One for the Road: Recorded between Gigs and Family Vacations, Kurt Vile's Bottle It in Is an in Spired and Heartfelt Colllection of Far-Flung Musical Styles

By Scapelliti, Christopher | Guitar Player, December 2018 | Go to article overview

One for the Road: Recorded between Gigs and Family Vacations, Kurt Vile's Bottle It in Is an in Spired and Heartfelt Colllection of Far-Flung Musical Styles


Scapelliti, Christopher, Guitar Player


RECORDING ARTISTS tend to get locked in a cycle. An album is followed by a tour, which is succeeded by a break that leads to another stint in the studio. And on and on it goes.

Kurt Vile has found his own way out of that rut. The guitarist and songwriter cut his latest studio album, Bottle It In (Matador), at various studios in between road dates with his band, the Violators, and travels with his wife and daughters. During those more than two years on the road, the Philadelphia native also recorded an album of duets with Courtney Barnett (2017's Lotta Sea Lice), opened for Neil Young and saw his single "Pretty Pimpin" (from 2015's B'lieve I'm Coin Down...) go to number one on Billboard's Adult Alternative chart.

If life has been busy for Vile, it hasn't hampered his productivity. Clocking in at nearly 80 minutes, Bottle It In features 13 songs from the road that become journeys unto themselves as he navigates the avenues, back roads and circuitous detours of his musical odyssey. "Touring is a big part of why you end up anywhere in the world," Vile explains. "So it's fun to utilize that moment. You play a gig in a random place where they booked you, and then you could start your adventure from there and travel a little bit."

The guitarist has become something of an indie-rock god in recent years. Following a brief stint in the War on Drugs, which he cofounded in 2005 with Adam Granduciel, Vile went solo in 2008, signed with Matador Records and began releasing a string of ever-better-selling albums. Through discs like 2011's Smoke Ring for My Halo and 2013's Wakin on a Pretty Daze, he became known for his droll vocal delivery, riff-oriented songwriting, and a musical range that stretches from lo-fi folk to sprawling electric guitar jams.

On Bottle It In, Vile's stylistic tour continues. "Loading Zones," the leadoff single, is a taut rocker about using street smarts to skirt onerous parking laws. "One Trick Ponies" sways with a country rock groove, "Come Again" bounces along on Vile's circular banjo picking, and "Hysteria" shimmers with a layered acoustic guitar riff that's ultimately engulfed by acoustic guitar distortion, courtesy of former Sonic Youth member Kim Gordon. In addition, Vile and his band turn in lengthy jams on "Skinny Mini," "Bassackwards" and the 10-minute, 40-second title cut, exploring the broad expanses of their epic grooves. "I didn't know 'Bottle It In' was going to be that long," he explains. "It's sort of like living something rather than having it all planned out."

Throughout the album, Vile combines acoustic-guitar rhythms and riffs with effects-drenched electric guitar filigree. The sonically rich and occasionally hazy soundscape is a warm, engulfing backdrop for emotionally weighted lyrics about love, paranoia and his anxiety with the modern world. The guitarist took time out from a recent European excursion to talk with Guitar Player about the making of Bottle It In, his deep love of acoustic tones and his longing for simpler times

What's the appeal of mixing studio dates in with your touring schedule?

You know, even if I play just one show and go into the studio, it feels more natural to me.

In what way?

When you play live, it's the most in tune with the music you can be. When you record while you're on the road, you can carry that energy into the studio.

Obviously, most artists cut records between tours.

There's no way I could do that. I do everything all in together. I like to go into the studio even for a day or so, in between things. I think you can get just as much done that way as you can if you stay in there for two weeks and work on the same song. The more time you have, the more you waste. I just figure if I go in and out of the studio while I'm touring, it makes it more natural.

I imagine that also gives you time to listen to what you've done and tweak things if you want. …

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