As previously posted, we were on hand to catch Bon Iver play a sold out show at the Waldron Arts Center in Bloomington, a town that also calls itself home to the band's label, Jagjaguwar. I met up with singer/songwriter/world's nicest and most humble man, Justin Vernon, for an interview, where we discussed "The bucket of truth," his first appearance on a magazine cover, and why the new, grammatically incorrect song Babys is spelled the way it is.
All photos by Dave Donovan Evans, MOKB/LM Staff Photographer. You can see the entire photoset from the Bon Iver show at his flickr.
LM : You mentioned during your show tonight that, at your last show in Bloomington, you weren't feeling too well...
Justin Vernon : I was fucked up.
LM : Yeah, you had next to you on stage what you called "The bucket of truth."
Vernon : Did I actually say that?
LM : You did. Can you tell me a bit about why you needed the bucket and how that show was for you?
Vernon : Yeah, it was our first tour and our first show of the tour was in Bloomington. It's a nine hour drive from Eue Clair to Bloomington so we took off the night before and drove six of the hours so we could come down and hang out because our label is here in Bloomington and they'd never actually seen us play. But we got into an accident. It was a bad snowstorm on 94 coming down close to Wisonsin Dells and we did a three-sixty on the highway going 65 (mph) and our life flashed before our eyes. First night of the tour and it's a fucking terrible snowstorm and, the next day, we get into Bloomington - feeling good, feeling like we just are alive for good reasons. We go to the offices and we're hanging out and everyone's feeling good, and I sit down for dinner and, all the sudden, I feel very very sick. Then I'm puking in the bathroom, puking outside, puking on the van, and I don't know what's wrong. I was out of my head. It is a foggy, foggy memory. I've drank a lot and never blacked out or forgotten a single moment of my life and I was foggy - I was really, really sick. All I remember of that show is that I was sweating a lot, I had a really bad fever, and I felt nauseous. Every note that I sang I thought I was going to barf. So I had a bucket on stage and I was actually nervous about doing that. And I guess the "bucket of truth" thing - where I got it from I'm sure is this show Upright Citizens Brigade.
MOKB: Right, that's what (MOKB photographer) Dave was just telling me. I wasn't familiar with the reference.
Vernon: Have you ever seen that show?
MOKB: I've never seen it, no.
Vernon: Okay. Can you take a piece of advice?
MOKB: Yeah yeah.
Vernon: Dude. Go get - do you smoke grass?
MOKB: (Unfortunately, my hand held recorder cut out during my response to this question...)
Vernon: Okay, first two seasons of that show - go buy them on DVD. It's gonna be like 45 bucks or something. It's worth it. Don't go out for two nights. Buy a bag of grass, smoke all of it, and watch those two seasons and you will die. So yeah, anyway, that's where that came from. But that's the long answer to what you're saying. I think we played like, five songs and I nearly puked on...I think it was Skinny Love or something where I was exerting myself. Very sick.
MOKB: Well that's funny, in a way, because it sounded really great.
Vernon: Oh cool! Where you there?
MOKB: Yeah, it was incredible. Everyone was talking about that show afterwards and it seems as though that excitement carried over into this show. What is it about you guys and this "word of mouth" thing?
Vernon: I don't know man. I mean, if I was going to give an ego answer, and not a personal ego but an ego from a larger continuum - I mean, I named this project Bon Iver and, somewhat unfortunately, it has been construed as a moniker for me, but that is never how it was for me. What it was for me was a sentiment and an idea and it's about being from where I'm from. It's about being a northern Wisconsin person and what that means to me and what it means to other people that come from where I come from and that general mentality of what that means. And that's Bon Iver. I felt like it was a very appropriate name for that and I think maybe that sentiment is just what has caught on.
MOKB: How does it feel to not only play in the same town as your label, but also where there's such a loyal and supportive fanbase that is obviously growing.
Vernon: I have no idea. It's too good. I mean, ask someone who won the lottery or something. Seriously man, like, $85 million or my life right now? I'll fucking take my life. Well, that's not saying that much actually. I feel so fucking lucky to be in my situation.
