In 2011, we fell in love with Kurt Vile's Smoke Ring on My Halo. The Philadelphia-based musician is now back with his fifth album, Wakin on a Pretty Daze. Its 11 songs retain that soft, Vile feel, but with one listen to the title track, "Wakin on a Pretty Day," it's evident that he's expanding his sound in many ways. Hive caught up with Vile late last week to talk about his new album, the future of his live show and more.
The new album is called Wakin on a Pretty Daze. Is this an overall feeling would you say, or was there an actual moment when you woke up in a pretty daze?
Yeah, I think it’s the overall feeling. That’s the general vibe. It’s probably the most simple title that I ever had. It’s like the simplest pun ever. It rolls off the tongue, but also it’s the kind of thing once you have the record, you’ll understand. The first song on the record is called “Wakin on a Pretty Day,” which is like the tone setter. It’s not just an album you name after one of the songs, that you just morph it a little bit. The whole general thing is one long daze, and that’s waking up.
What did you want to differently than Smoke Ring for My Halo?
I mean it’s not like I thought what’d I want to differently, at least not in a direct way, it’s just always about evolving. There’s still that pretty acoustic thing that I’ve always had, it’s not just from Smoke Ring. It was like a coming of age and having the means to do that, and then it just so happened that I had so many acoustic songs that I didn’t take it to the next electric level not quite as often, so I did want to do that but I knew I had electricity in playing it live. I was used to playing electric guitar or just being plugged in more, so I knew that would be involved. I still knew my strength was in the pretty song, and I’ve always been into synthesizers. I was into the idea of getting deeper in the recording process. All of these elements that I had been into, like electricity, effects and synthesizers, that kind of epic making things of epic proportion. I wanted to morph them all, blend them all together into a living breathing organism.
Stream "Wakin on a Pretty Day" below:
When you say you got deeper does that mean spending more time on the actual recording process?
Yeah, spending more time on the record and going more places asking and some people who I really loved their playing to play on the record. Also, my newest steady bandmate, Rob Laakso, I’ve known him longer than I’ve known other members of my band. He joined the band right after Smoke Ring came out. He’s like a wiz-kid with synthesizers and engineering in general and guitar. He can sync things up with sequences and all that kind of stuff that I like but am too ADD to figure it out. Just on an artistic level, imagine taking a pain killer or something and then just start playing your guitar, you just kind of get lost in it. I’m just saying this as an analogy, but just getting really deep in the music and lost in the music.
Some of the songs are quite long at times and points to what some people might call a "jammy mood."
Yeah, well in my opinion, it’s sort of hypnotic. I do think about pop sensibility. I don’t think it goes in a schizophrenic or even a Grateful Dead way. We have this joke, [that] I formed a new genre called "prog-pop." There’s never an abrupt evolution.
Is this is a record about anything?
It’s just about my life without thinking too much about it. I feel comfortable with the lyrics. I think myself and my bandmates, my close bandmates Rob and Jesse, they’re right there with me. We all live it. It’s nothing too literal but just living my life. [Laughs.]
There's a song towards the end called “Air Bud.” Was it inspired by the movie Air Bud?
“Air Bud” is actually an inside joke that’s loosely connected with that movie.
Another interesting title is “Shame Chamber."
That’s another one of those satirical type of songs. It’s a song that everybody feels that type of way sometimes. People are like, ‘Oh he sounds so bummed out!’ but it’s just funny because everybody gets that way, unless you’re a sugary, sweet robot. When I was on tour, I thought of the chorus basically like feeling bad in the best way. I just thought it was an amazing rhyme and way of living life to the lowest power. I was laughing when I wrote it in my head -- I was excited. It’s just one of those human psyches’ because I think everybody feels that way.
How do you see this type of material playing out live? Since so many songs are longer, will you guys stretch the older tunes into a longer one?
Yeah, I think we’ll just take it as it comes as always. I’ve been touring for quite a long time and performing some of these songs, certain songs like “Hunchback” can turn into a jammer, but now we got more songs that we can jam. It opens it up, so I’ll still play old songs and new songs, it’s all about what works.
Wakin on a Pretty Daze is out April 9 on Matador. Watch Vile perform "Jesus Fever" at Hive's SXSW 2011 In My Room series.