ROCKING THE CAVERN The Cave Singers

With a new album and a new label,
the Seattle
combo turns it up. Way up.

 

BY
JENNIFER KELLY

 

No
Witch
is more ambitious and bigger sounding than anything we’ve done
before,” says Cave Singers drummer Marty Lund, speaking of his band’s third
full-length album, out last month on Jagjaguwar.  

 

“Our last
two albums were a little bit mellow,” he adds. 
“When we’d play those songs live, they would be way more up.  So that’s what we wanted to capture on No
Witch
.  We wanted the album to sound
more like our live show.”

 

The Cave
Singers, out of Seattle,
have always infused backwoods country and blues with a fractious punk
energy.  That’s only natural, given that
the band’s members come from more aggressive outfits, bass player Derek Fudesco
from Pretty Girls Make Graves, singer Pete Quirk out of Hint Hint and Lund from Cobra High.
They started in 2007 and recorded two albums for Matador, Invitation Songs in 2007 and Welcome Joy in 2009. 

 

The band
connected with the Black Mountain family, just up the coast in Vancouver, convincing
Lightning Dust’s Amber and Ashley Webber to guest on their second album, Welcome Joy and touring with their band
in 2009.  For No Witch, they asked
Black Mountain producer Randall Dunn to help
them bring on the rock (Dunn has also worked with heavies like Sun O))) and
Boris). 

 

“The
material we brought to record with Randall was definitely more rock than
before,” says Lund.  “And we knew we wanted to play with more
aggression, too.  Still, the way that
Randall was able to capture the sound was important.   When we listened to some of the songs, they
were just so much bigger than we had anticipated.  It was awesome.”  

 

No
Witch
is the Cave
Singers’ first album on Jagjaguwar, which is, not coincidentally, also the
label that releases Black
Mountain and Lightning
Dust’s material.  “We’ve known the
Jagjaguwar guys, just kind of as acquaintances, for a while.  We stayed at Darius [Van Arman]’s house long
before we were talking about being on their label,” he says.  “Then at SXSW last year, he came up to us and
said, ‘Sounds great.  I’d be interested
in talking to you guys.’  And we thought,
that’s perfect.  What a great label.”

 

Cave
Singers is gearing up for another tour this spring, but it will be hard to
match their road experience last fall. 
In September the band went to China
for two weeks, playing shows in cities including Beijing,
Shanghai, Cheng
Du, Wu Han and  Chung Quing.  “That was amazing,” says Lund. 
“It was definitely the most incredible experience of my life.  I’ve been to Europe and Central
America, but that was completely different. Like a complete
culture shock.”

 

“Every
single minute of every day was different. 
There was nothing the same,” Lund
continues.  “I mean, obviously, people
still eat and talk.  But everything’s
different.  Like just down to the way
people talk.  Obviously, I couldn’t
understand people, but the way people interact with each other.  Personal space is different.  They have a different way with that.  The food. 
For me, I was familiar with Vietnamese food, but I didn’t know a lot
about Chinese food, so every day there was something new.”

 

Because
of the language barrier, Lund
says it was hard to connect with regular people, ordinarily one of his favorite
parts of touring.  Still he does remember
one stilted conversation with a young rock and roll fan at a vintage clothing
store in Shanghai.  “We were just talking about music and how he
liked Aerosmith and stuff,” he says. 
“That is one of my favorite things about traveling, so it was nice, once
in a while, to get to chat with someone.”

 

Lund says he and his bandmates were
blown away by some traditional tourist sites (The Great Wall), as well as some
less expected ones.  “We went to a
trannie bar in one city, where there was a drag show going on,” he says.  “That’s definitely not something that you
expect, and it’s pretty neat that they’re able to have this little enclave
where they could be into that thing and be comfortable.”

 

But
mostly, Lund says, he was fascinated by the
sheer foreign-ness of daily life in China.  “There were times when I would just sit
outside and watch people,” he recalls. 
“Everything is a lot more squeezed in. 
Everything’s more crowded and it creates a different vibe.  I never got tired of it.”    

 

A version of this story also appears in the latest print edition of BLURT.

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