Kurt Vile exudes a casualness at the Tiny Desk in his style and body language that is so unlike most anxious artists who come to play behind my desk. Sure, he's done this Tiny Desk thing before, with Courtney Barnett. But even then, I remember thinking that he's got something else on his mind — and it made me laugh this time around when Kurt played his opening tune, "Bassackwards," and sang these words: "I was on the beach but I was thinking about the bay / Got to the bay but by then I was far away."
That idea of being one place and thinking about another, for me, also connects to the way he plays guitar. He seems distracted, yet the complex guitar lines he so nonchalantly plays, along with his musical mate Rob Laakso, are effortlessly beautiful and lyrical.
After they played two new tunes from Kurt Vile's latest record, Bottle It In, Kurt goes solo on an older, self-described "juvenile" song from long ago, recently revived during his Courtney Barnett collaboration last year. "Peeping Tomboy" has its own schizophrenic issues as Kurt sings, "I don't wanna change but I don't wanna stay the same / I don't wanna go but I'm runnin' / I don't wanna work but I don't wanna sit around / All day frownin'."
On the surface, it all can seem just chill. But there's a lot of rumination in these songs — and even when he's gazing into the overhead office lights, I think he got his mind on the stars and the world at large.
- "Peeping Tomboy"
Kurt Vile - vocals, guitar
Rob Laakso - guitar
Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kaylee Domzalski; Production Assistant: Brie Martin; Photo: Cameron Pollack/NPR