There are many things in life that should be free, but are in fact – not. Or they are, but we don’t appreciate them enough. In his new song Loading Zones, Kurt Vile gently reminds us that he doesn’t accept that he should pay for parking proclaiming: ‘I park for free. One stop shop life for the quick fix. Before you get a ticket. That’s the way I live my life. I park for free’
Meeting him in Berlin for a chat in celebration of his new album Bottle It In, we tried to find out if loading zones are the only thing that turn Kurt Vile into a rebel. Or perhaps, there are a few more things in life that are free and worth exploring? Spoiler alert. Kurt agrees there are some.
Free parking is not very common. Communication is free, though. When was the last time you spoke to a family member?
‘I do speak to my mum and dad on a regular basis. Often, when I’m away I think about calling my friends and catching up, but it’s amazing how this culture makes you feel weird for actually talking to somebody now. It’s sad. It’s a thing I do want to do, though. I have a landline. We just decided to get one so we wouldn’t be looking at a screen at home all the time. It’s not healthy to have this radioactive thing on your ear all the time. And I’m often on it, or the computer or some other fucking device. Conversation is certainly free. That’s a good example. Contact is certainly free. The actual human interaction has gotten pretty cold. Talking to your friends through a machine and then eventually meeting up and talking face to face is kind of more sweet.’
How about writing letters or postcards?
‘I don’t write postcards or letters, unfortunately. That’s another thing I would like to do more. Writing letters is cool At one point I wanted to write a letter to John Prine because I’m a super fan. Some fan mail or something. I was going to ask him if I could play on his next album. I never did it. Postcards are a great idea.’
Something I enjoyed as a kid was visiting the local library and renting books for free.
‘I do visit the library with my daughters and my wife. They do it even more often than I do. On a weekly basis for sure. I used to take books out of the library, but when you have kids, you don’t get a fine when you’re late to return the books. As an adult you do. Since I travel so much, I often buy my books instead and bring them along with me on the road. I went to libraries a lot in my 20s. You could even rent out CDs. I remember my first John Prine CD. I rented that one from the library as well. I’m always late returning things, though. I like going to the library with my kinds. They love it in there. They are right at home.’
‘My favourite section would be the kids’ section. I also used to go to the music section and get all kind of rock biographies or books on jazz and blues.’
The complete opposite free activity of that comfortable reading time would be exercising. Is playing the guitar exercise enough for you?
‘I’m not a sporty guy. The kids should exercise more, but we are more into reading books, playing music or going on road trips and seeing the world. Also going on hikes. I sometimes do yoga in the morning with my wife. Just a little bit. It definitely helps. I would like to get more healthy and in shape, but I just bounce around so much that I mostly want to chilll when I’m at home. The kids do a little yoga as well. It’s difficult to do your exercises when you’re on the road. It’s definitely something I’m working towards. I brought a yoga matt on this press trip…but I haven’t used it!’
Walking will do then, I guess?
‘I definitely love walking. People just don’t walk anywhere anymore. When it’s nice outside, I enjoy walking very much. There are woods right next to my house so we walk through them. On tour it’s different. It’s easy to be in this cocoon where you sleep in late all the time, go to soundcheck and eat and that’s it.
‘I try to walk around, but I’m directionally challenged. I can get lost easy without relying on others or looking up where I’m going to on my phone. I don’t always know where I’m going or what I’m even looking for.’
‘I like the idea of just pulling over when I’m driving and running through a field or something. Some hippie bullshit. How often do I really do that? Hardly ever. Can you imagine just running straight across these fields? I want to do it, eventually. And I got kids. They certainly want to do it. I did it when I was a kid.’
Maybe the most obvious free activity for you as a musician is songwriting. And it frees the mind, too.
‘There have been times in the past where I thought – Am I done writing songs? Or I thought the songs didn’t sound good, but that was because I was trying too much. It’s all the domino affect. One day I’ll explore the guitar a little more, but I kind of developed a style I guess. Maybe I would like to learn a little bit more on the keys so I can orchestrate. The first instrument I ever played was the trumpet and it was the only thing I could ever read music for. I don’t remember it anymore. I would like to take some trumpet lessons again just so I can remember reading music. Or write arrangements for other instruments. That’s something I will explore, eventually.’
Speaking of exploring – Kurt Vile revealed that he might as well just stay at home doing the next album after having recorded Bottle It In in different sessions all over the country:
‘I didn’t want to tour the last album for 2+ years and not record at all and then start making a record from scratch. I just wanted to combine everything in my life. Just go into a studio for a few days and move on within my normal life. I didn’t want to spend a year straight on a record without playing a show or getting lost inside the walls of some studio.’
‘In the future, I want to do a record at home where all my instruments are and I’m comfortable.’
‘I tend to write songs at home and then take them to the studio. I guess I get them across, but I still imagine doing something really cool at home, keeping it simple though. I would like to be playing my old beat-up trumpet and play a chord on the piano in the meantime. Real simple and basic stuff, but it’s so pretty and melodic so I can hear these chords in my head.’