ANYONE LISTENING TO Kurt Vile’s music might think he can pin down Vile’s main influences right away. Sometimes he has the drugged-out fuzz of Spacemen 3, while other times he seems to have the drugged-out straightforward folk guitar of Neil Young.The problem is, from song to song, it gives the listener a different sense of who Vile is. Or what he’s taking. But according to Vile, there’s nothing to wonder about.
“For a while, people get inspired by taking drugs when making music,”Vile says. “You have a different perspective under the influence, but for me, I can’t finish work and make things solid in that state.”
Even though Vile mostly restrains from partaking in illicit substances these days when writing music—“We still like to have a good time at shows,” he confesses—the subject still finds its way into his sprawling, jangly neo-folk rock songs.
Hailing from Philadelphia,Vile has made himself a presence in New York, releasing a slew of records on labels like Brooklyn’s Woodsist and sharing the stage with bands like our own Blues Control and Woods at local venues Market Hotel and The Shank, to name a few.
The title track from this year’s The Hunchback EP is an ethereal, dreamy song, dense with layers of hazy guitar, highlighted by not-too-clean production and showcasing his backup band, the aptly named Violators.
“It has a druggy undertone,” Vile says, although mentioning that the first version of the song is two years old, perhaps written during his and the Violators’ more clouded days. “It was gonna be on the Matador record,” Vile says, confirming his signing to the seminal indie label. “But my friend wanted to put it out, so we tried to capture the ‘practice room vibe’ of it for the EP.”
As Vile finds himself on the same record label as indie-rock all-stars Pavement and Yo La Tengo, he says he doesn’t think his approach to writing and recording will change much on his next record, much like how new labelmate Jay Reatard’s damaged punk went unharmed when he signed on with Matador in 2008. Both artists were plucked from lo-fi near-obscurity by Matador recently to inject a new dose of street cred to the so-called “major-indie.”
“There are a couple of home recordings on there, but it’s mostly studio stuff,” he says. “I worked on this a long time, but it’s not too clean, not too produced.”
It will certainly be a different type of recording process in one way, as he will be assembling an entire full-length album of material recorded in one time period. His first two full-lengths, Constant Hitmaker and God is Saying This to You… are culled from sessions recorded sometimes four or five years apart.
“Those records have a lot of stuff from other CDRs I put out. Constant Hitmaker came first, with all of my favorite stuff from the CDRs plus the song ‘Freeway,’”Vile says. “Those songs, they are more cool, more tripped out, and I knew I couldn’t have gotten made fun of for being a wuss.”
Vile refers to being a “wuss” in the context of God is Saying This to You…—a decidedly un-wussy, yet stripped down and earnest collection of songs dating as far back as 2003.
In conjunction with each other, the records show the heavier side of Vile’s music, the more “punk” side and the more vulnerable, folky facet of his music.Vile revels in his ability to meld the two while being neither punk nor folk.
“I can emulate punk rock, when back in the day my stuff was more acoustic,” Vile says. “I think it’s good I can do the punk thing too. I’m lucky I have the name I have.” As perfectly punk as Kurt Vile’s name is, it really isn’t a “punk name” in that he didn’t fabricate it—it’s his birth name. “People disbelieve it all the time,” Vile says. “When I was signing the Matador contracts, they were like, ‘Wait, we need to redo these with Kurt’s real name!’”
While some people might see a last name like Vile as, well, vile, Kurt considers himself blessed to have the surname.
“It’s good I can do the punk thing and the folk thing. It would be sad if I played only folk and my name was Kurt Vile.”
> Kurt Vile
Aug. 14, Cake Shop, 152 Ludlow St. (betw. Stanton & Rivington Sts.), 212-253-0036; 8, $8.