For those who know their music, Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter, Kurt Vile would like to clarify something: When his parents, Mr. and Ms. Vile, named him Kurt, they did not know anything about the early 20th-century German songwriter Kurt Weill, whose last name is properly pronounced “vile.” Speaking over the phone from his home, the 33-year-old Vile said of his parents, “They had no idea who the composer was … I do have German in my ancestry, but my running joke is I always forget my family tree.”
It’s a great sign when a musician reveals a sense of humor about what is possibly a question he might have heard more often than he has cared to answer. As suits such a giving artist, Vile spoke frankly and was not above giving credit where due. From sonic ideas to his influences, he seemed happy to talk about it all. It was therefore easy for this writer to produce not one, but three different articles on Vile for the “Miami New Times,” ahead of his first live appearance in the Magic City tonight at Grand Central (see details below, as well as more tour dates).
The first article appeared last week, which also appears in print in this week’s issue of the “Miami New Times.” On the publication’s “Crossfade” music blog, the headline for the article tempted some commentators to answer Vile’s rhetorical question:
Kurt Vile on Pretty Daze: “Who Lately Has Opened an Album With a Nine-Minute Song?”
Vile spent even more time talking about long songs than was fit to print. His new album, Wakin On A Pretty Daze features a plethora of rambling, lengthy tracks. He admitted he has long had an affection for indulging in riffs that invite the listener to get lost in the music. He pointed to Neil Young as an example. “Like that song ‘Cortez the Killer,’ it can go on forever because he is just playing the right cords,” he said. “It has the right feel, the right groove. That’s an example of a song that doesn’t matter how long it is, and I was just taking that without exactly thinking about ‘Cortez the Killer,’ but there’s a million artists. It’s like the beginning of time, just people in the fields are playing blues riffs forever. So it’s just fine-tuning that and making it your own thing.”
Vile revealed that he felt a new-found ease with these new songs after getting his 2010 breakthrough album Smoke Ring For My Halo out of his system. Though the new songs flow easy and organically, he said they did not necessarily come out in single writing sessions. A lot of the songs were written in different parts of the world while he toured. “Different parts of the songs I write in different places,” he said, “but it all just kind of works cohesively and finally, ultimately when you go into the studio, you’re still not sure it’s all going to work out, and then you hear it back. Then there are sections where you just keep it going and think maybe you’ll just fade it out, but then you think this is where a solo will happen and then you listen back and you just realize you got to a place where the whole thing is good like that or at least good enough for you to not cut it out, whereas, in the past, I’ve done long songs too where they are seven, eight minutes long, but it’s still kind of primitive, though.”
Long songs have been something Vile has tried to fine tune for several years. He looks back at earlier experiments with modesty and without shame. “You listen back, it’s primitive. I like it, but I didn’t quite nail it in the recording cause it just kinda sounds all the same, all the way through to me. There were a lot of long songs for Smoke Ring too, but we just had to edit them down because after a while you weren’t bobbing your head. And also you wanted a single. It was that kind of record where a song like ‘Runner Ups’ was longer, cut it down. ‘Society Is My Friend’ was longer, cut it down. Stuff like that,” he added with a laugh.
Humility seems to be part of Vile’s character. The second article for “Crossfade” came easy: his confession to feeling insecure about the recording and production process:
Kurt Vile on the Process of Recording His Albums: “There Is Ultimately a Million Drafts”
All there was to say on the topic appeared in that article. What was left included more technical insights into his craft but also his demystification of analog recordings to vinyl. A self-proclaimed fan on vinyl records, Vile said they just do not make them like the used to. The picture below is a still image from a home-made video for “Never Run Away,” from Wakin On A Pretty Daze, featuring his then 3-year-old daughter and his record collection. After the jump to this third article, you will find the video.:
Kurt Vile on Computer-Free Rock: “Well, That’s Cool, But Kinda Hard to Do, It’s a Luxury”
Kurt Vile and the Violators with Beach Fossils, VBA and the Band In Heaven. Friday, November 1. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Doors 8 p.m. Tickets cost $15. All ages. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com.
His tour continues up Florida and later in Europe:
11-02 Orlando, FL – The Social *
11-03 Tallahassee, FL – Club Downunder *
11-05 New Orleans, LA – One Eyed Jack’s *
11-06 Houston, TX – Walters *
11-11 Oxford, MS – Proud Larry’s *
11-12 Chattanooga, TN – JJ’s Bohemia *
12-07 Stockholm, Sweden – Debaser Medis
12-08 Lund, Sweden – Mejeriet
12-11 London, England – 02 Shepherd’s Social Club
12-13 Leeds, England – Brudenell Social Club
12-14 Manchester, England – Manchester Academy 2
12-15 Glasgow, Scotland – Arches
12-16 Bristol, England – The Fleece
12-17 Brighton, England – Concorde 2
12-19 Paris, France – La Gaite Lyrique
12-20 Tourcoing, France – Le Grand Mix
* with Beach Fossils
More tour dates into 2014 and several dates in Australia can be found on Vile’s official tour page (that’s a hotlink).