It was a good winter: JERK Interview with Bon Iver

Posted: March 27, 2008 by jerkmag in VAULT -- archives
Tags: , ,

By Katie Allyn

Jerk caught up with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon at his Montreal show with Black Mountain. Vernon gave us the scoop on the tour, future Bon Iver albums, and even reminisced in the ol’ bygone days growing up in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.


JERK: So how’s the tour been going?

JUSTIN VERNON: Really good. It’s been a blast. The Black Mountain people are so, so nice. And I love their music too, so that really helps.

JERK: First off—I noticed you have another track on iTunes that’s not on the album. What’s with that?

JV: Oh yeah, they asked for an extra track. It’s one of those iTunes exclusive tracks. But that’s just a song that didn’t make it on the record, so I kind of fiddled with it since they wanted something on there.

JERK: Was that also recorded at the cabin?

JV: Yep, yep completely up there. Recorded up there.

JERK: Do you get sick of your songs at all while on tour?

JV: Ah not yet, probably will soon… I’ve grown tired of songs quicker before in my history, but I’m not sick of them yet. We’re going to constantly build, build the members and build the band, so I think that will keep it new and fresh, you know? And I have a lot of fun playing them, you know, so I’m happy.

JERK: I also wanted to know some more about your musical background. What sorts of things did you do growing up in high school?

JV: I was in like music programs in high school, jazz band, marching band, or concert band. I played baritone saxophone. I played in bands and wrote songs and stuff. It was sort an amateur thing, but it was the most fun I’ve ever had with life building experiences. Especially with people that I was there with. A lot of those people I went on to make music with for like a decade. It was very building and very integral in the way I was brought up.

JERK: That’s interesting, because one thing I’ve been wondering after listening to your music is whether or not you have a choral background.

JV: I haven’t, I have not actually.

JERK: That’s surprising.

JV: I was the only member of my bands that didn’t take choir originally. I always felt like “you know what I feel like I know what I’m doing already.” At least every time I heard somebody go into a choral program, I thought it always changed someone’s like natural voice. But as you’ve probably guessed, very recently I’ve gotten into the sounds of just the voice in general, like very western choral kind of music.

JERK: Any in particular?

JV: Um, actually a lot of boys choirs. Like the Harlem boys choir, the Vienna Boys Choir. They just have this sound of, I guess like angels… It sounds kind of weird but it’s just like boys’ voices, not girls’ voices, you know what I mean? It’s sort of like this washed up beauty that I just don’t think you can get very easily anywhere else, and I’ve just been listening to a lot of that stuff the past couple of weeks.

JERK: I had actually been thinking, especially when I listen to your song called “The Wolves,” that your music would suit an a capella group really well.

JV: Oh man, I think I would like die if somebody did an arrangement of that!

JERK: Yeah I’d love to see something like that.

JV: Yeah, I’d love to too.

Bon Iver – at La Sala Rossa in Montreal – 2/29/2008 (Photos by Megan Saucke)

JERK: And after high school, where did you go to college?

JV: The University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire.

JERK: Okay, so you just stayed in Eau Claire.

JV: I got my degree in religious studies and then I got a minor in philosophy and feminism, so I’m like not using it at all—I mean, I guess I am. But yeah, I did it in about five years, didn’t get that great of grades, but didn’t fail out, sort of just went right through it and continued playing music.

JERK: Were you planning, then, on staying with music?

JV: Yeah, I always knew that I wanted to do music. I mean, I just didn’t know how or what to do. I mean, it was a pretty insular environment, which is I think a good think for me now, but back then I was very stuck. If I had changed my life or moved somewhere I think that would have been nice, but honestly, since I’ve moved back, I love it there.

JERK: You’ve talked about how your Bon Iver music couldn’t have been made under any other circumstances. That it had to be in the isolated little cabin during emotional turmoil. So then what are you going to do in the future in creating more Bon Iver?

