KURT VILE FOR NGL
In November of 2006, I interviewed for a job as a truck driver at a brewery in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. When I showed up for the appointment, I saw a baby-faced longhair dragging a trash can with his left hand while he carefully balanced a portable cd player in his right. It seemed as though the music in those headphones was his main concern, and the garbage task was a distant second. I asked him where to find the boss, and I was on my way.
I ended up getting the job, and I’d see more of this guy Kurt Vile. His job description seemed uncategorizable and unenviable. He assumed a lot of the tasks that nobody else wanted, mainly repetitive tasks that kept his hands busy but his mind (and most importantly his ears) free do do as he wished. His duties ranged from erecting cardboard boxes (an archaic process that needn’t have survived automation), organizing the warehouse, filling kegs, loading bottles into cases ala Laverne & Shirley, selling beer to retail customers, and driving a forklift. Nobody can drive a forklift like this guy. His mastery of this tool is a vision of supreme elegance. Not a single wasted motion.
And during the workday, he seemed focused on his tunes. I’d often notice him rifling through a stack of cds in cracked jewelcases or sneaking a few pages of a musician’s biography. One time he was flipping through a Flannery O’Conner novel. I’d learn that his evenings and weekends were similarly obsessed, as he logged hundreds of hours playing guitar and recording at home and in the studio.
One day he learned that we had some friends in common and that I played drums in a band.
So what does your band sound like?
I told him we were a psychedelic punk band. That’s how some hack had described our recent record.
Oh yeah? Well I guess that I have a have a sort of psychedelic punk band as well...We ended up becoming fast friends and we talked a lot about 'White Light / White Heat' that day. I went to see him play his songs a lot. At that time, he seemed to perform every week. Sometimes with a band, sometimes solo. His Violators were just starting to gel, and Kurt would meet drummer Mike Zeng around this time. We talked more and more about music, and I started burning CDs for him.
Luckily, all the primitive punk and arthouse bull crap that I was pushing on him did not wreak havoc on or cheapen his own music. His style and vision was firmly in place long before we met. In fact, he already had about five albums worth of material written and/or recorded.