Kurt Vile Let It Out With Bottle It In

Kurt Vile returns to Houston with Dinosaur Jr. to play White Oak Music Hall.
Kurt Vile returns to Houston with Dinosaur Jr. to play White Oak Music Hall. Detail from album cover.
It’s usually not recommended to bottle things in, people tend to feel better when they let it all out. Kurt Vile ironically let a lot out with his album Bottle It In, released last year on Matador Records. He will be performing at White Oak Music Hall, Saturday November 9 with Dinosaur Jr.

“I’m really proud of it. It’s a deep record, it’s a heavy record, there’s a lot going on in there. I was really stoked and proud of it. I think it did well, but maybe not everybody fully understood it or something but that’s all right.”

Bottle It In is Vile’s eighth studio album featuring his backing band, The Violators. He recorded the album stepping into different studios while on tour and inviting in friends and fellow artists along the way, including grunge queen Kim Gordon.

Vile is obviously a talented musician, but he is first and foremost a music fan. When asked about inviting others into the studio he admits there can be nervousness around the experience, but ultimately the benefits outweigh any nerves.

“I’m intimidated to meet any heroes at first, usually just meeting, but by the time they’re in the studio they are usually friends so it’s passed intimidation and more stoked to have them.”

“People that inspire me, I invite them in just to see what happens. I might have a specific idea, but more and more I just like people to come in for their aura and whatever it is that they bring. I can just see what they can bring before I say anything and then take it from there.”

The benefits to his approach of recording on pit stops while on the tour are that he can attempt to bottle in the energy from recent live performances. “That’s why I love playing live, because it reminds you of that moment it’s just a pure moment of music. You get the reaction from the people and then go into the studio and ideally, get that vibe in the studio as well.”

Bottle It In carries Vile’s signature stream of consciousness humor and laid back grungy sound. His songs always seem to contain funny lines, no matter how dark or dreary they may appear, and his own brand of “Vile humor” which he attributes to his family who share his love of the ridiculous.

“That’s just my personality, ideally I want to get that across. Ideally, I want to be as funny as possible, it’s definitely the ultimate relief. It’s the best emotion you could have, just to laugh really hard at ridiculous things in the world we live in.”

Songs like “Loading Zones”, the opening track bring listeners into Vile’s hilariously neurotic meets laid back subconscious. The video, filmed in his hometown of Philadelphia adds visual humor to his lyrical gift with scenes of Vile evading parking tickets and clowning the town meter maids.

Vile grew up with the influence of his father’s love of country music, it was his father who gifted him a banjo as a teenager, though Vile went on to go electric. He is most known for his grunge rock sound, but tackled a surprising country cover on the album, one he didn’t think would make the final cut, Charlie Rich’s “Rollin’ With The Flow”.

After reading George Jones’s autobiography, which he described as a “gateway drug” into country music, Vile asked his friend J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. for suggestions on country artists. Mascis suggested Charlie Rich and after picking up a used CD while on the road he came across the song. “It just spoke to me. I knew nobody in my world would be covering it anytime soon and I imagined just trying to do a version basically.”

“It’s hard to get out the country thing, because they are kind of more insane than the rock and rollers. A lot of them, their playing doesn’t lie and their singing and harmonies don’t lie, there is a lot of posing in rock and roll and in anything,” says Vile.

“It’s hard to get out the country thing, because they are kind of more insane than the rock and rollers."

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A year after the release of the album, the short documentary Bottle Back was released online. The band was joined by Canadian rockers, The Sadies, and Matt Sweeney in the Catskills Mountains for a weekend of hanging out and making music.

The mini doc lets viewers into the ultimate musical sleepover, with front porch jams, beer and beautiful scenery to match. “I will say that is the first time that somebody captured the real me more or less, which is cool. I like how that turned out.” 

In a time where more and more artists are rejecting labels and doing things on their own, Vile is right at home with Matador records. They house many of the bands he grew up listening to and seem to be one of the few labels respecting artists for who they are.

“That was just a dream label for me. They have good taste throughout the times, even when music evolves, they see a certain type of artist, a unique type of artist. They have their branding and I love it over there, they are like family but that’s just the way it turned out. I’m lucky that it turned out to work with them so long.”

Kurt Vile will perform with Dinosaur Jr. Saturday November 9 at White Oak Music Hall, 2915 N. Main, Doors at 7 p.m, $35.
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.
Contact: Gladys Fuentes