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Q&A: Kurt Vile

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Kurt Vile
Photo: Shawn Brackbill
Annie Zaleski

You’re one of the newer artists on Matador. What first attracted you to them?

No.1, I grew up listening to a ton of bands on that label. I always knew they were the coolest one. But also Pavement—[they’re] my No. 1 favorite band, and they were on there. I don’t know, they just had the right vibe. Especially for me, for what my music was, and any labels out there today. I felt out of all of them, my music fit on that one, and it just so happened also to be this powerhouse. It was convenient on all levels, and a real trip when I actually managed to get myself on there.

What’s your favorite Matador album, besides Pavement? I assume Pavement’s a given.

I can’t give a favorite. I probably have a favorite Pavement record, but, um, I like so many. I like a lot of the Guided By Voices. I even like the first Liz Phair a lot. I like the Chavez. I really love that I Can Feel the Heart Beating as One Yo La Tengo record a lot. There’s just so many. That Yo La Tengo record, Painful, has got some real awesome, noisy, mellow heartbreakers. I’m just basically looking back to my teens. I really like Cold Cave. I know Wes [Eisold] from Cold Cave, ’cause he’s from Philly. I always sort of liked ’em, I liked their hit song, but then I sat down the other day and realized that I really like them. I’m not saying they’re my favorite. There’s tons of awesome stuff on there, new and old. I can’t pick a No. 1, if you’re not asking about Pavement.

What’s your favorite Pavement album?

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.

What about it stands out from the rest of their catalog for you?

First of all, it was the one that turned me on to them. I was too young—or maybe too unhip, especially being a suburban kid—to catch them when Slanted and Enchanted came out, because it’s too underground. I didn’t even really know that kind of thing existed. “Cut Your Hair” was on the radio, which I thought was a cool song. It’s definitely not nearly my favorite song on the record, but it grabbed me at the time. I bought the record and got obsessed with the whole thing. They were one of the first bands I realized had all these older records. I was like, “Where did these come from?” I buy all those, and I would get every one after that as it came out. I love Wowee Zowee. I love ’em all in different ways. I have all the B-sides and everything. And we just opened for ’em in Philly the other day, too.

I had the exact same experience with Pavement – I grew up in suburbia too, and I heard “Cut Your Hair” and was like, ‘This is awesome!” and I bought Crooked Rain on cassette.

Yeah, mine was on cassette first, too. That’s awesome! Cause it was cheap ...

Speaking as a musician, do you think Matador has the same reputation it had 15 years ago?

These are different times, so you can’t really say it’s just like it was then. They’re still doing it quite successfully, and they’ve made it this far. The fact they can have this festival and it sold out in two seconds, [with a ton of] bands past and present [performing]. They’re obviously important. I don’t mean to use the word important so much, but I think what they do is really cool, and I’m glad to be a part of it. They’re one of the better labels out there doing it pretty right. They have good taste—all kinds of stuff has come through there.

What other bands are you excited to see?

I’m excited for Sonic Youth, I’m excited for Chavez. I guess at this point, I’m friends with certain people. Like, I toured with Fucked Up. I’m excited to see them and hang out with them. Same with Sonic Youth. And I guess same with Pavement now. I knew Mark Ibold, because we opened for Sonic Youth, but then I met them all and they’re real nice. I always wanted to meet Malkmus, and he was real nice. Oh, you know who I really am excited to see? Cat Power. I hope I meet Chan. That’s one of my favorite Matador records, Cat Power, You Are Free.

Is it weird at all for you that the anniversary show is in Las Vegas?

No, it’s perfect. I’ve never been to Vegas, first of all, and I always said I wanted to play a show in Vegas and just have my own mini-Fear and Loathing experience, but not nearly as illegal. This is ridiculously perfect, for me. Three days. It’s going to be awesome. I love everybody at the label, too. Everybody’s really cool. I like them all. All around, the staff and then the bands. I’m stoked.

With all the touring you do, I’m surprised you’ve never been to Vegas before.

I’ve only done one full U.S. tour. Other ones were East Coast, West Coast, up to Chicago and then up to Canada. I don’t know how many bands go through [Vegas]. I feel like if we played Vegas on the first tour, I wonder how many people would be there. We’re not playing it on this tour. We’re doing a full U.S. tour again in October/November. Maybe this will get our foot in the door.

Are you working on anything new musically at the moment?

We’ve been working on our follow-up for a long time. It’s almost done. I’m going into the studio again up in Amherst [Massachusetts] this weekend and then Brooklyn, and we should have all the tracks by then. We have a lot already, but we’re making some more.

What’s it sounding like?

It started out acoustic, but it’s got rock and psychedelic undertones. But I’m making some rockers too. It’s real song-y. It’s with John Agnello, he did the last couple Sonic Youths, he did all the Dinosaur Jrs. In fact, we’re recording at J Mascis’ house this weekend with him. He’s a really nice guy.

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