What’s In A Name?

Written by Chris O'Connell on . Posted in Posts.

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.

What’s in a Name?

Written by None - Do not Delete on . Posted in Posts.

Memphis garage-rocker Jay Reatard is a living, breathing misnomer.

When Jay Lindsey was 15 years old he decided to name his first his band The Reatards, then he changed his last name to make the playfully spelled “Reatard” his own. It must have felt all too appropriate. Most feel retarded, at least in the colloquial sense of maladjustment, during those early teenage years. On top of the age’s commonplace insecurities, young Jay had an unstable home life to contend with and few friends to share his adolescent angst with. So instead of going to classes, he stayed home to play music in his bedroom. Jay Reatard didn’t fit in—he was abnormal. He was a “retard.”

But it’s easy to forget the definition of “retard” in its verb form. It means to hinder, slow or delay. And in this real sense, Jay Reatard has been wringing his self-imposed surname with action ever since. By the age of 18, when many of his peers hoped to tour Europe with a backpack, he had already traveled the continent with his own band. In the years since changing his name, Reatard (now 27) has released dozens of records, and he’s been in at least eight bands, most notably The Reatards and the synth-based Lost Sounds. This workaholic even has his own record label, Shattered. Following one’s passions is vital for any artist, but Reatard grew tired of continually recording and touring for so many different projects that involved so many other musicians.

“I was feeling creatively repressed,” says Reatard. “I hadn’t had a chance to make an album that completely represented my ideas.”

He began focusing on solo work, simply labeling it with his own name. In 2006, In The Red Records released Reatard’s solo LP, Blood Visions, a hyperkinetic romp of punk guitar and Joey Ramone–style vocals. For music played with such speed and volume, the album displayed Reatard’s surprising ear for melody.

The tuneful nature of the music is that much more unexpected after looking at the album’s cover, which bears an image of the nearly naked songwriter covered in blood.

“The idea was that I would be this fat, bloody baby being reborn into the world,” says the renascent Reatard.

Though he’d already built a decent fan base from touring with his many Memphis-based projects over the years, Blood Visions gradually gained a new audience of fans and journalists. All the new exposure and momentum paid off when Reatard was touring in New York City one day and a friend in The Ponys, a garage rock band from Chicago, told him NYC’s Matador Records was interested in signing him. Reatard began speaking with Matador, the gold standard of indie labels.

“Then there were eight months of negotiations to settle everything…which were really exhausting. It was like, ‘Hey man, let’s stop talking about this shit and start making a record!’ I’d never gone more than six months without making a full-length.”

Reatard is set to release six, 7-inch singles with Matador this year, which will be compiled on an EP in the fall. Much to his frustration, his next full-length disc won’t be out until spring of 2009.

Though Reatard’s career looks to be ascendant, he doesn’t plan on any major life changes. For one, he has no intention to leave his hometown of Memphis.

“Memphis is pretty vital to the creative process for me. Some bands decide to move to L.A. and then they immediately begin to suck. I feel like if a big city didn’t create a band, a band shouldn’t expect to move to a big city and continue to be nurtured creatively.”

If there is a perceivable alteration in Reatard’s lifestyle, it’s a shift away from his historically scattered musical endeavors.

“Six months ago I decided to try something I’ve never done before—and that’s focus. I figured, I have eight releases this year. Then there’s press and touring. I don’t have enough time to sleep much less to play drums in some crappy punk band.”

April 21, Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey St. (betw. Bowery & Chrystie St.), 212-533-2111; 7:30, $12 (also at Europa April 22).


Written by None - Do not Delete on . Posted in Breaking News, Posts.

The order in which victims’ names will appear on the 9/11 Memorial may change. Originally, Michael Arad, the designer of the “Reflecting Absence” memorial, proposed listing the names in random order to echo the chaos of 9/11. Under a new plan, announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, chairman of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, the names of the 2,979 killed on 9/11 and in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing will be arranged in 10 groupings according to the tower in which they died or the plane on which they traveled. Within each category, names will still be randomized, although foundation president Joseph Daniels said families could request that loved ones who died together on a plane or in a building be listed together.