this studio in my house. It’s great to have control over how you spend your days.
KAPLAN: I know you’re focused on scoring films as well. What’s the most recent movie you scored?
DEWITT: I have three things I’ve been busy with this year. Two of them went to Sundance—a documentary for HBO (Life According to Sam), and the other is a narrative that won the Audience Award at Sundance (This is Martin Bonner). For that one, we’re actually going to go to Munich and Prague for the film festivals there. The other is a short documentary for MTV (Inocente) that won the Academy Award for a Short Documentary.
KAPLAN: That’s quite an accomplishment. You’re a jack of all trades
DEWITT: I was joking around with my wife that she has to be nice to me because I’m a tangentially award-winning film composer. For the first year of Wild Cub, you want to talk about how you have a budget to do all of that stuff? You score commercials and movies. That made it solely possible to do Wild Cub.
KAPLAN: Are you working on new Wild Cub music? Your record came out last year, but I was hoping maybe something was on the radar.
DEWITT: Yeah. We’re working on it all right now. We’re taking May and early June off because I’m having a baby.
KAPLAN: Awesome. Congratulations!
DEWITT: In that time, we’ll be writing and recording, hopefully. We’ll be getting an EP together for the fall. July through November 15th, we’ll be on tour. We’re kind of in this race against time to get new stuff out. Starting in July, we’re going to be crazy busy. We’re not trying to rush. We feel proud of the music and there’s this whole second push of people that it’s reaching. Yeah, we released it in August of last year, but people didn’t start listening to it until February of this year. I’m trying to give people the opportunity to still discover the record. They will, you know what I mean? We still feel like there’s room for them to hear it. We don’t want to rush into anything new. I did a lot of solo stuff before this, and there’s something really precious about how there’s only one Wild Cub record. If you go to Spotify, that’s all you can listen to. That’s it, which is a really great thing. If we’re going to release something else, we would want it to be as definitive as that. I’m trying to make the next record be super thoughtful, really intentional, definitive, and dense. I want you to be able to still make room for it six months in.
KAPLAN: I found out about you guys in January, to be honest. I think it’s probably Spotify taking over my life. I think I used We Are Hunted and I found you guys there. How were you able to separate Wild Cub from your solo music?
DEWITT: Wild Cub was pretty much totally random, the name. The larger point of it for me, I wanted to eliminate any personal affiliation of how you would experience the mood, the aesthetic, and the music. Especially in Nashville, it’s just so much like, “Here’s the new Keegan DeWitt record. And guess what? His face is on the cover of it.” I just felt like it was nice to not put our names. The record is just a bunch of black with two photos. The name is kind of pointless. You can just forget about. The real substance is us creating these moments. We’re [aware] very early on that people’s experiences of your record is way more interesting, nuanced, personal, and better than you could ever tell them what it is. We wanted it totally open.