UPDATE: Kurt Vile's February 1 show has been moved from the Ritz to the Orpheum. All tickets will be honored.
Although Kurt Vile has already amassed a lengthy discography over the course of his twenty year career, fans always want to know what's next. Well, we kinda sort of have an answer now.
In an interview with Creative Loafing Tampa, Vile, 37, said that he's probably sitting on about 50 songs.
"All of those would need work, you know?," Vile added. "Maybe I’ll put out a five disc LP, call it Fifty Songs and They All Need Work."
Vile said that he's in the woodshedding phase of the follow up to 2015's b'lieve i'm going down... Most of it is still happening in his old Northern Liberties home where he's amassed an array of old vintage equipment like his Otari eight track reel-to-reel.
"I forget the model no. right, but it’s real cool," Vile said. "Skunk Baxter from Steely Dan has an ad from back in the day saying it's his favorite machine. I recorded 'I’m An Outlaw' on that tape machine." He won't commit to any particular sound for a new album, but does concede that he's been listening to a lot of roots records lately.
Check out the rest of our Q&A — which talks about family, work ethic, and shotgunning Modelos — below. Visit local.cltampa.com to get more information on Vile's February 1 show at The
Ritz Ybor Orpheum with Luke Roberts.
You kind of have some off time right now, right? What have you been doing with it?
I’ve been moving. We just moved, my wife and I. I’m actually staring at a really, really messed up place that’s supposed to be my music room. It eventually it will be (laughs).
How big is the new house?
Compared to my old house it might as well be a mansion. It’s good.
This isn’t the second house that you were sort of joking about in another interview is it?
Well I guess in a way it is. I’ll probably, eventually, sell the the other house, but right now I work in there a lot.
What part of Philly did you move to? Do you live in Fishtown?
West Mount Airy.
Were you living in Fishtown before that?
Basically, Northern Liberties is on the border of Fishtown.
Have you been making music recently? I know you’re looking at a fucked up music room, but I would imagine that there’s a record floating around in your head somewhere.
Yeah, I’m working music. I’ve been in and out of the studio since the last record has been out, you know. In Australia and Nashville, L.A. and Connecticut. We’ve been working on the record in between touring. I’m taking it slow. We’re woodshedding and working on music in the home environment.
I actually stocked up on a lot of recording gear throughout the last album, so I have a lot of stuff now, so I’ll definitely be working at home a lot. I’m not saying that that’s going to be the record, but you never know.
Is there any particular piece of equipment that you are particularly stoked on picking up?
Well I have an Otari eight track reel-to-reel, I forget the model no. right, but it’s real cool. (Jeff) Skunk Baxter from Steely Dan fame, he has an ad from back in the day saying its his favorite machine. I got that and a couple Neumann U 87s, which are really nice mics. I haven’t really messed with home recording for years. I recorded “I’m An Outlaw” on that tape machine.
As far as the upcoming record. You have said that you kind of know what you want the record to sound like. You want it to be honest, maybe something a little more lush with more instrumentation. Do you feel like you’re headed there, or are you still in a more rough, woodshedding phase for sure?
There’s all kinds of stuff on there. Rootsy, folksy stuff, more bands stuff, you know I can’t really say. I have so many influences at this point, I am just trying to follow them.
Are these influences the people you’re hanging out with these days or are you still reaching back, listening to old jazz and folk records in your alone time?
I’m definitely listening to a lot of roots, country roots, rock & roll roots, American roots.
Is this the same band with you. (Jesse, Rob and Kyle) on this U.S. and international run?
Jesse, Rob and Kyle. We’ll go to Europe months from now. So we’ll do Florida and we’re doing a few shows in Mexico, but then we’re off for a while, but in late February I’m going to Australia to play solo for a month.
I like the comments you’ve made about your kids and touring. I think your oldest might be headed to first grade now. I know you’ve mentioned that they listen to your music when you’re gone, and that they seem to “get it” more and more when you explain to them that you’re going on tour with each tour. Do they understand that you’re leaving so that you can support them and make sure that they get to be in a new house, stuff like that?
Yeah totally, and it’s like, I’ve been doing this since they were alive, so they just know. They know. They’re music fans. And it’s exciting to come back; they’re excited to see you, and you’re excited to see them.
Does your wife get jealous if they like you a lot more when you come home?
Nah, they like her better than me anyway (laughs).
Why is that?
Everybody likes their mom better. It’s kind of understood. If it was a dark scenario where they had to choose one, they’d choose their mom.
You’ve talked about those dark scenarios in some other interviews, but it seems like you’re pretty positive. Like you’re saying that people like their mom better, but it seems like you had a pretty good relationship with your dad, too. Parents always talk about how kids change their lives in ways they’ve never imagined. You’re obviously very introspective. Do you remember that moment after your kids were born that you realized how much your life was changed?
Well I think, if anything, beforehand it’s a little scary. I think you think about how your life won’t be the same beforehand — at least for your first kid. You know, you’re open minded, but every once in awhile you’re like “oh shit.” But then once a kid actually comes out it’s pretty mind blowing and a completely new dimension like a complete 360. I feel like if you’re supposed to turn 360 degrees in your life, people who don’t have kids have only turned halfway around. They haven’t seen, you know, their perspective is blocked — you have to go full circle, you know.
