Before their show at Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, I caught up with This Wild Life frontman Kevin Jordan to talk about their career, eating habits and what keeps them humble.
Your shows have a unique feeling of positivity and catharsis - how has your career built this?
It's taken a while to get to the point where we have a balance between showing the emotion of the songs while enjoying ourselves onstage and the crowd the same. On our last album cycle, we didn't have as much positivity in the set and didn't put songs in that had a silver lining to them. It didn't feel as authentic to us as people because we certainly have a range of emotions and we had it in our songs but not in our live set. At the end of that run we went into recording [Petaluma] and focusing on uplifting lyrics, brighter and warmer tones, more uptempo songs so we had a live set to reflect it. It took us a while to get to where it is now, but we've done a lot of experimenting along the way.
If this band could be remembered in 100 years for one thing, what would you like that to be?
Being honest. When it comes to me writing songs, I try to write things that are difficult. The truth is most difficult, but I have never bullshitted some lyrics because I want people to feel a certain way. I've always written songs true to my own experiences. People will always be able to feel it is authentic that way.
Has the latest record changed your outlook on the industry at all?
I don't think it's changed any way that we've operated. We've always been very hands on and never let other people guide what we're doing creatively or commercially. If anything, we just doubled-down on what we've already done. We always create all the concepts for the art and videos, and we've directed ourselves on some. There's no music director for the live shows or anything, and we've always looked at labels like a bank - they're there to pay for the release. What you do with that is up to you. We still load the trucks ourselves, sell merch and CDs ourselves. No matter how big we get, we'll always do the work that got us to that point.
Which song means most to you on each record?
On Clouded it's No More Bad Days - a song I wrote for my mum. I think it's been the song to have the most positive impact on people and been a support system for not only my family but fans as well. It always blows me away when I see how it connects and resonates with people. On Low Tides, I think Breakdown is the most exposing lyrically. I had wanted to write that song for a very long time and I hadn't, but I finally found the write words and melodies to get it all out. On Petaluma, I think Headfirst. The bridge lyrics are some of my favourite words I've done, and seem to make up a summary of what the first 2 records were about. In a conscise but artistic way I was able to put it all into one piece.
Who would you most like to tour with that you haven't before?
It's tough, and I think there are two ways to look at it: who I love and would love to see perform every night, and what I think would be best for our band. On the one hand, I love Paramore and would love to tour with them but I don't know if their audience would be responsive to us. On the other hand, a City & Colour, Frank Turner or Vance Joy tour may work for the band better. We've never done a fully acoustic support tour before; we do so many tours with hardcore/metalcore/screamo/pop punk bands that we go onstage and some people are very confused. An acoustic tour like those three would be awesome though.
Which two bands would you like to tour with again?
Dashboard Confessional was huge for me because that's why I started playing guitar in the first place, and the first song I learned was one of theirs. That tour was really inspiring because Chris is a huge burst of energy and positivity - he's been touring for decades and is still so passionate about performing. You see burnout in other bands touring and allowing that negativity to creep in. Being around him was infectious, seeing someone who's toured with Bon Jovi yet still excited to play club shows. He's gracious with fans and us, so that was definitely inspiring. Low Tides wasn't about big singalongs and choruses but was about emotional captivation. Being out with Chris, we went into Petaluma knowing we could do both. Beartooth as well, they're our favourite people.
What do you eat on tour?
Bullshit. I've just had a [peanut butter & jelly sandwich] and a burrito so I feel horrible. Mexican food in the UK isn't the same - it's like someone opened a can of chilli and tipped it into a tortilla. I grew up in southern California so I'm a tough critic.
What's your favourite piece of merchandise you've done?
We're doing button-up shirts now with thunderbolt coffins and sunflowers on them and that's what I've worn for about the last decade. That was an excuse to get more shirts without paying for them, really. I ended up paying a lot more for them than if I just bought shirts though...
How do you spend free time?
I love home time because of how much we're on tour, so I don't really leave once I'm in. We're very boring people off the road. I play video games, hang out with my dog, I love to cook, go to the gym, eat well and everything. It's a constant battle of getting in shape and losing it all on the road.
Any tips for newly gigging/writing bands?
Early for us, we tried to play a lot of shows locally and it's important to play those hows but your focus shouldn't just be on live stuff. Playing is great to get used to being in front of crowds and learning the banter and environment. They weren't helping us grow though - that was focussing on things everybody could see. Local shows are limited to local people and the challenge is to get people showing up but if you focus on recordings, merchandising or videos, everyone can see what you're doing. We didn't do any tours early on; we'd done multiple EPs before we ever toured. We felt like the money and time was better invested creating more. Nowadays, you need to get a fanbase before you tour.
Have you got any releases this year you're really enjoying?
I haven't listened to much new stuff honestly, but a single by R I L E Y called Feelin' is out which I've listened to a million times. I think he's putting out a record this year that I'm looking forward to.
How would you describe This Wild Life in 5 words?
'Hot Topic Mumford and Sons'... We've owned it! Someone used it to bag on us once and now we're going to print it on merch and change our bio on everything.
Huge thanks to Kevin for taking the time out to chat!