Bon Iver

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Bon Iver
Bon Iver performing in Washington.
Bon Iver performing in Washington.
Background information
Birth name Justin Vernon
Born April 30, 1981 (1981-04-30) (age 27)
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, U.S.[1]
Genre(s) Indie rock
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Instrument(s) Vocals, Guitar, Bass Drum
Label(s) Jagjaguwar, 4AD
Associated acts DeYarmond Edison
The Shouting Matches
Mount Vernon

Bon Iver (pronounced /boʊn ivɛər/) is the name of American indie folk singer-songwriter Justin Vernon's current band and most notable music project to date. The band now also consists of Mike Noyce and Sean Carey. The name, Bon Iver, is a corruption of the French "bon hiver" (good winter). Vernon independently released Bon Iver's debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago in 2007, the majority of which was recorded while spending three months in a remote cabin in Wisconsin.


[edit] Life

While in high school and college, Vernon founded the bands Mount Vernon and DeYarmond Edison - both indie-rock bands originated from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where he still resides. [3][4] DeYarmond Edison consisted of Vernon, Brad and Phil Cook, and Joe Westerlund. After a long period of success in the Eau Claire music scene, the four band mates decided to leave their longtime home and move to Raleigh, North Carolina to try their musical hand in a new place. The band released two records themselves, the first self-titled and the second titled Silent Signs[5] and an EP of unreleased material is available on their MySpace page. [6] After nearly a year in Raleigh, Vernon left for Wisconsin after a breakup with the band and a girlfriend. The remaining members of DeYarmond Edison went on to form a new band called Megafaun and remain good friends with Vernon.[7]

Justin contributed a t-shirt design for the Yellow Bird Project to raise money for Interval House, which is a women's shelter in Toronto, Ontario. In addition, on December 22, 2008, Bon Iver returned to their hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where they put on a show at Eau Claire's State Theatre. All the proceeds were donated to the Bolton Refuge House, a local women's shelter.

[edit] Live performances

Justin Vernon is joined live by Sean Carey (drums, vocals, piano, vibes) and Mike Noyce (vocals, baritone guitar, guitar). Noyce was Vernon's guitar student during high school while Carey approached Vernon during one of the first Bon Iver shows telling him he could play and sing all the songs after which the two played a number of them together.[8]

Because of the large amounts of overdubbing in For Emma, Forever Ago, Justin Vernon was concerned that there would not be enough voices to duplicate the sound of the songs on the album. To compensate for this problem, Bon Iver gave lyrics for some songs to the audience to sing along to during shows. In an interview with Pitchfork, Vernon described his dilemma. "I don't want to be the guy with an acoustic guitar singing songs, because that's boring for the most part. The song actually needs 80-500 people singing or whatever the vibe is of that room, it needs that fight". [8]

[edit] For Emma, Forever Ago

After the breakup of a band, relationship, and bout with sickness (mononucleosis of the liver)[9], Vernon left Raleigh and moved back to Wisconsin spending three months in his father's cabin in the woods of northern Wisconsin. According to Vernon, it was during this time that the "Bon Iver" moniker first entered his mind; while bedridden with mononucleosis, he began watching the television series Northern Exposure on DVD. One episode depicts a group of citizens in Alaska, where the show is set, emerging from their homes into the first snowfall of the winter and wishing one another a "bon hiver" (French for "good winter"). This was initially transcribed by Vernon as "boniverre"; however, when he learned of its proper French spelling, he elected not to use it, deciding "hiver" reminded him too much of "liver", the source of his illness at the time.[10]

Bon Iver performing in Shepherd's Bush, UK.

Vernon did not intend to write or record any music during the time but rather to recuperate from the events of the previous year. Eventually a record began to evolve during this cathartic time of isolation.[11] He had recently finished helping the band The Rosebuds do some recording and had with him some basic recording gear when he made his move to the cabin. Vernon played all the instruments during recording and each song was heavily edited with a large number of overdubs. Vernon wrote most of the lyrics for the album by recording a word-less melody and listening to the recording over and over and writing words according to the sound of the syllables of the melody.[7] In an interview, Vernon said: “Words like decision and intention aren’t words that float in my head because I just went,” Vernon explains. “I left North Carolina and went up there because I didn’t know where else to go and I knew that I wanted to be alone and I knew that I wanted to be where it was cold.” [12] In another interview, Vernon describes what he used to record the album: "I had a very light set-up, a basic small recording set-up: a Shure SM57 and an old Silvertone guitar. I had my brother drop off his old drums... some other small things - things I would make or find lying around." [13]

The record was almost not released and was originally intended as a group of demos to be sent out to labels and potentially rerecorded. But after getting very encouraging reactions from a number of his friends, Vernon decided to release the songs himself in their present state.[7] After significant positive reception, helped by word of mouth and its popularity throughout the blogosphere, Vernon decided to sign to the indie label Jagjaguwar which subsequently gave the album a proper release.[14] Vernon has said that he will continue to make albums without engineers and producers because he is capable of doing it all himself. [15]

[edit] Reception

Since being released by Jagjaguwar on February 19, 2008, For Emma, Forever Ago has garnered critical acclaim. [16] The album was released in the UK and Europe by iconic indie label 4AD on May 12, 2008.[17] When released in the UK, For Emma, Forever Ago received 5/5 and "Album of the Month" reviews in both MOJO and Uncut magazines. It was the seventh highest rated album of 2008 on review-aggregator site Metacritic, with accolades from publications including The Village Voice, The Hartford Courant and The A.V. Club.[18]

The digital download track "Skinny Love" was selected to be iTunes (UK) single of the week and was available for free during that time, as well as being featured as the track of the day on National Public Radio. Bon Iver was ranked number 8 on's most listened to new music of 2008.[19] Bon Iver's "For Emma, Forever Ago" was ranked number 29 on the Rolling Stone's Top 50 Albums of 2008. In an interview, Vernon said: "I’m really humbled by everything and am keeping things in perspective."[20] On January 26 2009, "Skinny Love" was announced at #21 by Australian national radio station Triple J in the annual Hottest 100 countdown of the previous year's best songs. [21]

[edit] Discography

[edit] Albums

[edit] EPs

[edit] Singles

  • "For Emma" b/w "Wisconsin" (September 15, 2008) (7" vinyl)

[edit] Compilations

[edit] References

  1. ^ "Justin Vernon". 2008-12-13. 
  2. ^ Style analysis on Allmusic
  3. ^ Foley, Ryan (2007-09-11). "Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago". Stylus Magazine. 
  4. ^ Deusner, Stephen (2007-10-04). "Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago". Pitchfork Media. 
  5. ^ Indy Week Article on DeYarmond Edison
  6. ^ DeYarmond Edison on MySpace
  7. ^ a b c Treble Interview
  8. ^ a b Pitchfork Interview
  9. ^ Into the Woods: The New Yorker
  10. ^ New Yorker Interview with Sasha Frere-Jones
  11. ^ Amble Down Records Bio
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Bon Iver signs to Jagjaguwar
  15. ^
  16. ^ Maher, Dave (2007-10-29). "Bon Iver Signs to Jagjaguwar". Pitchfork Media. 
  17. ^ "Black Mountain, Bon Iver Kick Off Joint Tour Tonight". Pitchfork Media. 2008-02-19. 
  18. ^ "Metacritic Music High and Low Scores". Metacritic. 2008-05-16. 
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^
  21. ^,23739,24966001-5012980,00.html
  22. ^ [2]

[edit] Further reading

[edit] External links

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