EXCLUSIVE: In the Studio With Bon Iver
Justin Vernon tells the story behind April Base, the Wisconsin studio he built that spawned Bon Iver's hit album.
Although Justin Vernon sings “This is not a place” on “Perth,” the opening track off Bon Iver’s self-titled sophomore record, “place” was indeed an essential element in making the hit album. In this exclusive video, shot for SPIN by Minneapolis-based director and Bon Iver pal Dan Huiting, Vernon — who graces the cover of our July issue — takes us inside April Base, his Wisconsin studio where the new songs came to life.
Vernon and his brother, Nate, found the property in 2008, just a few miles from their childhood home outside Eau Claire, Wisconsin. “We didn’t know exactly what we were looking for,” Vernon says in the video. “We came into this place, and it was kind of just a normal ranch house.” But when the realtor showed them a segment of the house containing a moldy indoor pool, backed by a giant window, the brothers’ interest was piqued and they bought it. The space was turned into a studio, with a hardwood gym floor procured from a Minnesota middle-school covering the pool.
As the brothers and their friends built out April Base — named for a secret military installation on The X-Files — it began to have a profound influence on the music being recorded for Bon Iver. “‘Building’ became a metaphor for the record, and it was also this place that sort of felt like summer camp,” Vernon says. “Moving in here, and truly becoming a team while building this place had a lot to do with the new record’s color.”
Watch the video here. Look for the part near the end when Vernon talks about his favorite gear, including the Korg M1 keyboard that helped shape the record, Bruce Hornsby & the Range style.
This video originally appeared on SPIN Play, our new iPad app, where you can find exclusive clips like this one every month, plus 60 streaming songs, daily news, album reviews, SPIN magazine stories, photos, and other goodies. Find out more.
In the Studio: Bon Iver