The indefinable Kurt Vile and the Violators will close the Mission Creek Festival on April 10.
By Girindra Selleck
To close out Mission Creek week on April 10, the Englert, 221 E. Washington St., will welcome headliner Kurt Vile, a post-folk lo-fi indie-rock singer/songwriter.
That might seem like a lot of hyphens, but Vile is not an artist who can be classified by and relegated to one genre of music. Vile’s music defies conventional boundaries of style; instead, it occupies a sonic landscape in which its architect is free to experiment fearlessly, bringing in influences from a variety of seemingly disparate genres.
“I think in the past I’ve had plenty of practice at not quite nailing things,” Vile said.
Since his début album in 2008, Vile has tried to incorporate the banjo into his compositions to little success. The motivation is at least partially sentimental; his father gave Vile his first banjo when Vile was a young boy.
“I had been trying to capture the banjo thing for the last few records. I had my old banjo I got when I was a kid, and it didn’t quite fit,” he said.
After playing around with the instrument at home and on vacation, and eventually falling on a way to incorporate it, Vile realized that his heirloom banjo wasn’t good enough to bring into the studio.
“So I got a new banjo,” he said, then laughed.
Vile has said previously his latest album *b’lieve I’m goin’ down …* (Matador, 2015) drew upon a wide range of influences, including the landmark jazz of John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk to the stripped-down confessionals of Neil Young. And yes, Vile’s arsenal on the new album does include a banjo.
“It’s not any kind of intentional pastiche,” he said. “That’s just the way I write music now.”
Vile possesses a sonic tenacity and a relentless approach to the creative process that, he admits, can border on compulsive.
“I get my obsessions and listen nonstop in a way others don’t,” he said. “I walk into my room and turn on a country record, walk into my car and turn on something else, touch a couple chords on the piano, and then next thing I know I’m in the studio.”
“Pretty Pimpin,” the opening track to *b’lieve* — a timely album that accomplishes as much with its nostalgic escapism as it does with its confrontation of seething millennial anxiety — is a five-minute meditation on disillusionment with and disassociation from modernity.
“I was burned out, [when I wrote “Pretty Pimpin”], going through mental turmoil, emotional roller coasters in my own mind,” Vile said. “I wasn’t singing for the world, but in a John Cougar Mellencamp type of way, I kind of was speaking to the common man.”
At the Englert, Vile will be accompanied by his longtime backing band the Violators, consisting of Rob Laakso (guitar and bass) Jesse Trbovich (guitar, bass, and sax), and Kyle Spence (percussion).
Audience members have reason to be excited, because Vile said the ensemble is in its best form.
“We’ve all come into our own,” Vile said. “With our latest drummer, Kyle, we’ve found a real organic feel, and we’re tighter than we’ve ever been right now, in particular.”