Music News

Kurt Vile on His Return to 'Normalcy'

Indie rocker Kurt Vile enjoyed making his latest record from his Philadelphia home.
Indie rocker Kurt Vile enjoyed making his latest record from his Philadelphia home. Courtesy Verve Records
For reluctant indie rocker Kurt Vile, being back on the road as a touring musician is a lot like an astronaut blasting off into outer space again. While he played shows more often than not since his musical journey began twenty years ago, the pandemic kept Vile in his Philadelphia home for the past two years while he recorded his new record, (watch my moves).

Currently crisscrossing the country with his band the Violators to promote the album, Vile is happy to be back in a familiar musical universe. Kurt Vile and the Violators play Denver on Monday, May 23, at the Ogden Theatre, with local opener Honey Blazer.

“Well, I’ll tell ya, I haven’t been let down, you know," Vile says of his current tour, adding that he has a newfound appreciation for the live setting. "We’ve been on the road for a couple of weeks or something, but it feels like we’ve been on the road for a couple of months. We’ve played like ten shows. I mean, it’s pretty beautiful. It’s just connecting to the people in real time...[being] present in the moment. I feel the pandemic, and I feel the fact that I’m connecting with people every night. Everything’s very real. I can feel them both, so it’s kind of bittersweet. I don’t feel any dark shit right now. I feel like I’ve been thrown out into space again on the road. But that’s who I am.”

That is who Kurt Vile is, and his songs are merely an extension of himself. The 42-year-old writes music that mixes the folksy songwriting of John Prine and Neil Young with Dinosaur Jr. and Pavement tones. The juxtaposition has made him one of the more interesting creators in the indie scene.

“I think the reason the road or music comes up in songs is because...” he says, before trailing off a moment to consider his thoughts. “It’s almost like yoga or something, when you let things come to your brain. I’m always thinking about music, so it’s natural in real time when I’m strumming, when the lines are coming out, I’ll throw in some lines about playing guitar and being on the road, because it’s a huge part of my life. Like I said, I just got back out on the road, but it already feels like I’ve been out here for months. It’s kind of funny.”

Vile’s latest album is his first on a major label after he signed with the legendary Verve Records early last year. Making (watch my moves) in his home studio was definitely a different process for Vile, but also allowed him to make the record that he wanted to.

“I was looking forward to seeing what happens putting a record out on Verve. It was a different energy and reality, but also, psychologically, it gave me some goals for myself to build my studio at home and try to come swinging for the fences. It was quite beautiful and organic. I feel like I needed time to figure shit out in general, so it was fun,” he says, adding that making music is a psychotherapeutic process. “It was cathartic. Sometime along the way, I got into a healthy routine: I had the morning to get my shit together, go down and play music, and then I had an evening to wind down. It’s pretty nice. I feel like that schedule would never exist for me if I hadn’t been assigned to just live a normal life. It’s kind of weird. It was interesting how good it was for me. Obviously, the pandemic was scary in a lot of ways, but for me it really put me on a normal routine, which it turns out I needed. I just wanted to make a record from home, as much as I could.”

Now, playing “Walking on a Pretty Day” and “Bassackwards,” as well as new cuts such as “Mount Airy Hill (Way Gone)” and “Hey Like a Child” for crowds is just that much more special for Vile, especially given how he can connect with an audience.

“What I like the most about [connecting with the audience] is that it’s only been a couple of years since I had the balls to even open my eyes or look out into the crowd because I’m shy, but now I like to do that. I like to think that I write music for obsessives. I’m totally obsessive. I have so much music that I love. I like to look out into the crowd at the people and see if they’re into it, and they kind of bop their head and they’ll kind of nod their head because it’s like, ‘Is he looking at me?’ Then you sort of nod your head back,” he says. “It's a beautiful thing. That was like the missing link, I think. Now I feel like I’m 100 percent in it, because you've got to connect to the people. I think that’s what’s going on now.”

Kurt Vile and the Violators play the Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax Avenue, at 8 p.m. Monday, May 23; tickets are $35.75-$75.
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