Kurt Vile first covered the Velvet Underground’s “Run Run Run” when he was 18 at a show in Landsdowne, Pennsylvania — complete with “take a drag or two” subbed out for the local crowd-pleasing “Landsdowne Avenue.” He then performed it with the Velvets’ John Cale in 2017 in honor of the 50th anniversary of The Velvet Underground & Nico. Now, he’s contributing a new take — with his band the Violators — to I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to the Velvet Underground & Nico, out September 24th via Vile’s new label Verve Records.
“Lou Reed/the Velvet Underground were probably my earliest classic rock influence,” Vile tells Rolling Stone. “I loved it. The first time I heard them, I’m sure I was probably stoned. When you hear music like that, so organic and raw, but you know, so confident, all those things combined, [it’s] so cool. So unapologetic. It just has an effect on you that you can’t even necessarily detect at the moment.”
Vile recorded the cover on tour with the Violators a few years ago and finally mixed the track during the pandemic. “We got pretty hypnotic with it,” he says of the relatively faithful rendition of the grooving, guitar-heavy track.
I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to the Velvet Underground & Nico also features covers from Michael Stipe, Iggy Pop with Matt Sweeney, St. Vincent and Thomas Bartlett, and Sharon Van Etten with Angel Olsen; it was executive-produced by the late Hal Willner and marks the last record Lou Reed’s old friend and producer worked on before his his death in 2020.
“The VU are a fundamental part of Verve’s history, and their fearless approach and musical integrity continue to inspire all of us at the label,” head of Verve Records Jamie Krents said in a statement. “We were so lucky to partner with the late Hal Willner to pay tribute to the band’s iconic first album. It’s an absolute honor to have every one of these artists on a Verve recording and we hope this album finds a welcome place in the record collections of VU fans new and old.”
“The beauty of the Velvet Underground is that the possibilities are endless,” Vile says. “You’d never knew until you showed up that day and started playing what exactly it was going to sound like. That’s the beauty of that kind of music. Reacting in the moment. That’s a big part of what I love about the Velvet Underground.”
I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to the Velvet Underground & Nico Tracklist
1. Sunday Morning – Michael Stipe (3:50)
2. I’m Waiting For The Man – Matt Berninger (3:44)
3. Femme Fatale – Sharon Van Etten (w/ Angel Olsen on backing vocals) (4:43)
4. Venus In Furs – Andrew Bird & Lucius (6:55)
5. Run Run Run – Kurt Vile & The Violators (6:59)
6. All Tomorrow’s Parties – St. Vincent & Thomas Bartlett (4:52)
7. Heroin– Thurston Moore feat. Bobby Gillespie (7:24)
8. There She Goes Again – King Princess (3:29)
9. I’ll Be Your Mirror – Courtney Barnett (2:27)
10. The Black Angel’s Death Song – Fontaines D.C. (3:12)
11. European Son – Iggy Pop & Matt Sweeney (7:45)