Justin Vernon hates giving interviews, but the voice memos he shares on the new PEOPLE streaming service are a good stand-in. Driving around Lowry Hill in Minneapolis, Vernon explains that the music industry and celebrity culture have made him both shy and angry, off and on, since For Emma, Forever Ago. “Granted, I was on an independent record label,” he says, praising Jagjaguwar. “But we’re all kind of playing the same thing.”
One work-around he and his friends have dreamed up is this service, or “publishing platform,” where you can find unreleased and in-progress work from bands like the National, Poliça, and hopefully many more to come. It’s not like Spotify, Apple Music, or Tidal, because it’s free. It’s not like SoundCloud, because not just anyone can upload music. The point isn’t competition, as Vernon explains in his “Thoughts on People 1:” “We’re trying to break the system or even live beside it.”
Browsing around the website, you can find music by members of Doomtree, Solid Gold, Boys Noize, Poliça, Trampled by Turtles, Roma di Luna, the Staves, Francis and the Lights, Marijuana Deathsquads, Velvet Negroni, the National, Ultra Suede, Catsax, Father You See Queen, and many more projects. But you might not recognize them as such right away. Instead of Boys Noize, you’ll see Alex Ridha. Lazerbeak becomes Aaron Mader. Har Mar Superstar is Sean Tillman [sic]. A few producers (Psymun, ICETEP) continue to go by their stage names. But for the most part, the nomenclature levels the field.
The platform’s treasures include “Tell You Girls,” a Roma di Luna song recorded in 2011 and performed during the encore of the band’s last Cedar Cultural Center show; “Memories,” a Leonard Cohen cover by Sufjan Stevens, members of the National, and more, intended as a wedding gift for Bryce Dessner and his spouse Pauline; “Star Mouth,” a collaboration between Vernon, Andrew Broder, Psymun, Ryan Olson, and Alex Nutter. Phoebe Bridgers is credited on four new Big Red Machine songs (and rumored to perform at Eaux Claires IV this summer).
There’s a lot more to listen to, and if you get overwhelmed digging through the lists, you can also hit play on the radio, labeled “Music is for everyone.”
PEOPLE will hold their second festival in Berlin from August 18-19, 2018.