Coming out of the acclaimed Philadelphia music scene, Kurt Vile has been playing rock music in his own particular way since the early half of the 2000s. He co-founded the indie rock band The War on Drugs in 2005 with Adam Granduciel before embarking on a solo career which continues today. Vile shows fantastic skills on guitar while having a unique way of singing that sometimes incorporates a drawl and at other times borders on spoken word. He’s going to be doing this with his backing band The Violators at the Garde Arts Center in New London on Saturday.
New York City singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Joanna Sternberg will start off the evening at 8 p.m.
Vile and I talked ahead of the show about the anniversary of one of his previous albums, building a home studio during the height of the pandemic and playing historic theaters like The Garde in New London.
RD: This year marks 10 years since the release of your fifth studio album Wakin on a Pretty Daze, which had its anniversary reissue come out this past July. You’ve mentioned before how the album is an introspective one while centering on what your life was like at the time. In a reflective sense, have your feelings changed at all on this particular record since it came out?
KV: At the moment in time, it was pretty well-produced. We hid it from the label until the very end for various reasons, I guess one of them is because they were so many old songs but you can’t argue with the opening track “Wakin on a Pretty Day”. It’s a live staple, it still gets the loudest screams every night when we play it live and I’m super proud of the whole record. I would say some classics on there are that one, “Girl Called Alex” and “Gold Tone”. It’s the first record I made with my bandmate Rob Laakso as a full-on collaborator, we got really deep into the production of it and he passed away earlier this year.
It was also the first time I recorded with my buddy Farmer Dave Scher from Beachwood Sparks and Stella Mozgawa, who’s the drummer from Warpaint and I’ve collaborated with her a lot since then. It was a good combination of The Violators and outside friends, so I love to look back at that and I love that I can tap into that album any night I want. I can do some kind of interpretation of it live on stage while on the road every now and then, I like that I can time travel and I can go to outer space whenever I want just like Neil Young told me once.
RD: It’s cool that you still have an attachment to the album. The reissue has an exclusive fanzine that accompanies it, so who had the idea to include that and what does the fanzine consist of?
KV: I did an in-depth interview about the making of the record in it and there’s photos. That’s probably about it, to be honest.
RD: Fast forward to more recent times, your most recent album Watch My Moves that came out last year was made during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 with you building a home recording studio. How has the studio evolved since the songwriting and recording process for that album? Do you find yourself going there all the time to record different ideas when you’re not on the road?
KV: My studio has evolved a lot and we actually started that record with a couple of imperative tracks being done before the pandemic, before we knew what was about to go down. “Cool Water” was recorded in January of 2020 and “Jesus on a Wire” was recorded with five other songs with Cate Le Bon in September of 2019. The cover of [Bruce] Springsteen’s “Wages of Sin” was also done during the same time as “Cool Water”, so I had enough great stuff in the can that I wasn’t nervous to start a record from scratch in my home studio. Flash forward a couple years, we’ve mixed some things and started some recordings there that are going to come out on a compilation soon. Some of them sound better than any professional studio I’ve ever been in, they shine brighter in certain ways depending on what you’re looking for.
Granted, I don’t do the mixing myself but I got lots of cool friends. Some of them actually helped me build the studio.
RD: That’s awesome, that’s great. When it comes to playing at an old historic theater like the Garde Arts Center, do you handle it any differently than you would with a gig at a regular club or an outdoor festival?
KV: I’ll tell you what, these days I’m excited because 10 years ago or so I would say festivals, but you can’t trust the sound, maybe you have rented gear and you just throw it up and go. Every room is different, but the beauty of it is that I’m excited to play in this historic place. We just love to play live now and we’ve been doing it for so long. Sure, a theater is different compared to outdoors and a big crowd at a festival, but the beauty of it is that we can tap in. We play music for ourselves, but we also play it for our fans who are there and I’m not afraid to look into their faces like I used to be, I used to hide behind my hair.
RD: After this run of shows with The Violators that goes on until next month, what are your plans for the rest of the year? I know you mentioned this compilation that’s coming out, but are there any plans to make a new album?
KV: I’m going to make another full-length record, but it’s going to be really slow. I don’t know how long it’s going to take to finish it, maybe it’ll be quick or maybe it’ll take long. There’s some shows on the horizon and at this moment, that’s my way of life. As long as I know that I’m eventually going to go back out there and play music in real time, then I can make a record slow whenever I want. There’s plenty of things in the well and there’s something coming out soon that I’m proud of.