Illinois Entertainer: You announced a big tour supporting Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze that brings you to Chicago on May 14 at Lincoln Hall. You’ve mentioned that it’s hard to leave your wife and kids to go out on the road. How do you balance the two?
Kurt Vile: I’m sad to go away, but also, I mean, I’ve been playing music my whole life and I love it. I have to go away, but when I get in the mode of playing I know that’s what I’m supposed to be doing, so it’s like bittersweet, you know? I have a balance. It’s not like I put it out on a scale or something, because the reality is right now the record came out and we have to like, we don’t have to, but the smart thing would be to destroy it and tour a lot. I guess I’ve done it enough now that the [heaviness] on your heart – it’s not exactly in the past, but we’re used to it.
IE: The album contains really beautiful textures and it seems like you’re very comfortable in your own skin on this one. Is that just a part of getting older?
KV: I’m always a little paranoid. Honestly, certain songs I’d be like, “Is this really dark?” Looking back, it was kind of comfortable and honest. I just tend to write my best songs . . . I think my best ones of all are when I’m super bummed, like on the road or something. And then I write a song like “Goldtone” – I was, like, super low. I don’t know, I just tapped into that a little while ago, but yeah, it’s getting older and fine-tuning or whatever.
IE: Is writing therapeutic for you or do you do it because it’s an uncontrollable urge?
KV: Sometimes it’s that and sometimes it’s super inspiration. Like, take a bite out of the world kind of thing. You just feel super inspired. It’s funny ’cause it’s not like I’m always writing lately. I feel like I want to really bad right now. I feel like there’s some kind of imbalance going on in my head right now. It’s like a combination of excitement and, like, I don’t know, ups and downs. I think that’s always my world.
IE: Some of the songs on the album span 10 minutes. How do you know when to stop? When is a track finished?
KV: I just know by listening back. You just listen back enough and add stuff enough. I get so into it. I just remember “Wakin’ On A Pretty Day” – sure, we kept adding stuff to it, but other times I was like, “Alright, let’s listen again.” It just felt good to just keep listening. Decide what it needs and you just know after a while – basically, if your head is bobbing. Towards the end of making the record even, there was a little spot on “Too Hard,” for instance, that I was like, all of the sudden, “It just gets old here,” and I flew in the live, original vocal to the last verse. It’s the most subtle thing. It’s a little more psychedelic, there’s more delay, something happens, but you probably wouldn’t notice unless you listened over and over again obsessively, kind of like what I do with music. It’s just from listening and making sure every little nook is correct in it’s own sort of . . . it doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s gotta have that thing.
IE: There’s a line on “Was All Talk” where you say, “Making music is easy.” Is it?
KV: It is – especially when I wrote that. I wrote that lyric [and] I put it in another song ’cause I thought it was funny, but then when [“Was All Talk”] was really coming together, it has that take a bite out of the world [quality] that I was telling you about. So it just felt perfect to say it then. It was, like, in the moment, especially ’cause I had my mojo going. It felt especially true exactly then.
IE: You recently extended your partnership with Matador Records.
KV: I could have signed to, like, a major label or something. I mean, Matador is one of the biggest indie labels. I’m, like, high priority on that label. They all believe in me and it’s really nice. We’re just like a little family at this point.
Kurt Vile And The Violators appear at Lincoln Hall (2424 N. Lincoln) in Chicago on May 14 with Steve Gunn.
— Janine Schaults