(watch my moves)

Kurt Vile

(watch my moves)

“I always get deep into a record, but now I’m 100% fully operational,” Kurt Vile tells Apple Music. “I got a fully armed battle station.” The Philly singer-songwriter is referring to Overnight KV, or OKV, the new home studio he finished building just before the pandemic hit in 2020. It’s afforded Vile a level of creative independence he’s not felt since he started recording in his bedroom years ago. “Why do I always have to go to some producer's studio?” he asks. “It's on their terms. I'm grateful for it, we got a lot of stuff done. But you could say nothing's been 100% my personality since my early, more lo-fi records. I was 100% guard down, just doing my thing, man.” His ninth LP (and first for Verve, the legendary jazz imprint) combines the experimental purity of those early recordings with the sort of “completely high-fidelity” feel that he says his studio can provide, though he did, to be clear, collaborate again with producer Rob Schnapf (Elliott Smith, Beck) both at home and in LA. The result, Vile says, is “kind of like some American folk version of shoegaze music”—a set of sidewinding pop (see: “Flyin [like a fast train],” originally written for Kesha) and classic rock (“Fo Sho”) that includes contributions from Cate Le Bon and Chastity Belt, as well as drumming from Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint) and Sarah Jones (Hot Chip, Harry Styles). “It’s just lived in, really, the whole record,” he says. “There's multiple records that were left behind. But that's the way it should be. That's like somebody who's a carpenter or something, always working in their shop. I feel like you're not meant to put everything out. Just the way I live my life.” Here, Vile tells the story behind a number of songs on the album. “Goin on a Plane Today” “I got a piano at my house—it's very meditative and I can go to it every day. I remember I'd be touring [2018’s] Bottle It In, and I'd be thinking up these records that I was going to make from home, and then when I was home I'd go over to the piano and be like, ‘Oh, I'm so stoked, I'm going to get a lot of music done while I'm here.’ And then be rudely awakened to the fact that, no, I’ve got to leave in two weeks. I talk about opening for Neil Young in the song, because I wrote it around the time that we opened for Neil Young with Promise of the Real in Quebec, in 2018. That really happened.” “Palace of OKV in Reverse” “I love that there's more two-minute jams on this record—you could say that’s not been the case since my first album, [2008's] Constant Hitmaker, with ‘Freeway.’ But there's a lot of secrets about ‘OKV in Reverse.’ There's just a certain groove to it that triggered my mind, and then those lyrics came pretty quick. I didn't sing it until later when I was at Rob Schnapf's studio in LA, on the fly. He's good at capturing that thing.” “Like Exploding Stones” “‘Pain ricocheting in my brain like exploding stones.’ Some people attribute that line to migraines, and I do get migraines, so that's fine. But in the moment when I wrote it, it's more just stress, something weighing down hard on my head. I was pretty bummed out about something when I wrote that song, and then I recorded it right on my Zoom recorder—pretty much just live acoustics, drumming, and singing live. I imagined guitars feeding back, and the Moog synthesizer making noise, feedback massaging my cranium. I had all those things in the demo. Yeah, that's the beauty: You can just exorcise demons.” “Hey Like a Child” “It’s a love song. I’ve known my wife since we were pretty young, but you don't have to take it all so literally, because in the moment when I was writing it, obviously I've got children of my own. It’s got the shoegaze-y bend, but a jangle to it as well. And I knew that song had super poppy potential. We did an early version of it in my basement studio, but then I took it over to Rob Schnapf's and I replayed all the parts, and again, Sarah Jones, she just killed it on drums on that song. That song was made really quick.” “Chazzy Don’t Mind” “Courtney Barnett turned me on to Chastity Belt—they toured together on [2017’s] I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone. I liked their music immediately, but it creeps up on you because they sing about everyday things. Julia [Shapiro’s] lyrics are really emotional, sometimes funny but pretty real, and they have this cyclical playing that really resonates with me. I knew I wanted them on this song. Lydia [Lund] and Julia play guitar on it, and Annie [Truscott] plays violin on it, and they all sing. Annie, she's such an amazing musician, she’s got perfect pitch on the vocal. They all have an equally important role in the band, but it's her bass underneath it all that really gets that melancholy thing.” “Wages of Sin” “That's been one of my favorite songs of Springsteen’s for a long time—it’s got that melancholy, dark hypnotic thing. I knew I could sing the hell out of it and make it mine, but also stay true to his. Nobody's done that lately, but in the country music world that's what I like: There's a song that speaks to you, and often it's a deep cut or somebody hears a song written fresh off the presses, like a demo, and they're like, ‘That's my song.’ Well, this is that except it's been my song since my mid-twenties, and now here I am at 42. We got it. We nailed it. And Springsteen, I don't know—it'd be hard for him to ignore it. He'd have to make a conscious decision to ignore it. Something tells me him and Obama are going to be enjoying it soon.” “Stuffed Leopard” “It’s funny because I felt like ‘Wages of Sin’ was a centerpiece, and I wanted it to fade out. But then ‘Stuffed Leopard’ just crept up on me, and I realized I didn't fingerpick throughout the whole record. Lyrically, you're just looking at stuff around the house, and you're just clarifying it’s a toy, not a taxidermy leopard. Yeah, it's just a fingerpicker, man. What can I tell you? Can't help it.”

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