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Bon Iver Shares New Details About '22, A Million' In Extensive Interview

As Bon Iver's Justin Vernon prepped the release for his latest mind-bender, 22, A Million, he knew he didn't want to talk too much about the album or grant a lot of interviews. So he held a single press conference in Eau Claire, Wisc., on Sept. 2, just a few weeks after performing the entire album live at Vernon's own Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival.

The entire press conference, which took nearly two hours, was filmed but not available for public consumption, until now. Bon Iver has posted the entire interview on his site via Youtube. During the exchange, Vernon sits at a table full of microphones as he goes into great detail about 22, A Million's radically different sound, how the whole thing started with a Roland drum machine beat, and why, of all things, he doesn't like his face associated with his music.

Bon Iver released 22, A Million on Sept. 30 on Jagjaguwar.

You can watch the full interview with the video above or read edited highlights below.

Justin Vernon on why he sought a radically different sound from his previous albums.

"It's important to make it sound new. It used to be just a 'G' chord on a guitar for many years. The longer I've done it, I've become interested in a bunch of other sounds, too. I guess this time we went looking for different kinds of sparks, then over the course of the last few years just putting those moments together, and seeing how they coexist and how they make something new. I needed it to sound radical for me to feel good about putting something out in the world. The old records are of this sad nature, and I was healing myself through that stuff. Being sad about something is okay, and then wallowing in it, circling the same cycles emotionally feels boring. For this one, there's some dark stuff, but I think cracking things, and making things that are bombastic and exciting and also new, and mashing things together and explosiveness, and kind of shouting more - I think that was more of the zone."

On the moment he realized he needed to break apart everything Bon Iver had been before

"The moment for me was when I was making the second song. That's actually been around quite a long time. It's called '10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄,' now, but it was called 'Lesterchuck' for a long time, after our friend, Ben Lester kind of helped us make it. We had it very early on, me and BJ Burton had this drum loop, and it just sounded broken down and messed up, a little bit. Personally, what I was going through, and what I've found a lot of other people are going through, is a lot of anxiety. And that, for me, got me up out of my seat and made me want to break it down and crush something, or do something. It was aggressive sounding. When I had that going on, it was almost finished basically when we made it, so we had to kind of sit on it for three years, or whatever it's been. But that song is a caveat that I wanted to build around. I think that was the moment I knew where I needed to go."

On the album's meaning, subtext and all those weird symbols in the song names

"It's not supposed to mean anything. We're dealing with some sort of religious, or at least spiritual, iconographic sort of themes on the record, and numbers in general. So talking to [cover art designer] Eric Timothy Carlson, we talked together for the last couple years about all this, and I just sort of let him run wild, and he'd just come and draw. And I'd be like, 'What is that?! Let's put that in there!' That is absolutely emblematic of what we're going for. We were just like, 'Let's have a shitload of symbols.' Those symbols for the [Eaux Claires Music & Arts] festival were all the songs, and the song titles. It's just kind of fun to look on the back of the album and not see, like, 'I Went Down The Road,' and then, 'Mother's Blues, or whatever. It's just a bunch of weird graveyard symbols or whatever."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Robin Hilton is a producer and co-host of the popular NPR Music show All Songs Considered.
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