Ones To Watch: Kurt Vile

No ‘Childish Prodigy’
Kurt Vile
It takes about the first four bars of rattled, warped rock ‘n’ roll on ‘Childish Prodigy’ to read Kurt Vile like a textbook - a thorough one. His music is to the American rock narrative a lysergic sheen on the surface of a well - one that was sprung with Dylan and Young and filled over the years as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Richard Hell, Stephen Malkmus, Beck and many others spilled their sometime bedroom compositions into the mainstream.

“I can’t put in words what exactly my music has that’s different because there’s all these parts of it that have been done before,” the twenty-nine-year-old Philly-native explains down the phone, “but I think it’s a combination, and it’s a little more twisted than many of the artists that I’m influenced by.” Vile sounds groggy today, breaking off the interview to grab his cigarettes halfway through. “It’s just a little more far out, but it’s still straight-forward, kind of tripped out, but hardly at all…” he trails off.

It’s a week before the release of ‘Childish Prodigy’ in the US, his debut on prestigious label Matador, one-time home to some of his heroes - Pavement, Sonic Youth, The Fall among them. This is an alumni he’s set to graduate into with an album that will redefine American rock for a new generation. A big claim, maybe, but from the squalling train-chug of ‘Inside Looking Out’ to the heavy, finger-picked folk on ‘Blackberry Song’, to his own take on Dim Stars’ ‘Monkey’, ‘Childish Prodigy’ is a small masterpiece, and one that Vile’s been working towards his whole life. “I always knew ‘Childish Prodigy’ was the album I had to save up to put out on a bigger label, and put the recordings I did at home out on smaller labels,” he says of previous releases, which include several home-recorded albums and EPs, as well as some collaborative work with bandmate Adam Granduciel’s project The War On Drugs. Granduciel’s now a member of The Violators, Vile’s touring band. A four-piece also consisting of Jesse Turbo (guitar, slide) and Mike Zeng (percussion), the band will transform the intimacy of Vile’s fuzzed bedroom rock into a wild, wresting beast before UK audiences this November.

“When I’m playing every night it’ll just be real laid-back and natural,” says Vile. “The preparation makes you kind of antsy. Right now I don’t have a day job, I’m just ready to do it, you know. I feel like it’s a long time coming, for sure.”

It took American rock sixty years to give us Kurt Vile. It’s taken Kurt Vile the best part of a decade to give us ‘Childish Prodigy’. A long time coming, for sure.

Words by Hazel Sheffield

What: American Psych-rock
Where: Philadelphia, US
Unique Fact: Vile used to be a forklift truck driver.
Get 3 songs: ‘Freak Train’, ‘Hunchback’, ‘He’s Alright’

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