Leanna Butkovic - Where can I find your music? You don't really know much about music do ya?
Kurt Vile Philadelphia-based singer-guitarist Kurt Vile veers between stadium-ready rock god and bedroom-studio shut-in on his two recent Matador releases. The guy's got a gift for writing lift-your-lighter anthems like the Suicide-meets-the Feelies jam "Freak Train" and the bluesy "Inside Lookin' Out," but he sounds just as invested strumming two-line acoustic throwaways. His backing combo, the Violators, brings out his righteous side on record, so I'm betting Vile will deliver some big rock moments today. Also at Subterranean tonight, 17+. Balance —BM
Rough hewn rock
Kurt Vile on banjos, buddies and the day
songwriting beat skateboarding
DON’T SWEAT THE FRETS: Kurt Vile
by LORRAINE CARPENTER
“Philly’s constant hitmaker” Kurt Vile has been quietly resuscitating rock music since 2008. He was signed to Matador last year, attracting international acclaim with the Childish Prodigy LP, recently followed up by the Square Shells EP. His charm lies in the languid quality of his deceptively simple rock, played with guitars, Korgs and reverb-heavy vocals, often recorded lo-fi, as informed by psychedelia as it is by roots music.
“My dad was a bluegrass freak,” says Vile, one of 10 children raised to the sound of old Kentucky. “I probably wanted a guitar but he bought me a banjo, which I played like a guitar. But I’m glad I started with a banjo because you have an open tuning and that kinda expands your mind. You’re not stuck in the box of the guitar fret.”
Guitar is Vile’s primary sound, the motor that drives the songs, the textures that make them distinct and the melodies that duet with (and occasionally stand in for) his rough-hewn vocals. At the age of 15, it was love at first touch.
“My brother borrowed a guitar and I started playing it right away, then I wrote a song and went over to my buddy’s house and he recorded it on a four-track. I just went for it. I was really into skateboarding, I remember that was my number one thing, but after I recorded that song, I was like, ‘Well, today songwriting beat skateboarding.’”
Vile went on to play with his best friend Adam Granduciel in his arena-Americana band War on Drugs, but bowed out after one record and a European tour in order to focus on his solo work, which he describes as slightly weirder and darker, more demented and paranoid than his buddy’s. Both Vile and War on Drugs will release new records in the coming year—Vile recently wrapped recording with producer John Agnello (Sonic Youth, the Breeders, Dinosaur Jr.)—but until then, Granduciel is moonlighting as a member of Vile’s backing band, the Violators.
“Adam’s awesome, he’s a solid dude who’s really good at playing,” says Vile. “We basically developed the sound together, with his band and my band, so we’ll always back each other up when we can.”
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