MOKB: Well, in the few times now that I've seen you live, along with the numerous performances I've seen on the Internet, you guys always appear to be feeling every note of every song with such sincerity and conviction. Does putting your all into each performance come naturally for you or is it something that, at this point, you really have to work at?
Vernon: It's not a struggle and it comes very naturally. I feel very fortunate that I'm playing music and that my music caught on and my personality sort of meshed with timing and fate to have this be happening right now because I feel very honest every time we get up there. I might be tired, I might be tuckered out, I might be whatever, but I feel very fortunate that when we get up there - whatever circumstances - the sound is bad or we're not fully energized or whatever - it always ends up spilling over every night. We've never had a night that wasn't spilled over. I reach points of exhaustion on tour, just because you don't sleep as much. It's not a romantic thing at all. It's not like "Oh, tour! blah..." - you get really tired. But every time we've ever performed these songs, Mikey, Sean, and I - specifically the three of us - we've just laid it all out. I just can't operate any different. There have been some nights where I was like, "Alright, my voice is very fucked up, we've got five shows in a row after this, I've gotta go up and just mail it in..." - never happens because we get out there and we just destroy it or try to attach ourselves to that moment and try to make it happen.
MOKB: You played two new songs tonight. I caught that "Blood Bank" was the title of the first one. What was the second one called?
Vernon: Babys. It's specifically spelled B-A-B-Y-S, but with no apostrophe. It's grammatically incorrect but it has its own meaning.
MOKB: What is its meaning, if you don't mind me asking?
Vernon: It's about how - you know how, in the summer, you always wanna make out and kiss and everything? It's about how many, many people are born in the spring because people hook up and mom's and dad's meet in the summertime. You call your girlfriend "baby" or something - I don't because I don't have that much courage - but then there's little "babies" so they're kinda both and so if you do it B-A-B-I-E-S, that's just babies, and if you do it B-A-B-Y-'-S, that's like ownership and that's not it either, so it's just Babys.
MOKB: Have you had time to record any of these songs? Is progress being made on an album?
Vernon: It's not an album. I haven't started the album. These songs are all sort of songs that have trickled down and I don't want to put them on an album. There's maybe some talk of an EP but I wouldn't even say anything about that yet. It wouldn't be a big deal. It'd be kinda like "Uh, these songs happened. There it is. Maybe we'll put it out for free, or I don't know." I'm not thinking about that next album until I have a large amount of time to close the door, turn off the faucet, and relocate or something, just to really spread out because everything's been going so great. I just need some time to kinda separate.
MOKB: I just recently saw you on the cover of Paste Magazine with Jamie Lidell and a couple other people I'd never seen or heard of before, along with a headline that said something along the lines of how the four of you were the new up and comer's. Is it weird being on the cover and for that reason?
Vernon: I think I've gotten used to a lot of this press stuff, so when I saw it, I understood it for what it is. Because like, in my hometown, I know I'm going to go home and everyone's going to be like "I saw you on the cover of Paste, oh my god!" - but people are not famous. There's like, 10 famous people in the world so that shit doesn't bother me. It's not weird. I know exactly what it means and what it doesn't mean, so it's fine.
MOKB: Any future plans that you're particularly excited about? Music-related or otherwise?
Vernon: Australia. I think we're going to finish out touring this album, as far as this record cycle goes, in Australia. The record came out down there on a Jagjaguwar-affiliated label and it's been doing really well. We're going there in January and, after that, I'm going to take a few months off and just sort of scatter. I'm really excited about using Australia as a kind of punctuation to this record and its life, and about me and the songs and where they've come from. I think it's going to be this amazing sort of sunset. I've romanticized Australia a lot in my thinking over the last few years. I don't know why I'm so excited about it but, when I found out we were going I was like, alright, that's it. That's the time to do this, to close this - not close the door, because it should never be closed, but to sort of step away from it for the first time. I'm excited about that.
MP3 DOWNLOAD : Bon Iver - Flume (live in the MOKB studio)