How Jack White plucked the Tailspins out of obscurity
“We were starting from scratch all over again, and a couple of weeks after making our Instagram, we were backstage at arena shows,” says Julia Buie, one-half of husband-and-wife, jump-blues duo the Tailspins.
This spring, finding themselves frustrated with compromises made regarding their old band’s music and social-media presence, Oskar and Julia Buie knew that a complete reinvention was in order.
The old project, dubbed Oskar & Julia, didn’t feel honest. “It felt like we were going up a river,” says Oskar Buie. “Renaming the band and keeping [our work] at arm’s length has been so healthy for the music.” Nevertheless, starting over without proper resources, throwing caution to the wind, he says, “felt like a tailspin.”
The reinvention came at the suggestion of Adam Schreiber, the producer of the Salt Lake City duo’s self-titled first EP under the new name, the Tailspins.
“He didn’t impose whatsoever,” says Julia. “We were in the middle of showing him what we were trying to do and asking his advice, profusely, because we admire his talent so much. We were asking, ‘If you were in our shoes, how would you create this situation that we want to be in?’”
“We were a little gimmicky at that time,” says Oskar. “Now, we’re able to keep our relationship to us. It’s not like we’re some Instagram influencers. We’re a band.”
For the duo, the change came slow. Despite bouts of bargaining with each other about which traces of Oskar & Julia would remain accessible to the general public, the Buies had removed almost all vestiges of their old identity from the internet by April. Since the duo had toured internationally and recorded extensively under their previous name, “it was very hard to do,” says Julia. “We built relationships with people in England and Scotland.”
“And Ireland,” adds Oskar. “We just dropped off the face of the earth.”
“Yeah, when you have relationships that are that far away and you just kind of go dark, you’re easy to forget,” says Julia. “But now, we don’t have to play those songs for the rest of our lives because we managed to get rid of them before we got enough exposure. We made sure to get rid of them so we get to play the songs we really like for the rest of our career together.”
Enter Jack White.
“Everything happened so fast,” says Oskar. “It was literally overnight.”
Minutes after creating the Tailspins’ new Instagram account, Oskar—a compulsive jokester—found himself in a real-life adaptation of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
“Nobody believes anything I say because I’m always pranking people,” he says. “Randall (Ball, Tailspins bassist) captured a little video of us going through a track and posted it to his personal Instagram. Julia had a hunch that it was time to put up a Tailspins Instagram.”
“We didn’t even know if we were going to start an Instagram again,” says Julia. “We were kind of burned out by the whole thing … We were in Detroit with Adam going over mixes. We had the right sound, and we were recording some live performances together just to have some video footage to send around. So, Randall takes this video in Adam’s studio. We weren’t focused on social media whatsoever, but I hurried and made an account with this dinky little profile picture. I don’t even think that there was a bio on it or anything.”
Less than a half an hour after creating the Tailspins Instagram account and posting the video, Oskar exclaimed, “Jack White just followed us!”
“Adam’s face goes totally white, and he’s like, ‘What?’’ because nobody believes Oskar,” says Julia. “So I got out my phone, and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s true!’”
For the Tailspins, this alone was a validation of their compulsion to start fresh. But it wasn’t until they had traveled home to Salt Lake City when they realized just how big of a fan their new Instagram follower was.
While he was preparing dinner, Oskar absentmindedly opened up his phone to discover a message from White’s tour manager, wondering if the duo would be interested in joining Jack on some stateside shows while he promoted his first record of 2022, Fear Of The Dawn.
Despite an already-packed bill, with support from bands like the Afghan Whigs and the Kills, White made sure that the Tailspins and their hypnotic melodies were heard in the concourses, lobbies and vestibules of the arenas.
“We were treated like royalty,” says Oskar. “It was one of the greatest experiences of our lives.”
“We were really able to take a crash course on what arena touring is like behind the scenes, and see how many incredibly brilliant technicians and sound people are employed by artists,” says Julia. “There are just so many brilliant minds behind everything that they’re doing. It just floored us, how their team works like a living organism. It totally put a fire under our butts to get to that stage someday.”
A tour with White, one of the hardest-working musicians alive, is inspiring enough to wake the dead. For the Tailspins, it was also validation of the risk that they took under the guidance of Schreiber.
“Once we cut the fat and let go of what wasn’t important,” says Oskar, “that’s when everything happened.”
“Clearly, we got noticed for authentically being ourselves,” says Julia. “How rewarding, huh?”
“We used to think that being authentic and being yourself was putting everything online,” says Oskar. “Isn’t that funny?” He lets the question hang in the air for a moment. “It’s cool to be able to switch the perspective of authenticity. We don’t have to prove ourselves to anyone. We just get to do our music, and that’s it, you know?”
—Jacob Paul Nielsen