Bon Iver's Justin Vernon Talks New Material, Being Awesome

So Bon Iver's folk masterpiece For Emma, Forever Ago was our #3 album of 2008 and all-round really damn awesome. So it's no surprise we're anxious to keep you updated on lead songwriter Just Vernon's various happenings: jamming with his high-school band, performing at charity benefits and rocking out on David Letterman. Now comes word of new material -- both solo and now with a band.

The latest update comes from Pitchfork's mini-interview with Vernon after the Dark Was the Night performance. Vernon spoke about writing material with his new band called the Volcano Choir which is "mostly choir stuff", which makes me think (and hope) it'll be basically the intro to "Lump Sum" on repeat. As for new Bon Iver material, he's "working on stuff." Fuck yeah! What kind of stuff? Acoustic? Ambient? Folk? DUB?! We're just going to have to wait to find out.

Here are selected excerpts from the interview.

Pitchfork: Have you been working on any new music out there?

JV: Yeah, I have a new project called the Volcano Choir with my favorite band, Collections of Colonies of Bees-- if the world was perfect, they would be as big as U2. It's this really liberating thing-- like I'm in a new band. We started collaborating three years ago and just this year we started to realize we had nine or 10 tracks almost done. So we got together up at my studio and finished it. I sing on it, but there aren't a lot of lyrics. It's mostly choir stuff.

It's definitely more on the experimental side of things. I don't know if we'll play shows because it's all really textural and landscape-y, but I think it's coming out in September.

Pitchfork: Are you working on new Bon Iver material, too?

JV: I got home from Australia [in January] and it took me like two months to even get my songwriting chops up because I didn't write any songs while on the road. But I'm working on stuff. Right now everything sounds like a Bruce Hornsby song, which is fun. [laughs] But I'm not telling myself when I want to be done. I'm waiting for it to reveal itself, rather than go after it and be nervous about the next record or whatever. And all that stuff is behind me-- I'm not worried about it at all.

Pitchfork: After touring the world last year, did you ever consider recording somewhere else or not going back to Wisconsin right away?

JV: Actually, I was pretty serious about staying in Australia for a couple months earlier this year because I felt so hastened by the Wisconsin thing. Even though it's the only place I want to be, there was a time when everything felt like it was imploding in my head. It was a whole lot of "me" and it was a little unbearable at times-- borderline embarrassing, even. It didn't last long, though, and as soon as I got home everything flooded back. It all boils down to that common denominator of stillness and trying to self-discover-- I guess it just feels good when I'm there.

Pitchfork: The backstory about you recording For Emma in your dad's cabin really took off and became this kind of myth. Do you feel like you never want to step inside that cabin again?

JV: No, it's totally cool. Though it was distracting sometimes because I was wondering if people were actually into the music, but over time I've realized they are. I think the next chapter isn't about proving anything. From the beginning, the concept of Bon Iver has been about our place in the world and our sentimentality, if you will. Hopefully, I'll have many decades of a career to explore that.

I think if you feel weird and self-conscious about that kind of stuff-- which happened to me at some points last year-- that means your ego is really kicking in. You can understand how people get to be assholes in this business because it's like you're getting pumped full of your own thing so much, you get ungrounded. That's a dangerous place to be.

Bon Iver's Justin Vernon Talks New Material, Being Awesome