“This Is A Masterpiece”: Kurt Vile On His New Album
Kurt Vile’s latest record (watch my moves) was born out of the need for a break.
He has been incredibly busy for what feels like his entire career. The Philadelphia singer-songwriter has been recording and touring since his debut record, Constant Hitmaker in 2008, but the forced pause the pandemic put on the music industry saw Vile slow down for the first time in over a decade. As a result he’s just arrived at his most honest album to date.
Vile has crafted a collection of striking images knitted together with warm melodies that let the listener drift through the album from track to track. “I think I was just always moving and there was no end in sight, and then there was an end in sight for everybody,” Vile told Junkee.
“I feel like it was kind of in some ways a beautiful accident, you know? Not a beautiful accident, but basically now we all just accidentally caught up with everything. You can kind of think ahead [to] where you want to be [and] now I’m all caught up.”
During lockdown Vile went back to his roots, spending a good chunk of quality time at his home in Philly. He recorded (watch my moves) at his house — and said that being surrounded by his friends outside of a studio setting was the ideal environment for letting his guard down.
Vile described his new home studio as a haven filled with things he cherishes. From Neil Young box sets to the Dinosaur Jr setlist from when he toured with them, this record was created among his musical influences.
Previously, these items were stored in his basement, which he turned into a studio that inspired his latest creative outpouring.
“If you have your own home studio, you have all these weird instruments all over the place that you wouldn’t pick up and bring to a studio,” he said. “I have this saying about myself… I’m like a rat, you know? And I keep shiny things around.”
According to an infamous TikTok theory, depending on your general vibe, you are either a frog or a rat. When presented with the concept, Vile takes a moment to think about it.
“I’m definitely a rat,” he says, laughing.
Given the ‘(shiny things)’ track on the new album, rat was definitely the way to go.
Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud describes architecture and physical spaces as silent influencers, imbuing their presence into every aspect of our lives. The architecture of Vile’s hometown has performed just such a role in his music.
“If you see the destroyed wall on my first album, Constant Hitmaker, it’s a wall I always passed when I walked home from work when I worked at Philadelphia Brewing Company,” he said. “It looked like a Rauschenberg painting, but it really was just a decayed wall.”
“I feel like I’m just always just going through all these neighbourhoods and my memory is just always kind of on fire remembering everything,” he added.
From architecture to precious shiny things, this new record asserts itself as a contemporary to Vile’s influences, like the similarities in cadence you can hear between the track ‘Stuffed Leopard’ and Lou Reed’s album Coney Island Baby.
Vile’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Wages of Sin’ is not a track to be slept on. In fact, it’s a song Springsteen himself almost lost to time until he rediscovered it while looking through master tapes for his 1998 album Tracks. Vile’s deep connection with his influences takes on a new form in (watch my moves), creating something new from the musicianship that has always inspired him.
Vile said that this record is one that is almost like a vine, growing on you with each listen — and that’s the key to appreciating just how special it is. “By the time I’m mastering I’m like, ‘this is a masterpiece’,” he laughed, “and then other people, they have to listen a few times to realise it’s a masterpiece.”
You can catch Kurt Vile performing his new album at the Sydney Opera House on 31 March. Find tickets here.