Arts & CultureMusic

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile celebrate friendship in ‘Lotta Sea Lice’ singles



Sustaining a friendship between Australia and the United States isn’t easy, but somehow Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile make it look easy.

Intercontinental friendship and the platonic admiration between two people are at the center of Barnett and Vile’s new project and supergroup, the Sea Lice. After years of admiring each other’s work from different continents, the duo is releasing an album, “Lotta Sea Lice,” on Oct. 13. The duo will be touring, with a stop in Portland later this month, following the album’s release. Touring members of the Sea Lice include Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss, as well as Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint.

Barnett, the Australian, holds the indie-rock world in the palm of her hands. Her albums feature clever songwriting, a Lou Reed-esque delivery and gritty guitar. Vile, the American, is well into his solo career after leaving the psychedelic indie-rock group, The War on Drugs, in 2008. Vile’s main group, Kurt Vile and the Violators, produces hazy indie-folk that sometimes takes a more serious tone than Barnett’s.

“I woke up this morning / didn’t recognize the man in the mirror / then I laughed and I said, ‘Oh silly me, that’s just me,’” Vile sings in the 2015 track “Pretty Pimpin.”

Barnett and Vile released two singles for their album in the last few months, and these songs see the two artists’ styles melding into one. The songs sound like the musical equivalent of best friends finishing each other’s sentences, and even when they are sad, they have a warm tone.

“Continental Breakfast” celebrates the duo’s friendship. The two musicians have distinct musical styles, but together, their voices intertwine as they mumble lyrics about having no sense of place in the world except for friendship. Barnett’s voice careens to reach Vile’s, and sometimes he’ll meet her speak-singing in the middle.

“I cherish my intercontinental friendships / not much very big on enemies / so I kick a can way up into the sun, man / but it falls down into a ravine / I don’t mean to even think about it that way, but I do,” they sing with ease.

On the album’s other single, “Over Everything,” Barnett and Vile take on the feeling of boredom, or rather stagnation, and turn it into a song. “I wanna dig into my guitar and bend a blues riff that hangs / over everything,” Vile croons.

All in all, these singles make the project seems promising. Like old friends falling into step again, Vile and Barnett have found their groove.

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile (and the Sea Lice) play Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland on Oct. 20 at 8 p.m. Jen Cloher opens. Tickets cost $30 to $45, and one dollar from every ticket purchase goes to the ACLU.  For tickets and more event info visit: www.portland5.com/arlene-schnitzer-concert-hall. For more information on the duo’s collaboration, visit www.courtneybarnettandkurtvile.com/home.

Follow Sararosa on Twitter @srosiedosie.


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Sararosa Davies

Sararosa Davies

Sararosa Davies is the senior A&C editor at the Emerald. A former editor at the youth-run music blog Garage Music News, her written work has been featured in City Pages in Minneapolis, Eugene Weekly and Sirius XM's music blog. She's one of many Minnesotan transplants in Oregon.

Send her tips and questions at [email protected] or check out her work at www.sararosadavies.com