Singing the existential blues made the Philly songwriter famous. With his great new album, ‘Bottle It In,’ he’s just looking for a good time and a calm mind
Follow a long strip of one-lane blacktop through the woods off New York State Route 28 and you’ll find a spooky old estate called Big Indian Springs. A 20-bedroom Victorian hall perched on 37 acres of rolling Catskill foothills, it was once a summer camp for young women who worked in garment factories; now it’s an Airbnb. With faded portraits lining the walls and spiders and frogs crawling across the mossy lawn, the vibe is somewhere between Dirty Dancing and The Shining, depending on how paranoid you’re feeling. Don’t bother trying to use your phone, it’s out of range.
Being off the grid suits Kurt Vile just fine. Sitting on the wraparound porch in jeans and a green T-shirt he got at the Ramones Museum in Berlin, unruly curls falling well below his shoulders, the 38-year-old Philadelphia singer-guitarist squirts several drops of a tincture labeled “Calm Mind” into a plastic water bottle and gives it a thorough swish. “Ayurvedic herbs,” he explains after gulping down his concoction. “It’s like nature’s Xanax.” He doesn’t sound entirely convinced.