JV: I think I’m going to like do it in like the same sort of way, but I don’t think I’m going to need to escape as much. It’s just important that I have to time to be alone. I’m actually building a studio sometime, I think, within the next six months. Just a tiny little place. And I’ll just go there and sort of cut off and dive into a record. I haven’t even started. I mean, I have ideas floating around my head, but I’ll just get there and start excavating! You know what I mean? Start building it all up in my subconscious. That’s the process. I’m not all hung up on, “oh you know, I need to get back to the cabin to make another record!” Nah, nah. I knew I wouldn’t have to do that to be successful again. So I’m really excited to get out there and just make another record. You know, that might be too soon for some people. I think the label wants me to wait and make sure people all over the world hear this record first, but I think the best thing to do is just keep me happy.

JERK: So you want to get a new album out rather quickly, then?

JV: Ah, it probably wouldn’t be until about spring of ’09. Because you know if you finish a record in this business… let’s say you finish it in August (which is completely unrealistic at this point, for me), well you probably wouldn’t even get it out until December. And then labels don’t really like releasing things out December or January, so it would probably be until February or March. That sort of thing.

JERK: Do you have any directions you want to go musically for the next record? Because you certainly changed styles quite a bit from your pre-Bon Iver work.

JV: Yeah, I don’t even really have any kind of direction yet. I’m sort of just building a bunch of thoughts. There not even ideas or songs yet. I’m just building… vibes I guess.

JERK: But do you have any different sounds that you’re currently leaning towards?

JV: I want to use some more drums and piano. Of course I’ll still use acoustic guitars, but I really want to use more electric guitar. I’m just getting the basics hints of what I want it to sound like. I’m trying not to establish too much before I actually make it.

JERK: Let it just happen.

JV: Yeah, exactly.

JERK: Well, so are you going to continue with the Bon Iver stuff?

JV: Yeah, yeah, I’m still going to put records out under that name.

JERK: Because I know Bon Iver was at first more of a temporary project originally.

JV: Yeah, well it’s going, and I’m going. Even if the next record doesn’t sound anything like that last record, I’m still going to call it Bon Iver. It’s really kind of a fitting name for who I’ve tried to be musically.

JERK: That’s interesting. How does Bon Iver, meaning “good winter” in French, describe who you are musically?

JV: I think I’ve always had a sincere connection, or always been really inspired by my geography and like where I’m from. Not in a proud way, more in like a “this is my destiny” kind of way. I think I was meant to experience winter. And then also just the sacred quality of wishing somebody a “good winter,” which most of the time people are complaining about. But I’m just kind of like, “you know what, let’s go with it.” And that’s why I find that phrase fitting for me.

JERK: Are there any other particular bands or artists you’d like to collaborate with?

JV: I’m actually working right now with this band in Milwaukee called the Collections of Colonies of Bees. They’re kind of like an art noisy kind of thing. We’re actually putting and a record this summer. I’m just doing choral stuff and they’re doing more arts and drums kind of thing. They’re much more abstract in terms of form and stuff like that. They’re one of my favorite bands. They’re actually going to join our tour for a week in April.

JERK: Are there any new releases you’ve been listening to that you’d recommend to Jerk readers?

JV: To be perfectly honest, the record that’s come out fairly recently that really is pretty amazing—not after your first or second or third listen, but after like the sixth listen—is this Black Mountain record, Looking Into the Future. I’ve just been listening to it like everyday. It’s fuckin’ great. That’s exactly what I’d recommend. And there’s this other band called the Bowerbirds that just signed to Dead Oceans Records. If you like Bon Iver, you would definitely like the Bowerbirds. My favorite band alive. Really calming, like a male Joanna Newsom. Check it out.

  1. CARMEN says:

    nice. cant wait for his new ep.

  2. […] right around the corner, and there is no better soundtrack for this particular time of year than Bon Iver. This exquisite track can be found on Bon Iver’s sophomore self-titled album, which is […]

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