Tim Kile sizes up a societal ’Wasteland’
The Wild Light and Arcade Fire co-founder mixes cynicism and optimism with infectious results
The sixth and latest single from April’s debut album These Are Things Being Gathered for the Fire
Photo Credit: Tanya Lacourse
AUSTIN, TEXAS -- Wasteland. Satan. Spray tan.
Three sentiments and four words are all it takes for Tim Kile’s new single “Wasteland” to grab hold of the listener and never let go. They arrive 46 seconds into not only the track, but the Austin songwriter’s forthcoming new album These Are Things Being Gathered for the Fire. “Wasteland,” the sixth single in as many months from the Arcade Fire and Wild Light co-founder and New Hampshire native, out March 24, is perhaps Kile’s boldest declaration of indie rock yet. It’s a loud, assertive tune built for arena sing-alongs -- but it also works for parties of one, alone out there, somewhere, wherever, in the world.
“Writing a song called ‘Wasteland’ is not the most original concept,” Kile says with a laugh. “M. Ward had the album A Wasteland Companion a few years back, many other bands have applied the concept, and of course there’s the T. S. Eliot poem, The Waste Land. What I’m doing is clearly not on a level of high-falutin’ artistic significance to warrant that sort of allusion with a straight face, but I do love the poem and have it in mind. There’s a mix of cynicism and optimism, a sense of irony; the hope that undercuts itself when it considers reality. ‘I laughed, and wept, and I slept’ is the refrain of my song. That’s sort of what we go through with each 24 hour news cycle.”
It’s impossible for the listener’s mind not to wander to their own definitions of who or what fits the bill with each of Kile’s lyrical offerings. The wasteland is all around us, the Satan, however defined, is among us, and the spray tan -- and who receives it -- is what headlines the news and dominates our social media feeds each and every day. The chorus to “Wasteland” is maybe the most infectious raised eyebrow in recorded history. Or at least this year, so far.
“The ‘Wasteland / Satan / Spray tan’ chorus came about the way most of my lyrics come about -- hollering along with a new song until a compelling word or two pops out. I’m pretty sure I guffawed to myself when I said ‘spray tan’ for the first time,” Kile adds. “At the time I was thinking more about Jersey Shore, but it proved prescient through the previous administration. ‘Spray tan’, my most timeless lyric? [laughs] Yelling ‘Satan’, it’s kind of a joke, but it’s kind of not, ya know?”
The ambition of the song comes off with ease, and like Kile’s recent singles -- January’s “Witness” and last month’s “My Medicine” -- there’s a playfulness in his songwriting that belies the seriousness of the subject. A casual listener can appreciate the chorus’ catchiness; a deeper dive leans into the more devilish nature of our era.
“The song is aiming big, it’s trying to say the big thing, which is always risky,” says Kile. “You don’t want to come off like Bono or something, lyrics that are sort of just giving advice, in a vague and banal way. I think the underlying fear in the song is one we’re all dealing with -- the fear that the edifice is crumbling beneath us, that ‘the kingdom cannot stand’. The perspective of the song is ambivalent. ‘Some found belief, but I find no relief…’ All that said, there’s also part of the wasteland that we end up liking - it becomes our home. There’s something really comforting to me about going into a gas station food mart late at night on a long drive, surrounded with corporate branding and carcinogenic snacks. Somehow there can be something so peaceful and almost rejuvenating about that moment for me. Which doesn’t really make sense. I think humans can adapt to almost anything, and find a way to create happiness, wasteland or not.”
Though he’s been cranking out singles since last fall, Kile is now gearing up to self-release his debut record, These Are Things Being Gathered for the Fire. Out April 30, it features the aforementioned singles as well as four additional unreleased tracks. And it all kicks off with “Wasteland.”
“I chose it as the album opener because it’s accessible, it’s got a big chorus, the production is kinda slick,” Kile admits. “It’s probably a little more slick that I’d like it, but maybe that gives it more crossover potential, or whatever. To me the opening guitar riff is kind of a Big Star rip-off. That combined with the ‘Wasteland / Satan / Spray tan’ lyric felt like a good way to grab you right away. The original arrangement of the song was almost six minutes long, and I did everything I could to edit it down to cram as much music as I could into four minutes. As the opener I think it frames the album and sets the parameters for what’s to follow.”
‘Wasteland’ single artwork:
Design: Casey Galfas
Media praise for Tim Kile
“Tim Kile's song writing capabilities are undeniable; a unique ability to combine intelligent lyricism relating to important societal issues is paired with addictive feel-good indie pop.” -- Middle Eight
“I love when artists can cull from all of their inspirations over the past 60 or so years of music and turn it into contemporary material.” -- Blood Makes Noise
“With all its stilted piano, brushes of synth and wisps of backing harmonies, ['My Medicine'] manages to hit a spot where it’s instantly lovable and uplifting and yet, has just a little hint of the melancholy contained within... you need ‘My Medicine’ in your lives. -- Backseat Mafia
“'My Medicine' delivers dazzling indie-pop with a deeply honest and personal message at the roots... 'Witness' offers a melancholic approach and 'Nightbird' delivers a stunningly beautiful and atmospheric slow burner.” -- Middle Eight
Tim Kile bio:
Tim Kile is a recording artist based in Austin, Texas. A co-founding member of Grammy Award winners Arcade Fire and Columbia Records' Wild Light, Kile has released music and toured worldwide in support of bands such as The Killers, LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, MGMT, The Wallflowers, and Doves.
With the release of his debut solo album These Things Are Being Gathered for the Fire later in the year, Kile is prepared to greet both new and long-standing fans with his richest work yet. Evoking the sweeping romanticism of The Cure and early U2, the incandescent musical sophistication of Elliott Smith, and the lyrical sensitivity of a young Nick Cave or Conor Oberst, Kile’s compositions entrance and intrigue, bringing the listener back for listen after listen.
Classically trained on piano and voice, self-taught on guitar and bass, Kile performs most of the instruments on his recordings. These Things Are Being Gathered for the Fire is slated for release in Spring 2021, preceded by a run of singles.