THERE’S no such thing as a casual Bon Iver fan.
If you’ve ever been touched by Justin Vernon’s music, you’re a convert for life – and that’s certainly the case with four fans we encountered at a listening party for fourth album i,i at Jet Black Cat Music in Brisbane.
Each has expressed their love of Bon Iver in the most permanent way possible: a tattoo that immortalises a song lyric, a significant symbol, even a sketch of the infamous cabin where he crafted his debut. They share the stories behind their ink below.
Who did your tattoo: Cody Hincks from Seventh Circle Tattoo in Woolloongabba [inner-city Brisbane].
Where on your body is your tattoo located: Inside of my right forearm.
What does your tattoo mean to you: Well, it is the cabin from the artwork of the second album [Bon Iver, Bon Iver] and it symbolises the cabin in which Justin Vernon wrote the first album in [For Emma, Forever Ago] which are tied as my favourite Bon Iver records. I feel like the tattoo ties both of those albums together and represents both isolation and creating something really beautiful out of something really sad, which I was at the time: isolated and sad. The tattoo is a sketch done by a friend of mine that I decided to put inside an empty circle I already had. Cody just literally tattooed the sketch, so it means even more to me now because it was my friend’s interpretation of the artwork tattooed onto me. He really copied all of the lines that she drew exactly so it was really a collaborative effort.
When did you get your tattoo: Want to know something stupid? I looked this up today, I showed my friend the slip with my quote on it and it said “29th of the 2nd 2019”. That’s not a real date! It’s not a leap year. So I got it done on an imaginary day. I think he meant to write the first.
What does Bon Iver mean to you: Oh wow, when For Emma came out in 2007, I think that was really the cusp of when streaming was becoming a big thing. For me it was really the last time that I would have music on my iPod. Whenever I’d get on a bus I’d just play that album and now we all have access to everything. Whatever your favourite band is this week is probably something you found out about last month. So those first albums were something that I had on my computer that I put on to go to sleep every night. I don’t think anything from that point forward will have the same effect on me, because we don’t possess music the same way as we used to.
"I feel like the tattoo ties both of those albums together and represents both isolation and creating something really beautiful out of something really sad."
Who did your tattoo: A guy in Amsterdam. I can’t remember his name but the studio was on the same street as my hostel.
What is your tattoo of and where on your body is it located: It’s the hand yin and yang and it’s from the back cover artwork of the 22, A Million album artwork. It’s on my left arm above my elbow on the inside of my arm.
What does your tattoo mean to you: I just had a really intense, traumatic break up and 22, A Million had just come out when I decided to go overseas. I listened to it on repeat throughout my flight from Australia to London. It was my first solo trip and I just remember feeling this intense feeling of “everything’s going to be okay”. I remember listening to ’22 (OVER S∞∞N)’ and that beautiful ethereal string swell came on just as we were taking off. I just felt like “It’s all going to be fine.”
What does Bon Iver’s music mean to you: Ahhh, just everything good. It means recovery and reassurance that there are so many beautiful things in the world.
"I remember listening to '22 (OVER S∞∞N)’ and that beautiful ethereal string swell came on just as we were taking off."
Who did your tattoo: I got my tattoo in Sydney by a girl called Emily who is also a Bon Iver fan. So we bonded over that and we listened to the Bon Iver back catalogue while it was being done. I was in Sydney listening to 22, A Million and I loved all the imagery that was attached to all the songs and I just really wanted one. This one is the symbol accompaniment to ‘715 – CR∑∑KS’.
Where is it on your body: It’s on my left shoulder. I’m working on a sleeve and wanted to incorporate some Bon Iver into it.
What does your tattoo mean to you: Oh wow. Well, it means quite a lot [laughs]. I’ve always been a fan in 2016 when 22, A Million was released, that was a particularly challenging year for me and ‘Creeks’ was a stand out song. I saved hundreds in therapy. I would drive to the river and just play that song on repeat and just that ritual and that song really got me through a lot of stuff.
What does Bon Iver’s music mean to you: I love Bon Iver’s music, but I love that it’s not just Justin. I really think that Michael Lewis is such an important part of that band, I love his sax, and I think Mark Beaumont did a really good job on his biography – that’s my favourite book. Its highlighted, its dogeared, and really worn out.
"I would drive to the river and just play that song on repeat and just that ritual and that song really got me through a lot of stuff."
Who did your tattoo: Josh Wade from Brisbane Bodyart in Cannon Hill.
Where is it on your body and what is it of: On my left wrist. It’s a small ‘33’ facing up toward me so I could always look down and see it. It is for me.
What does your tattoo mean to you: I decided a little while I was going to get one before I actually got it. 22, A Million came out and really entranced me, ’33 “GOD”’ became more than a song, but more of a mood for me and I spent a lot of time thinking about what the song meant for me. Special times with friends and my girlfriend became “33 moments”. The music that I make now, under the moniker ’33’ is a direct result of being inspired by Bon Iver.
What does Bon Iver’s music mean to you: That’s a tough question. I find a lot of parallels in their music and my life. 22, A Million for me, very much felt like being lost somewhere I didn’t know and over the course of the album, coming home; how my life kind of progressed after hearing the album. It became more than just the music itself, it became what it means to me. You don’t just listen to it because you want to dance around. You listen to it because you want to access those moments of where you were when you heard it. And I can find so many moments of listening to ’33’ in the good times and the bad times and that’s what Bon Iver’s music encapsulates for me. Accessing those moments.
"You don’t just listen to it because you want to dance around. You listen to it because you want to access those moments of where you were when you heard it."