January 29, 2010
You can almost see him in a cluttered garage, pounding away at his guitar and belting into a microphone, tweaking his music inside a make-shift recording studio.
At least that's what it sounds like listening to "Self Record."
That was all before Justin Vernon's up with his band, DeYarmond Edison, and his girlfriend. Before he got mononucleosis, before he moved from Raleigh back to the snowy Mid-West to record an album that would make him famous.
If you ask an college student, they'll likely tell you how much they love Bon Iver. "For Emma, Forever Ago" has become incredibly popular in the music world, even earning a nod from NPR on their "50 Most Important Recordings of the Decade" list. It's full of Vernon's now unmistakable sound: his tight falsettos and drifting acoustic melodies.
"For Emma" - from For Emma, Forever Ago.
Vernon's been working at his music for a long time, though. He started two bands in his hometown of Eau Claire, Michigan, where he now still lives, and has worked at a music career ever since. It was the retreat to the cabin his father built in Wisconsin that really helped Vernon find his unique sound, though, and launched his career.
It's worth noting here that the other members of DeYarmond Edison didn't get out of the music scene, either. In fact, they're doing pretty well themselves. Now called Megafaun, a well-received and excellent indie-folk/experimental band based out of North Carolina, the band members still are friends with Vernon.
Megafaun - "Impressions of the Past"
"Self Record" comes in the middle of Vernon's story, in 2005 just before he recorded an album with DeYarmond Edison. The tracks on it are wonderful, and nothing like the Bon Iver sound. They have a local, scraped together feel, like you are listening to some high school kid who just learned how to use GarageBand.
And that's not a band thing. In fact, it's what makes the album great. It has this heartfelt, honest quality that sometimes can be lost on big studio albums. You get Vernon playing his music, desperately trying to get his work out there for the world. Now, a few years and a whole life-changing story later, Vernon's "Self Record" is getting some appreciation.
And it's worth it.
Best track on the Album: Ring Out
Oh, and a couple more things: Look into Volcano Choir, the new side project/collaboration between Megafaun and Vernon. It has some classic sounds from both bands and is easily worth a listen.