Kurt Vile

On my way to Stanford last week, with KFJC (the station of Foothill College in Los Altos Hills) on the radio, and up came a report on concerts (meaning rock / pop / folk / blues/ etc. concerts) in the Bay Area. Always entertaining for the names of the performers in them. KFJC will mention anyone, even if they’ve never performed in public before, so the concert listings are a great hodge-podge of unknowns, local performers, up and coming artists, and more widely famous people.

In the middle of this list: Kurt Vile and the Violators.

That certainly caught my ear, since for several weeks I’ve been immersed in Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, Lotte Lenya, DGO (Die Dreigroschenoper), and all that. (Posting to come, I hope; it’s a very big topic.)

Well, once you’ve got the name Kurt Vile — by whatever route — then of course you’re going to name your backup band The Violators (even if none of you are notably vile or vicious, as is the case here; I’ve listened to the music). (Ok, you could have called them The Viols, The Violas, The Violins, or the Violets, but these names are lacking in punch.)

From an artists’ website:

Kurt Vile is a lo-fi indie rock singer/songwriter from Philadelphia who made his commercial recording debut in 2008 to much critical fanfare. Based in Philadelphia, Vile grew up outside the city in the nearby town of Lansdowne. His passion for music was encouraged by his father, a bluegrass aficionado who bought him a banjo. Vile eventually advanced from the banjo to other instruments, primarily guitar, and began writing songs that he would record at home. These lo-fi home recordings, often featuring drum machines and other one-man-band, lo-fi adornment, were compiled on a series of CD-Rs that Vile would release in limited editions. (link)

What’s not clear in this is whether Vile is the man’s surname by birth or a stage name. Vile is an uncommon, but not unknown, British surname (consider, for instance, the Welsh rugby player Tommy Vile). On the other hand, the name Kurt Vile sounds too good to be true. On yet another hand, his parents could have been making a lame joke.

Meanwhile, I’ve been hoping that someone has adopted the pseudonym Kurt While or Kurt Wile (as in wiles).


3 Responses to “Kurt Vile”

  1. Ben Zimmer Says:

    Born Kurt Samuel Vile, believe it or not.

  2. Brian Kane Says:

    Kurt Vile is far from vile, actually. A couple of links to entries on Kurt from my independent-label music blog follow:



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