Bon Iver released their great new album i,i last week, and today the band is the subject of an in-depth feature at Pitchfork. A lot of interesting information made it into the piece: Justin Vernon describes the communal vibe he’s been trying to cultivate with the project, an attempt to both outrun the prevailing image of Bon Iver as his solitary retreat and to face down the crises of our time as a united front. He comments on his increased love of LSD and DMT and his belief that maybe Donald Trump might develop some empathy if we could drop an MDMA cloud on the White House. Lots of details about the recording of i,i also emerge. But there are also some juicy tidbits that have little to do with the album.
For instance, Vernon describes a week in October 2014 when Kanye West commandeered his April Base studio in Wisconsin while working on The Life Of Pablo. Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, Common, and Kendrick Lamar were among the guests who flew out to work on song sketches and play three-on-three basketball. As for Vernon’s current relationship with longtime collaborator Kanye, they’ve drifted apart due to politics; Vernon is an avowed liberal who supports Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, while Kanye has famously come out in support of Trump. “I can’t really kick it with him anymore on a personal level, just the energy,” Vernon says. “But I’ve got mad love for him, and we’re still friends.”
Speaking of politics, Vernon also describes plans for a tour across Wisconsin — his home state, and a key political battleground state — next year in support of whichever candidate wins the Democratic nomination. There’s also talk of Vernon’s increasing love for the Grateful Dead, which has fueled his communal and spiritual ideology and Bon Iver’s “insane” in-studio jam sessions. Vernon recalls taking acid backstage at a Dead & Company show before guesting on a song. Vernon’s thoughts on Dead & Company’s singer and guitarist: “I am fully in on John Mayer. Hats off to that motherfucker.”
As for i,i, maybe the most intriguing bit of intel is the backstory of “I fall off a bass boat,” an instantly memorable lyric from album highlight “Naeem.” The incident that inspired the line involved Vernon flipping an ATV while drunkenly freewheeling around on a frozen lake, sending his body flying 15 feet in the air while Ivan Howard of the Rosebuds watched nearby. Vernon also credits Howard with providing key inspiration when he was living in Raleigh ahead of recording Bon Iver’s debut For Emma, Forever Ago.
There are more great anecdotes where those came from. It’s an engaging, well-written story, and you can read it here.