Austin – I managed to grab some minutes with Wildcat! Wildcat! at Fun Fun Fun Fest earlier this month. The LA band had impressed me prior to the festival and at their set earlier in the day, and as much as anything I was interested to hear about breaking out of LA, which my friend had described as a place where “everyone is trying to be a script writer, or they’re in a band.”
Wildcat spent a lot of time in that incubator before finally coming together in 2012. Bassist/vocalist Jesse Taylor and drummer Jesse Carmichael had worked together in a number of bands before they started working on music with keyboard player Michael Wilson. The band took off pretty quickly after that, buoyed by success of early single “Mr. Quiche” and critical darling “Please & Thank You.” With a debut album out in August, it seems like the indie-pop electronic trio has finally broken out of the millions-strong LA scene. I expected to speak with a band eager to have advanced to a bigger stage, but Wildcat wound up being a lot like their music: friendly but serious, warm but tense, as they waited to begin their delayed set.
WJ: So y’all have known each other since high school?
Taylor: I was a year ahead of him (Carmichael), and two years ahead of him (Wilson).
WJ: And you were playing together for a long time before that?
Taylor: Not all at the same time. We (Taylor & Carmichael) were the backbone for a while for different bands. I used to play guitar. And I don’t even remember what that’s like anymore.
Carmichael: (laughs) yeah, we played together in various bands, and I’d known this guy (Wilson) for a long time, and he would always send us his songs and ideas, so we were distant feedback partners I guess. The stars kind of aligned a few years ago and we started working together.
Taylor: That’s a good way to put it. We never meant to become a band; it was just fun playing with each other.
WJ: So you came together from working on his songs?
Taylor: I think it was a mutual respect for how everybody writes songs and plays music. When we started putting it together it was really fun.
Wilson: I think there was a moment, especially for these guys who were playing so much in other projects, where we all needed another outlet, a real outlet. Where we were just doing it for shit’s sake. There was so much value in it for us together that we had to just keep going and doing what we were doing.
WJ: So my friend lives in LA, and he told me that basically everyone there either wants to write for television or plays in a band.
Wilson: (laughs) That’s absolutely true!
Taylor: I heard some statistic that there’s over 6,000 bands in LA.
Wilson: But that’s practicing bands, playing bands. It’s not even high school bands. I think it was almost easier to do what we wanted, because everybody was doing it. So it was just like, “there are no rules at this point.”
WJ: Do you think you were almost trying too hard?
Taylor: No, I was done with music at that point and working another job. For us it was just something so natural and comfortable and it works with our friendship—I think if you had told us when we started writing songs that we would be here playing a festival, we wouldn’t have believed you. It would have been mind-blowing.
Carmichael: It lets you enjoy every step of the process.
WJ: A lot of bands don’t really have that personal background. I’ve always imagined that must get stressful on tour, and in the studio.
Wilson: Touring I think is the saving grace of being bandmates with your close friends. It gets to a point where you really need to know each other to pull through. It’s the business side of things where it really gets hectic. That’s an age-old idea, don’t get into business with your friends. We’ve navigated around it enough to be okay, but it’s scary sometimes. It freaks me out because of how our relationships and friendships could be changed by it.
Taylor: Like he said earlier, that’s kind of been our saving grace: we’re friends first, not business partners. That’s what we try to maintain when we’re not on tour and not writing. The highs are worth celebrating, but it’s hell when things get bad. But you know you’ll get out of it, because everybody’s got each other’s backs.
WJ: So, turning it toward the music, because I am a music journalist, was there something distinctly different about the kind of music you started doing together?
Taylor: Just that everybody contributes something that’s really great.
Wilson: I think it’s frustrating to tell people that it’s just natural, but that’s what it is. We didn’t try hard to make this happen—
Taylor: But it does take a lot of work.
Wilson: Yeah, it takes a lot of work. I’m mostly just saying musically, I think we all knew we were really satisfied with what we were making, and it was weird to see other people as gratified as we were.
Taylor: The first year of playing shows, and people kept coming out and we kept getting offered and kept playing. It turned into this kind of community, and whenever we play at home it feels like a family. It’s not the typical “standing with your arms crossed at a show.”
Carmichael: That’s very rare in LA, though, most people are getting involved.
WJ: What kind of music were you doing before this?
Carmichael: Well, we were kind of doing a lot of run-of-the-mill indie rock stuff, and I was doing the hired gun drumming thing.
Taylor: This guy is one of the best drummers ever.
Wilson: I believe it.
Carmichael: I was playing all sorts of things; whatever would pay the bills.
WJ: Oh, one more question! Where did the name “Mr. Quiche” come from?
Carmichael: It’s a line from I Love You Man, when he’s asking for the $8,000 dollars.
Taylor: We were having a really hard time coming up with something to sing about on that song. Every song is you know, you’ve got the melody first or the lyrics first. That one we had the track first, and kind of just got to that point of delirium where you start goofing around.