Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bon Iver - the Deep Cutz Interview

(Uncut version)
(photos by: Chelsea Sanders)

"A lot of people try to get out of depressive moods really quickly and I think over the years I've learned to just let them happen, so I could examine why they're happening..."
-Justin Vernon, Bon Iver

This, My Excavation: Bon Iver


This is the sound of devastation, of ravaged reality, of a man hanging on by a thread; Justin Vernon's haunting falsetto, with its watery eyed butterflies in the stomach and cathedral conjuring sanctity, can stop time.

Couple that with the solemn imagery often tied to his album's mythologized backstory painting a dizzied man's retreat to a cabin in the woods of northwest Wisconsin (near his hometown Eau Claire) to "hibernate" after the break-up of an indie/folk group he played in called DeYarmond Edison, suddenly you hear the wisp of pine trees swaying, of lost birds calling out, of creeks piddling down over moss covered logs, and here, like some solemn eye of this natural storm, is the sound of a man crumbling from the inside and combining it so powerfully and perfectly with the golden, grieving jangle of his acoustic guitar. Towards the end of 2007, Vernon released the 9 songs he had written during his solitude and titled the project, Bon Iver (bohn-ee-var, purposely misspelled French for "Good Writer.")

"I wasn't aware of what was going on," said Vernon. "Everything was very foggy. I was very, very sad about the band breaking up even though I had everything to do with it..."

Making matters worse, while the band was breaking up near the end of 06, Vernon was laid out in a hospital for 3 months in Raleigh NC with a liver infection and mono. Soon after he was out, he packed up and headed for the cabin. "I was very scared; 51% of me was: I have to do this if I have any shred of self confidence left in me, but 49% of me was really aching…I was retreating to nature, I felt good about that, but I had gotten there and the first thing that hit me was, to start a fire. I think that having to be the first thing I had to do, get a fire going and chop wood so I could stay warm that night, was enough distraction for me not to worry about why I was there. A lot of people try to get out of depressive moods really quickly and I think over the years, I've learned to just let them happen so I could examine why they're happening."

Three days of quiet, secluded examination turned into three weeks. "Before I even started working on music I just sort of sat, maybe chopped wood, maybe take a nap, maybe drink a beer, maybe take a walk. It was really non-eventful, it was really non-romantic in the sense that I wasn't sitting in the middle of the woods meditating. It was more modern and less romantic. It was like cutting a string, but it took 3 weeks to do it."

Since self-releasing his debut For Emma, Forever Ago (and then re-releasing through Jagjaguwar records in January 08) he's found a captive audience through the indie circuits with the delicate wavering intensities of songs like "Skinny Love" or "Flume."

He is currently working on a 4-song 12" for Jagjaguwar.

"It's bizarre," he says, looking back 2 years, "how it just kinda happened in one…breath."

Bon Iver plays the Crofoot, on 7 / 21

some more of the Un-Cutz Interview:

Milo/DC: How's the year been, what are you working on next?

Justin Vernon: The year has been...I can't really measure this year...but I've been working on some stuff. I've had some stuff that I'd worked on before [For Emma, Forever Ago], just these four songs that sort of really...four really weird songs, I think me and [current label] Jagjaguwar are gonna put it out in November-ish...maybe.

DC: So, your band breaking up is often painted as this primordial genesis, this fateful off-setting moment for you...

JV: I'm the first one to take a lot of the dramatic effect from this whole story that's been attached to the record, and offset it! But, it really did feel like a genesis, that's actually the best word I can think of...I love that whole metaphor of 'primordial genesis,' I like that word, I wasn't aware of what was going on, everything was foggy.

DC: In your writing, out there in that cabin, were you providing perspectives from the same narrator?

JV: It's not exactly the same narrator. The narrators are all the same kind of person, they're not the same person - but...everybody has the same feelings, the same guilts and the same shadowy confessions of their life, certain songs, lyrically, go back and forth between characters, sometimes it's like when we're singing-it's like I'm singing to myself via somebody else; a unique kind of way to attack guilt, through the anger of somebody that cares about me and I cared about them...

DC: Any contemporary influences you can point to?

JV: Well, I don't know, what's contemporary to you...

DC: Well, you'll be playing with the Bowerbirds here...

JV: Oh my god! Good point......before i got really sick in NC, i was living at this house with this girl in Raleigh, and I saw the Bowerbirds play. I'd never heard them before, so i saw them play at an art gallery...and I went home that night and I literally for the first time in my life sat in this room...and thought I think I need to quit music...that's the only time that's ever happened to me. I've been inspired by a show but usually you walk away from a show that you love feeling make music - but seeing Phil play those songs with Beth and Mark, I was just like...I think that I've missed my opportunity, I spent too many years being this emotive non hard working songwriter that I've just become this joke to myself

...this is really cool that I'm talking about this because I've neglected to talk bout this part of the story cuz this is the way-prelude, but man i was like I have to quit, I can't even take myself seriously because that was so...good, it was so overwhelming, so I'm lucky enough to have become friends with them.

He surmises later, after reflecting on the album, the cabin and the tours: "I'm really happy, I'm in my hometown for the summer, it's quiet and I get to enjoy it. I can continue to tour and to make's bizarre how it just kinda happened in one......breath."

Check out:; and for Bowerbirds:

1 comment:

Laura said...

Nice interview - thank you for that! I am sad to miss the show tonight. For Emma... is def. one of m favorite albums of the year.