On multitasker Andy
Cabic’s tightly knit potential (and his new album, due Feb. 17).
BY MICHAEL D. AYERS
You may think of Andy Cabic as a
folk musician- and by all means, I had lumped him into that folkie revivalist group,
too. Last year’s Thing of The Past reveled in rare gems from forgotten artists of Americana’s by-gone days;
his work with Devendra Banhart’s studio albums and touring band would lead to
that assumption, too. But the way Cabic
explains it to me make sense. The difference for him is between what he calls a
“true folkie,” and what he describes himself as- “a simple pop song
writer.” It started in his adopted
hometown of San Francisco,
where he took some banjo lessons with folk legend Jody Stecher.
“That really crystallized it for
me; I saw a real difference here in what inspires and what drives,” he explains,
of his time spent with Stecher. One day,
Stecher asked Cabic to play him a Vetiver tune.
So he did, sparking a moment of mutual confusion. “He asked “why did you do that,” and I said
“I don’t know,” Cabic recalls. “He was so troubled by that, but I thought it
was such a crazy question” Stecher went
on to play a song of his, and bit by bit, demonstrated each part,
deconstructing the tune, while simultaneously placing its parts in a proper
folk lineage- where the melody came from, the chorus, every part. “I saw it through a true folkie- the value of
the song is a composite of these traditions and how you put them together. The lineage, which is what matters, makes
that a valid thing.”
Cabic describes Vetiver- which was
once considered a moniker, but now is a full band – as relying more on a Tropicalia
sense of gathering and collecting influences.
Growing up, he was never a “phase guy”- but describes himself more a
“record store guy.” “I would buy what is
ever cheap and what is interesting,” he says.
“I bought a lot of cassettes, a lot of vinyl and would just ask the
clerks if there’s anything they particularly like.” Mazzy Star, The Replacements, and Paisley
Underground groups became fixtures; during his college years at the University of North Carolina
he devoured up Polvo, Superchunk, and Erectus Monotone.
The latter half of this decade has
been a slow, but steady climb for Vetiver.
Cabic’s started his own record label, Gnomonsong, which has released
records by bay area psych-poppers Papercuts and lo-fi songstress Jana
Hunter. On Vetiver’s 2004’s self-titled
debut, Cabic set the tone and template for what has become a fruitful period,
driven by his whispery, hushed voice, and he’s slowly expanding the sounds over
the last five years, to include familiar notions of ‘60s psych-pop and tinges
of garage-rock embedded within a rather delicate, warm, guitar driven agenda.
2008 appears to have been pivotal
year for Cabic. He toured with The Black
Crowes and signed with Sub Pop for his fourth record, Tight Knit. “[the material]
has been gestating differently,” he says.
“Since To Find Me Gone, I’ve
pulled together this band, and it’s a reaction to playing out live more; it’s a
reaction to recording Thing of the Past. To me, it seems to be a summation of all
three albums, when I look to it.”
Indeed, Tight Knit poaches from Cabic’s own past, while carving out its own
place in the Vetiver library. Its
fuller, and expansive; Cabic pairs a faint warble over a more poppy drum beat
during “Sister,” the sunny, jangle of “Everyday,” and “Another Reason to Go”
riffs on a funkier sound, complete with catchy organ riffs and horns; Cabic
sounds soulful, confident, and matured.
Fans of his older work won’t be disappointed; all of this is framed
within the Vetiver context; Cabic still retains that poignant, humbled delivery
during “Through the Front Door” and the soft, quiet opener “Rolling Sea.”
like the string-along psych of “Down from Above,” Vetiver’s future still
retains the potential to be that slow burner his career has taken. While things have recently caught a bit of
momentum for Cabic, he’s still trying to remain realistic about his work’s
potential for bigger things. “I’d love
for people to hear what I’m doing,” he says.
“I wonder if you climb those tiers, if your music fits in a certain
context that will accommodate larger crowds, bigger venues. I hope our music can do that. Something about my voice and our songs
contains an intimacy, so that’s a tricky thing to do.”
[Photo Credit: Alissa Anderson]