Kurt Vile on Pretty Daze: "Who Lately Has Opened an Album With a Nine-Minute Song?"
Photo by Shawn Brackbill
The term singer-songwriter conjures images of musicians in coffee houses with classically tuned acoustic guitars, strumming open chords to overly earnest lyrics.
But since leaving his former band War on Drugs to go solo, Kurt Vile has consistently subverted the stereotype with experimental atmospherics.
This signature sonic approach can be heard as early as his first full-length, 2008's Constant Hitmaker, which opens with sparkling electronics that rise up from the ether, only to be drowned out by a rapidly clacking drum machine before a delicately distorted guitar takes over.
Over the course of five albums now, Vile's knack for fascinating soundcraft has never faltered. And far from being some hippie dullard (yet reserved enough to avoid the overwhelming din of neo-psychedelic rock), the 33 year old remains impossible to predict. On his latest record, 2013's Wakin on a Pretty Daze, he has evolved again, exploring longer, ambling compositions while finding new ways to add aural decoration.
Asked about particular effects, like the spectral flute-like tones on "Baby's Arms" -- the opening track of his breakthrough 2010 album, Smoke Ring For My Halo -- Vile details the techniques and equipment used to achieve this sonic magic.
However, he admits, these are not always his ideas. "I'm kind of jealous of certain bandmates I have," Vile says, "like Jesse [Trbovich] and Rob [Laakso] and my old bandmate Adam [Granduciel]. They can sit there and get a tone in the moment, especially out of an amp or something, whereas my brain just goes on lockdown, and I'll just be like, 'Aww, this amp is broken.'"