Check out my article on The Vampire Diaries’s Kat Graham’s latest projects in the September issue of NYLON magazine! Homegirl can do it all.
This is an article I initially wrote for a class feature assignment and ended up publishing on Trend’s website. Check it out and click on over to Trend for more fun stories and PDFs of the print issues.
S. Carey talks Bon Iver and his solo album
The sounds of buoyant brass pierce the air, soon joined by the trickling keys of a piano and pounding beats of a drum. As the instruments fade out, a virgin voice fills the gap.
Fans know of the band Bon Iver, beginning with the man-behind-the-curtain, Justin Vernon. Vernon, heartbroken and lost in life, retreats to his father’s cabin in the Wisconsin woods. It’s the dead of winter; Vernon is isolated, trapped in his mind. His heart poured out through riffs on the piano, devastatingly beautiful harmonies, and weeping horns. He emerges with the chirping birds and budding nature. An album by the name of For Emma, Forever Ago formed, full of simple, yet heart-wrenchingly emotional songs.
The budding artist put his album up on MySpace, free for all to listen. Sean Carey, the 20-something year-old, scruffy Wisconsinite and graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire with a degree in classical percussion, was among those listening.
“I got tipped off that Justin [Vernon] may want a drummer when he moved back from North Carolina and started working on Bon Iver,” Carey said.
Carey got to work. He hunkered himself in his bedroom for days, glued to the MySpace page, breaking down each song to learn the drums and harmonies. Then fate struck. His band at the time, Lowteo, booked the opening gig for Bon Iver’s first live show in 2007.
“I told him that I learned all of his songs and played and tested it out,” Carey said.
Vernon was impressed, offering Carey the drummer position that same night. Following the completion of his last semester of school in fall 2007, Carey, Vernon and company signed with record label Jagjaguwar and began touring as Bon Iver in February 2008. Their album, For Emma peaked at 64 on the Billboard 200 on Jan. 24, 2009.
Another development? Carey had an album of his own, All We Grow, which he released under the moniker S. Carey in August 2010.
“[S. Carey] is a totally different thing, and I appreciate both a lot and my different roles in each,” Carey said.
Although the writing and composing are Carey’s work, he has the help and support of the band behind him. Mike Noyce (fellow Bon Iver-ite), Jeremy Boettcher and Zach Hanson form the band.
“When I first started working on the songs they were just songs, and I didn’t think they were going to be anything. I also didn’t think I would work on this album, that it would be an album. It just started as songs, and somewhere in the process, I kind of gained the confidence that I wanted to release them as an EP or an album [that they] sort of shaped into,” Carey said.
Influenced by music giants Talk Talk, Radiohead and Björk to name a few, All We Grow has a touch of nostalgia; a yearn to be young and carefree again. Inspiration from the album came from a high point in Carey’s life three years ago.
“It can be hard to have confidence in what you’re doing, and music can be really competitive. It was always in me and it was always a big part of my life. I don’t think I was fully confident in myself. I guess I’m still not in a lot of ways,” said Carey. “[I] fell in love and got married in that time period and found my place in Bon Iver and found my world.”
If opening up for The Tallest Man on Earth, rocking the stage at the 2011 Sasquatch Music Festival in George, Wash. and being compared to the likes of Sigur Rós, Steve Reich and Bon Iver doesn’t instill confidence, homeboy is too humble for his own good.
He plans to release an EP with S. Carey, as well as a follow-up sophomore album within the year.*
As for the future? Carey plans to continue working with both bands, compartmentalizing his roles in each.
“It’s not like I shut off, it’s just different head space,” Carey said. “It’s almost like I’m more creative with S. Carey stuff when I’m traveling with Bon Iver… [S. Carey] started as a creative outlet because, with Bon Iver, I’m not really writing; I’m playing my part and doing more of a support thing, and doing that sort of inspired me to work on my own thing at the same time.”
*Editors note: S. Carey’s label, Jagjaguwar, announced an EP titled “Hoyas” to be released May 8.