Interview: Bon Iver's Justin Vernon
Bon Iver plays Town Hall this Wednesday, December 10 and Thursday, December 11 and then the Music Hall of Williamsburg on December 12. All dates are with the Tallest Man on Earth. Tickets are still available here.
Bon Iver, "Skinny Love" (MP3)
"My next record might be super fucking happy, and I don't want to shy away from that if that's what's happening, you know?"
Jesus references aside, you would think that since the highly praised release of For Emma, Forever Ago last February, Justin Vernon's life has changed dramatically--after all, just a year ago he was band-less, girlfriend-less and broke, whereas today he's beloved by folk-loving kids the world over. Although the bearded troubadour admits to "living his dream," not much has changed on a day-to-day basis, apparently. He just bought a house in small-town Wisconsin, right down the street from his childhood home, and when he's not touring, he's been playing music with Collections of Colonies of Bees, a Milwaukee-based experimental band, gearing up to write and record the next Bon Iver album in February, and awaiting the release of a four-song EP Blood Bank out next January 20th on Jagjaguwar.
I recently spoke with Vernon over the phone about life on the road, making sad-guy music, and how Bruce Springsteen is sort of bollocks these days. - Nick Anderman
You just got back from a tour, right?
We've been home for a little bit. I got home on October 15, so it's been about a month now, which doesn't feel quite long enough. But at the same time, I'm really excited about going back on the road. It's a weird relationship with touring that you can have, I think.
Had you done much touring before the Bon Iver album came out?
Not really. I did one tour as the guitar player for a band called the Rosebuds, and I did a couple of small tours with bands when I was growing up, like where we'd do three days or six days or whatever. Never had I ever really been out--it's been a pretty steep learning curve. I'm kind of a homebody, so it's just weird to be out there and love it and enjoy it a lot, and then at the same time want to be home. I'm always very happy to be out there.
What have you been up to since you've been home?
I've been working on some music with this band called Collections of Colonies of Bees, which has been really noisy and rackety. A lot of the other music I've been working on is not Bon-Iver-centered--it's been random other things, like a remix here and there.
A lot has been made of the fact that the Bon Iver album was recorded in a cabin in the woods in rural Wisconsin already, so I'm only going to ask you about it tangentially. How did your family react when you told them, "Ok, now I'm going to move to the forest by myself"?
I just sort of told them that I needed to go up there and that I needed time alone or whatever, and they were like, "Alright, cool." I don't know if anyone really knew what I was trying to do--I mean I didn't--but no one was worried or anything. Living in the cabin was not overly majestic. It was pretty bizarre to be living by myself out there, like that, [laughs], but it was also a really, really special opportunity. Just to be by yourself for that long is pretty weird.
You didn't have contact with anyone the whole time you were there?
Well, my dad would swing by every 10 days or so, and he would drop off beer and eggs and cheese--basically things I couldn't hunt.