Ideally also, you know if you don’t have a kid, I’m not saying everybody has to have kids — there’s all kinds of things you can do if you don’t have kids that you can’t do if you have kids. You could plan to not get any pregnant, and there’s the whole trying to have a kid which can be weird (laughs).
Gonna ask you a dumb one here. We asked for questions, and everyone keeps talking about your hair. No offense, the hair is cool and all, but why do people keep asking about your hair? How do you get it looking that good? Does that make any sense?
Yeah well, I mean my whole family has thick hair, wavy or whatever. I don’t put...I mean I have a good, it took a while to find a good hairdresser, you know (laughs), but I don’t do a lot. It’s about not combing it, stuff like that (laughs).
Do you want to give a shout out to your hairdresser?
No (laughs). He knows who he is.
When you are working on new stuff, you’re listening to a lot of roots, but are you also revisiting any kind of unreleased material or sounds? Things you might have left on the shelf?
There’s tons of that. That’s one thing I am trying to get organized with — the archive, you know? Now, even beyond that I’ve always wanted to put out stuff I didn’t release from other albums. We are going to do that eventually. Now I even have different projects that I recorded that will come out eventually. Like a few different types of projects that don’t belong on the same record. So not only do I have backlogs, I have...you know, frontlogs (laughs).
How much music do you think you’re actually sitting on, could you put a number or measurement on it?
I don’t know. I would say, um, I don’t say, say 50 songs, but all of those would need work, you know?
Fifty songs, and they all need work. How do you feel about that?
Maybe I’ll put out a five disc LP, call it Fifty Songs and They All Need Work (laughs).
You have a pretty easy tongue-in-cheek way of doing things. I was thinking about that video you did with the guy from the Philadelphia Eagles…
Oh yea Conner.
Yea, your interview with J. Mascis was awesome. In a way it puts some less in-depth music journalism interviews to shame.
Do you read a lot of the press on yourself? Does it piss you off ever? The press asks a lot of questions that are all on the record, does it ever worry you what they’ll publish as far as making headlines like he’s doing this project with this person and what not? Do you feel guarded?
Nah, it really just depends on who’s interviewing me, you know? You know, like this one is good, it’s normal. We’re just talking, like you know who J. Mascis is. Sometimes you get interviews with people who don’t really know things like that. Every once in awhile you can get mind-numbed by an interview if someone doesn’t really know or care, but that’s okay — it’s just like anything else.
Last question, I wanted to talk about work ethic which you’ve touched on in other interviews. Obviously there are blue collar themes in your music, but what does the term “work ethic” mean to you? I know the myth about you is that you were driving forklifts, got fired and then signed to Matador, etc.. Where do you develop a work ethic — obviously your daughters motivate you — but where did you learn that?
Well I think I think I’ve always been pretty obsessed and always into music, so I am always thinking about it. Honestly I am still trying to get some structure. I think I put out a lot of stuff on many levels like the DIY level, and the underground level of putting out a lot of vinyl of stuff I had archived at that point, then I got on Matador. I’m a hard worker, but I guess they key would be, what I’m trying to explain is how we’re always trying to better our systems, better our music and all those kinds of things, but it’s a constant battle. I feel like right now my organization could use some serious help, but at the same time I am working at it. You just always gotta be thinking ahead — always.
I remember when I was bottling beer on my last job, I had a lot of connections. I was always thinking ahead like “how the fuck am I going to make it, how am I gonna do this?’ I’m just always thinking about the next thing.
How often do you let yourself experience the successes you’re achieving? Like when you have a goal, plan it and then get there. How long do you let yourself live in that moment before your mind kind of takes over and pushes you towards the next thing?
I think basically at the end of a tour, or when you are finally done, when a tour goes well. You know often times I’m playing, and it could be going well, but I’m hearing mistakes. Sometimes in the moment you’re not sure, but then enough tell you the record or the show was awesome or whatever, and you can tell there’s been a shift, you know, things are getting better. Once you realize that, it’s pretty intoxicating, especially when it’s mixed with being intoxicated anyway (laughs).
Here’s what I don’t get. You’re not a huge stoner, right, but everyone tries to paint you as a stoner, but you don’t even smoke a lot of weed.
No, hardly ever. I’ve smoked plenty in my day. I mean earlier I was kind of joking, but you know people drink alcohol on the road. I’m even trying to cut that out, but I know that’s not, especially just beer. Modelo Especial, tequila, the band, everybody loves it.
You’re not shotgunning Modelos on the road are you?
Sometimes at the end of a set to celebrate. That’s one of those moments. I am thinking about New Year’s at the end of the tour. In Philly, we did exactly that and that was one of those moments where I enjoyed a success in an intoxicating way while being intoxicated (laughs). And then you mix it with adrenaline. That’s one thing, mixed with adrenaline when you’re playing you can drink a lot more and stuff without falling over (laughs).
Are going to name your studio?
I have a name for one of my studios, but I don’t wanna say it quite yet.