Record Store Day interview with Kurt Vile
Before I got to talk to Meg Baird, I saw Kurt Vile wandering around AKA Records, sifting through vinyl, singing along to The Kinks tunes playing overhead. Honestly, I was a bit hesitant to approach the guy who put out an amazing record in Childish Prodigy. Great records sometimes create bigger ideas of artists, but luckily for The Pistola, he was actually very receptive and kind about the interview request.
Following a very loud set with the Violators at a jam-packed Beautiful World Syndicate in South Philadelphia, Kurt made sure he said his ‘goodbyes’ and finished off his Yuengling, and we got to talking.
The Pistola: Did you ever own any bad records, or like bands that haven’t exactly stood the test of time?
Kurt Vile: Well, if you’re talking about vinyl; when I was a kid, I did have some vinyl. I used my mom’s record player when I started realizing bands put out seven-inches – like Beck or Pavement. But before then I was listening to Pennywise. That’s kind of bad. I was listening to that new-school punk that’s not new-school any more. I don’t really know what you mean by bad…
The Pistola: Well, stuff you wouldn’t readily play now, or might be hesitant to play in front of certain people.
KV: I definitely wouldn’t put on Pennywise CDs. I would probably put on Rancid for old time’s sake. I probably wouldn’t put on NOFX. Or, I would, for memories. I think the worst are bad alternative bands, like this band The Candyskins that were real bad. I remember listening to them in junior high.
The Pistola: How did you hear about these bands?
KV: Listening to the radio in Lansdowne – WDRE. They’re actually not that bad. That’s where I first heard about Beck and Pavement, but they played the Goo Goo Dolls and everything, too. There were just certain bad alternative bands I had CDs by from a local CD store – CR CDs in Lansdowne.
The Pistola: When did you first feel like you had a connection to a record store?
KV: Once I got into vinyl I went into the city all the time. The Philadelphia Record Exchange was probably the first place I went. I used to go there and still go there. I went to Noise Pollution and all those South Street stores. I went to (Sound of Market) Jazsound.
The Pistola: Did you meet people who were able to recommend things you felt you should have already been listening to?
KV: Not really, until I moved up to Boston, when everyone was going to college and I wasn’t. I was 20 or 21. Everyone was listening to John Fahey and Brian Eno and all that cooler stuff like Richard Hell and the Voidoids. The punk stuff didn’t hit me ‘til later, and maybe at that time I wouldn’t admit I listened to this or that, but now I really don’t care.
The Pistola: Yeah, it’s all relevant to how you listen to things.
KV: I was into the Spin Doctors. I don’t like them anymore. One of my first concerts was Counting Crows. I remember the day I went to that concert. I got Beck’s “Loser” single and then I went to that concert. I still like the Counting Crows, though. Thankfully, they have weirder stuff. I don’t know if it’s weird but some find it passé. I’m real nostalgic about Beck, still.
The Pistola: I saw you at AKA and you performed here earlier, so you’ve been supporting RSD throughout the day. How do you feel about using exclusives and live performances to promote records for one day?
KV: This is the first time I’ve played Record Store Day and the second year I even knew about Record Store Day. I’m glad to do it. It was nice to come to Beautiful World Syndicate, because I come here and I never met (owner) Jon (Yates) before. And I’m friendly with places like AKA, the Record Exchange and Tequila Sunrise – it’s nice to know the people at these record stores. And also, you go in, and you know they’re people who love music.
The Pistola: Its great having that relationship with the people who work at record stores, not just so you can go to get what you want, but they eventually learn what you want, too.
KV: Record stores are funny too, like, once you get at the stage I’m at where I’ve been going forever and you’re friendly with the people who work there…once you’re trying to make it, you realize you have to go to record stores all the time to see who’s coming out. You make friends with the record guys, and once you’re in there, even if you can’t find what you want, you still have to leave with a few records.
The Pistola: Yeah! I can’t go to a record store and not buy something.
KV: Yeah, because you want to give them business. I definitely sympathize, even now that I have records out. I’m not trying to be like ‘Help out the record industry so I can make a living! It’s not fair! Fuck Napster!’ because even with downloads and how sales aren’t what they used to be, it helps.
The Pistola: Can you recommend one album you think everyone should have?
KV: There’s so many, but I’ll say right now one of my favorite records is Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter. I love Joni Mitchell, too. I’m still obsessed with her. But I have her stuff and now I’m finding Bryter Layter.