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Hipster Heartbreak: Folk Songwriter Kurt Vile Receives Bank Money, Condemnation from Peers


Mic check! MIC CHECK! Okay, thanks. Listen up, everybody, this is like the worst thing since Modest Mouse got on the radio. Kurt Vile has sold out. I’m not just talking a commercial for some Bono charity or a restaurant chain; this is the big one–a bank! Bank of America! Hasn’t he been watching Jeff Mangum? We know who our enemies are, Kurt! We know who our enemies are–not our NMEs, totally different–and Bank of America is so our enemy!

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Last week, Patrick Stickles, frontman for New Jersey punk rockers Titus Andronicus, called out Philadelphia neo-folkie Kurt Vile on Twitter for licensing his song “Baby’s Arms” to Bank of America, which used it in a TV commercial.

Over the course of two tweets, Stickles wrote, “Come on, Kurt Vile, yr a million times better than that. #crushcapitalism If it is even true! Can someone confirm? if it is real, then you need to get real, man. I thought you were, like, the best dude in music!”

Vile responded in defense of himself, tweeting, among other things, “sorry titus. i did it to be like the carpenters.and to buy my daughter high end diapers. and to pay back my publishing advance. and because i never cared about that sorta thing. whoops,i even have a bank of america account.” (all tweets are sic’d.)

What? Kurt didn’t even roll over and apologize! What is that crap? Even his manager had the gall to try and play this off as some sort of freedom of thought issue or whatever:

KV has never used his music as a political platform. He’s not Fugazi. He’s a songwriter who’s worked for a decade to make a living off of his work. Where does this ever end? No selling records to Republicans? Tea Partiers blocked from downloading singles from iTunes?

In all seriousness, the tweets from Stickles are rather troublesome and telling. Sans a capitalist economy where any musician can offer a product for consumers to voluntarily purchase, bands like Titus Andronicus would wholly rely on government patronage to support their non-essential service. Historically, this has meant artists must display rigid ideological allegiance to a single partisan viewpoint, regardless of their talent, lest their work be rejected by bureaucrats more interested in preserving their power than enriching culture and the arts.

Until Stickles and his band perform their music using instruments, amplifiers, and mixers not manufactured by corporations using plastics and other raw materials produced by corporations using crude oil excavated by Big Oil–until Titus Andronicus powers their concerts using electricity not generated by a corporation using coal excavated by another corporation, I’ll have infinitely more respect for realists like Kurt Vile who may not like capitalism per se but accept that they’re not above it.

Mr. Vile appears to understand that, just like individuals who buy his mp3s from iTunes, people who represent banks may like his music and agree to pay a fair price to use it in a way that benefits them. He understands that when you’re responsible for a child’s well-being, some things are more important than self-righteous pandering to economic illiterates. As a self-hating purveyor of the indie music world, I’m pleasantly surprised at this level of common sense presented so elegantly by a prominent artist.

I suppose it’s a good time to mention that Kurt Vile’s latest LP, “Smoke Ring for My Halo,” is available wherever you capitalist tryhards buy your music.

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