Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing Bring Their Decade-Long Friendship to the Ground

Beach Fossils will return to Miami at the Ground with Wild Nothing.
Beach Fossils will return to Miami at the Ground with Wild Nothing. Photo by Evan Tetreault
During Beach Fossils' last live performance in Miami on January 25, 2020, the crowd swayed and moshed under Gramps' disco ball to the crooning of frontman Dustin Payseur without a care in the world. For fans, the last perfect moment prior to lockdown may have been when the band closed out the show with a rowdy cover of Drowning Pools' "Bodies."

Later that year, longtime collaborators and best friends Payseur and Wild Nothing's Jack Tatum planned to embark on a co-headlining tour to commemorate the tenth anniversary of their respective debut albums, Beach Fossils' self-titled effort and Wild Nothing's Gemini, both released via Captured Tracks on May 25, 2010.

Owing to the pandemic, the tour was initially postponed to November 2020. Now, the star-crossed tour mates are finally hitting the road together with a stop at the Ground on Wednesday, October 20, with support from Sub Pop signee Hannah Jadagu. Instead of running through their debut efforts as initially planned, Payseur says the setlist will now contain "a mixed bag" of songs.

Before the tour, Payseur and Tatum had only ever played a handful of shows together.

"It's crazy, because we've been really good friends for over a decade at this point," Payseur tells New Times. "It's nice to finally do this tour. It's just like one big family."

Payseur and Tatum met in 2008 and quickly began turning to each other for creative support.

"I think we've always kind of inspired each other's creative flow and creative output as well, because we have always regularly sent each other works in progress and just been like, 'This is what I'm workin' on, what do you think about it?'" Payseur says.

After the release of the albums in 2010, Tatum often found himself in New York City, where he and Payseur would head into the studio together. Eventually, Tatum made the move to the city permanently from Virginia.

"Sometimes I'd be like, 'Aw, man, I have this song, but like, I can't figure out the bass line,' and we'd help each other with stuff," Payseur reminisces.

During that time, the two collaborated on the track "Out in the Way" for Beach Fossils' What a Pleasure EP. Tatum also contributed a bass line on "Shallow" for Clash the Truth, and the pair joined forces for a split EP, Gruesome Flowers: A Tribute to the Wake, in 2011.

Over the years, Payseur says, some of his favorite memories with Tatum are tied to working late nights in the studio.

"I think probably the highlight is like stuff that people have never even heard before, because we've written so many fake songs for fake bands that don't exist in there," he says. "That's like the real stuff. That's like the stuff that I think, you know, kind of brings us together more as musicians. It's just like making really dumb music with no purpose."

Thirteen years after the start of their friendship, the two continue to motivate each other to raise the bar and pursue new music.

"If he sends me something new and I don't have something new yet, it's like, Alright, I gotta get to work," he admits.
While Captured Tracks was the jumpstart for Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing's musical careers, the label's office was also where Payseur met his wife, South Florida native Katie Garcia. The husband-and-wife team now operates Bayonet Records, Beach Fossils' current label.

Payseur and Tatum have had unwavering support from each other throughout their careers and personal lives and remain steadfast friends. The frontmen both became new fathers in 2020 and leaned on each other for support during the time away from their families on the road.

"It's good to have each other on this tour because I think if I was the only one missing my kid, I'd feel like I'm going crazy," Payseur says. "But it's like, I have somebody else to relate to."

During the making of 2010's Beach Fossils, Payseur was a new Brooklyn transplant from North Carolina, where he lived in a mouse-infested loft inBushwick with four roommates. In the shared living space, Payseur created faux walls with tapestries that hung from the ceiling.

"I went up there to work on music — that was the whole point," Payseur reflects. "The idea of struggling didn't really bother me too much, because what other option did I have?"

Despite his amateur soundproofing, Payseur went on to create a record that would forever change the trajectory of his music career.

"I feel really lucky. There are a lot of people out there that go through the same thing, and music is the only thing they care about, and they put a lot of love and soul into it," he says. "A lot of people don't get the recognition they deserve. I feel like it's a combination of me really working hard at it and also just kinda right place right time. New York had a really good scene at the time, and everything just kinda came together."

The dream-pop outfit is gearing for the November 19 release of The Other Side of Life: Piano Ballads. Inspired by the ballads of musicians like Lester Young, Chet Baker, Bill Evans, and Coleman Hawkins, the album will feature eight jazz renditions of Beach Fossils' 11-year catalog.

Payseur recorded The Other Side of Life over the course of a year while in lockdown, with remote help from former Beach Fossils member Tommy Gardner in Washington, D.C., and jazz drummer Henry Kwapis in LA. Payseur says it was friend and indie-rock singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco who recommended that he reach out to Kwapis to play drums on the project.

"I'm really proud of how [the album] came out," he says. "I kinda spent the last year getting that right, and I feel like it came out exactly how I was hoping it would."

When New Times caught up with Payseur in 2019, he shared that the band had been working on a new album with songs that sounded like they'd be on a "'90s coming of age/rom-com soundtrack." While the upcoming record still has some of that '90s flair, he says "a lot of the idea for the project has kinda shifted." As of now, Payseur says, the band has an overwhelming 138 songs written for the new record, which he will eventually have to narrow down to an album's worth.

As far as when the next Beach Fossils album will come out, that seems less clear.

"I wish I knew," he says. "I'd love to know the answer to that."

Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing. With Hannah Jadagu. 7 p.m. Wednesday, October 20, at the Ground, 34 NE 11th St., Miami; Tickets cost $30 via
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