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Sunday, October 17, 2021

An interview with Bon Iver’s Sean Carey

Somewhere in the depths of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, a soul-wrenching howl can be heard calling out to the folk and indie gallery of fans nearby. As the harmonic and sweet sound continues to reverberate so gracefully, the world begins to catch on. This has been the story of Bon Iver, a small music project that ambitiously blossomed into a musical giant since its creation by Justin Vernon back in 2007. Along with Justin Vernon on guitar and lead vocals, today Bon Iver is made up of Sean Carey on drums and backing vocals, Michael Noyce on guitar and Matthew McCaughan on bass.

Bon Iver has released two albums: For Emma, Forever Ago in 2008 and the self-entitled album Bon Iver in 2011. Although longtime fans will disagree that Bon Iver is anything but new to the music scene, it’s clear that the spotlight is definitely on Bon Iver as they completed a well-received performance set on Saturday Night Live which aired this past weekend. Additionally, the band has four Grammy nominations this year, including Best New Artist and Best Alternative Music Album.

Needless to say, 2012 has been a good year for Bon Iver.

For the past week, ASUCD Entertainment Council had teased with the thought of a highly acclaimed “band” to come to Davis. And just three days ago, Entertainment Council released the news that Bon Iver was indeed confirmed for a show on April 17 at Freeborn Hall.

In the midst of chaos of a live performance on Saturday Night Live and the Grammy buzz coming up this Sunday, Bon Iver’s Sean Carey took some time to speak with MUSE last Friday. In fact, he had just completed his SNL rehearsals the night before and was finishing up a suit fitting for the show the following night when we got a hold of him on the phone. Despite being extremely busy, Carey shared his thoughts on Bon Iver, music and performing in no rush. Here’s what he had to say:

The Aggie: First off, how are things going with the Saturday Night Live dress rehearsals and Grammy preparations?
Carey: We had rehearsals for SNL (Saturday Night Live) yesterday and we’re doing the taping tomorrow. So it’s going really well! It was super laid back yesterday. We met the cast and everyone was really nice. As for the Grammy nominations, it’s just something I’ve never thought about. When we found out about the nominations, I didn’t really know how to react. It was funny because my mom was super excited. I mean, I seemed less excited just because I never thought about it before or any of this happening. So I guess I’ll just keep going and all of this is, well, just crazy.

Where were you when you heard of the big news?
I was actually driving. I was going on a three-day tour and it was a long weekend. I was traveling in between Michigan, Chicago and Iowa and suddenly, we got the phone from my mom and she was freaking out! [Laughs]

So going back now, can you tell us about Wisconsin: Does it ever feel strange between the two worlds?
Yeah, in a way it’s a really nice balance. When we’re not touring, Wisconsin is just a great place to be because there’s nothing really going on and we can just really relax and work on new music. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I do really like to travel and be in big cities; it’s fun but it’s also reminded me of how lucky we are to have our situation. But yeah, it’s the best of both worlds because we get to be in New York and whatnot. But the more I do travel, the more I realize the less I want to live in a big city. Like today, I was walking around New York and I was watching other people and it can get overwhelming.

With all of the industry now recognizing you, do you ever feel like it inhibits your creativity as an artist independently?
Not really, but it can be the case for sure when you have higher expectations or something of yourself. But I guess we just try not to focus on that.

What is your earliest recollection of making music? What sort of things inspired you?
I grew up in a pretty musical household. My dad was a music teacher, singer and guitar player. I did choir as a kid and then I got really interested in playing the drums. My older sister would play and I would watch and think of how cool it was. So those were my beginnings there. I would pretty much wear out the Beach Boys tapes too. And later on, I really got into Jazz.

Bon Iver has done some pretty small shows like “A Take Away Show,” and you performed at Sophia’s Thai Kitchen in Davis last year. Do you prefer intimate shows?
I really gravitate towards smaller venues for sure. I’d much rather play for less people than a bunch of people because I feel much more disconnected. But sometimes you get different sparks of energy. And those are times when you have to change your set up. For the “Take Away Show,” we really had to change the arrangement and do more singing; we would have one drum instead of the whole set. It makes you think on your feet. [Laughs]

Let’s go back to Bon Iver. If you only had a few words, how would you describe Bon Iver’s sound?
I would say dynamic, a unique combination of sounds and I would say, emotional; it’s from the heart.

How is the writing process for Bon Iver?
That would be a good question for Justin [Vernon]. Well, he wanted to do something different. And so he just had a bunch of people come play and do their thing on it. And he was really amazing at going through and picking things that he liked and seeing what works well together. It was a lot of arranging and he’s amazing at that.

I just read a recent blog on VEVO that referred to Bon Iver as “him”; does it ever irk you that some people don’t know that Bon Iver is actually a band and think it’s just solely made up of Justin Vernon?
Yes and no because it’s definitely Justin’s band. He tries really hard to make it be more than just him and it’s really important to him. But I know it’s really not about us. I know that Justin’s goal is for it to be about the whole band, the team, the crew and for Bon Iver to be something bigger than a band but as an idea.

What musician, dead or alive, would you like to collaborate with?
Um, wow. There was a guy named Mark Hollis who was in the band Talk Talk and he is definitely a hero of ours. He has a very interesting perspective on music and that would be really cool. It’d also be fun to do something with a modern classical composer Steve Reich. That’d be pretty mind-bending.

What can the Davis fans expect from the show coming our way?
It will be a really cool show and this year we’re working more on the visual sides of things so there will be more visual complements with the music. That will be interesting which will add another dimension to the show.

Bon Iver
Tuesday, April 17, 8 p.m. (Doors opening at 7 p.m.)
Freeborn Hall
– Sales for general admission tickets begin this Sunday at 10 a.m. on tickets.com for $39.50. Tickets can also be purchased at the Freeborn Ticket Office starting Monday until sold out.
– On Monday at noon, 200 limited student tickets will be available for $29.50 at the Freeborn Ticket Office only. For student tickets, you are required to bring a student I.D. and there is a maximum of two student I.D. cards per purchase; cash only.
Freeborn Ticket Office Hours: Monday to Friday, noon to 5 p.m.

UYEN CAO can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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