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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Kurt Vile Is Not Depressed — He's Just Moody

Posted By on Wed, Aug 10, 2016 at 2:02 PM

click to enlarge Kurt Vile - MARINA CHAVEZ
  • Marina Chavez
  • Kurt Vile

Kurt Vile is an artist whose lyricism revels in the dark alleys of existentialism and identity crisis, yet is somehow simultaneously sprinkled with comic relief in the bluntest of ways. His most recent album b’lieve i’m going down…, released on Matador Records last September, was widely-lauded as one of the greatest albums of 2015, gaining recognition from Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon and accolades from Rolling Stone for being "his most introspective tapestry yet."

With his Bob Dylan-esque vocals and tight guitar picking, Vile has a way of flirting with the complexities of life, but the 36-year-old is quick to remind us that things don’t always have to be so serious. In advance of his August 12 and 13 shows at The Greek Theatre, we chatted with the indie artist about the highlights of his most recent tour, April Fool's jokes, and wallabies vs. kangaroos. 

Kurt Vile plays with Alabama Shakes on Friday, August 12 and Saturday, August 13 at The Greek Theatre in Berkeley. More info here

SF Weekly: What’re you up to?
Kurt Vile: Um, we just have a day off en route to Indianapolis on our way to Lollapalooza. We’re just in this hotel room in West Virginia not doing much.

SFW: Sounds exciting. So you’ve been on tour for a while now, have there been any crowds or experiences that have particularly stood out to you?
KV: Things always stand out and then we get a bit burnt out and then they stand out again, but I think I played my favorite gig of the whole record last night which was much needed. It was some random gig in Norfolk, Virgina. We were jumping around. We played Panorama and New York and I feel like we were all getting pretty tired and I don’t know.

SFW: What’re you looking forward to at Lollapalooza?
KV: Well, I’m looking forward to playing it just for the nostalgia except I know its just one as opposed to a traveling festival. Like, as a kid, it would come to me, but it's cool to be playing it myself. I still have to look who’s playing on our day so I guess I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Actually, I’m pretty excited for this after show that is a secret.  I can’t say what it is right now.

SFW: Ha! Well, I’m excited to see how that goes. How was Glastonbury?
KV: Glastonbury was awesome. Yeah, that was the very beginning of our last European tour, and we were real fresh. We were really fresh and not so crispy for touring a month in Europe. It was great.
SFW: So, you still have a lot of touring left. You’re going to Japan and stuff. Is your family planning on coming to visit you for any of the remaining tour?
KV: No, I mean it would be cool, but then it kind of defeats the whole purpose of touring. I mean, I’m doing it to make money, but, uh, they’ve met me in New Zealand after tours and we've hung out in New Zealand and Australia for a long time. They meet me all over. They met me in New Orleans and we drove all around the South. We’re going to do that again. We’re going to do all kinds of fun stuff. In between touring is key. This is the first time going to Japan so it’s kind of, ya know, slightly barebones.

SFW: Yeah, it’s pretty hectic.
KV: Yeah, for sure it’s definitely hectic.

SFW: What did you guys get up to in Australia?
KV: We drove all over the south island that was New Zealand and then we flew back to Australia and I played one solo gig in Melbourne, and we hung out there for a few days with a bunch of friends — my friend Courtney Barnett and Nick Turner, people like that. And then we flew to Tasmania and that was incredible. Hung out with the wallabies. We chilled out with the wallabies.

SFW: And the kangaroos?
KV: We didn’t see any kangaroos. I was quite bummed, but wallabies are basically just mini kangaroos, but they’re still pretty big.

SFW: Haha, yeah, they’re alright. So I have to ask, Kurt, was it hard for you to shred after cutting all your hair off?
KV: What do you mean? I never cut off all my hair.

SFW: You’re on the cover of GQ!
KV: Oh! Haha, that was an April Fool's joke. 

SFW: Well, you pulled it off.
KV: That wasn’t even my idea. It was my label's, ya know. To just put me in the blogs.

SFW: That’s too funny. So for b’lieve i’m goin down..., there’s a bit of a darker tone to it. Is there anything that really influenced that?
KV: I would say maybe Smoke Ring For My Halo is on that level, but it was a matured version of that sort of impending darkness. But never so dark that it’s like some cry baby kind of thing. I always think it’s a sort of balance. But I think I was pretty burnt out at that time for a lot of the songs. But I’m happy. I feel like I go up and down all the time. It’s a cycle. I think most people do or else they’re on helium or Prozac. Just kidding.

SFW: Why did you choose to record in multiple locations rather than at a single studio? Is that part of it? Was being reclusive in Joshua Tree a reflection of this “dark” time?
KV: I wasn’t like, 'I’m so depressed. I need to go to Joshua Tree.' It’s not that dark. It’s just my psyche at times when I’m writing songs. Not the whole time. I just think life can be a struggle at times, but a lot of it is amazing. I went to Joshua Tree because it was close to L.A. and that’s where my buddies Farmer Dave and Stella live. I wanted to meet them and record with them like the record before, and Rancho De La Luna seemed like an awesome place. I just went to jam the week before so it was sort of like fate. And then bandmates and people I play with all live in different locations, and I would jump around and go to them in different studio environments.

SFW: So it wasn’t intentional, it just sort of happened that way?
KV: Yeah, I did that with the last few records: I jumped around. But I feel like for this next record, I might just plan to stay on the East Coast for a change.
SFW: I know you’re a fan of Neil Young and Bob Dylan. Do you have any modern day influences?
KV: Sure. All kinds. I mean I have a lot of modern day influences that are contemporaries, like Steve Gunn and this kid Luke Roberts. He’s incredible.

SFW: You were just working with Luke Roberts weren’t you?
KV: Well, I played a little. He toured with us and then my bandmate Kyle, my drummer, he recorded with him. I guess he’s worked on all of Luke's records and then this last one. Me and my manager were fans of Luke Roberts' music and then Kyle joined the band and we didn’t even know he’d recorded those albums, which blew our minds. I was working at Kyle's studio and we realized he recorded Luke. I played a little banjo on this song and I sang two words. I sang the words "Jesus Christ" with him. But, yeah, he’s an amazing songwriter. He’s a heartbreaker. Amazing lyrics and natural harmonies.

SFW: What’re you planning on doing after tour?
KV: Well, there’s a little break and then we go back out, and then I’m going to record a little bit, and then I’m going to drive to Nashville with my family to the Smokey Mountains or something, and catch some downtime action.

SFW: Aww, that’s  good. What do you guys usually do? What’re you up to when you’re not making music?
KV: We do whatever we want. Just chillin.
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