"Let us, then, be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait" -Longfellow

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Light in the Paw: 10 Questions with Cave Singers

Tapestries from the cave: Cave Singers release Naomi
Seattle foursome Cave Singers (Pete Quirk, Derek Fudesco, Marty Lund, and Morgan Henderson) may have flown under far too many radars, but they've been prolifically busy since their debut in 2007. Released today, Naomi is the indie folk-rock group's fourth LP. Like Invitation Songs, Welcome Joy, and No Witch before it, this record invokes the muddy blues-rock of CCR every bit as much as is does some nostalgic campfire folk reverie in yellows and blacks. Naomi finds Cave Singers sounding more sophisticated (read: more polish and less non-specific grit) and catchy (read: they're writing damn infectious songs) in their blending of heartland honey and hollering. Harmonica, melodica, bronzen crisp electric guitar, occasional coos, and comparatively reserved percussion surround the comfortingly sweet and nasal rasp of lead-singer Pete Quirk as he carries on about fading strands of maybe history, love, nature, and our vanishing natures for love. There are no hammer heavy songs on this record — like "Dancing on Our Graves" from Invitation Songs — but over the past few albums the band has moved to a brighter and fuller palette and doesn't have to rely on that kind of saturation to grab us. Particular album gems include "Have to Pretend" which slinks along dressed in a calm coo and a forceful lead vocal, "It's a Crime" which is a groovy steamroller of a track with a jagged 60's garage vibe, "Evergreens" which is Naomi's soul swaying in the moonlight candle of her restless eyes, and "Northern Lights" which is a gorgeously ornate song with soulful breakdowns and lyrics musing on isolation and triumph and love. Naomi is a statement in restraint, creative progress, and groundedness by a band that's doing what it does better than almost anyone else and that deservedly carries the freshwater purity of American folk-rock into a future full of electro-murk. 
Go get Naomi... And the Cave Singers other three albums if you don't have them already. Below read my 10 Questions with singer Pete Quirk and listen to "It's a Crime."
You can stream the album HERE.

1. With bands, as with all things, history is an important dimension to consider. Please tell me a bit about the Cave Singers' collective and individual histories.
As we are a collective of individuals, we are conjoined in the pupil of a metaphoric eye, that gazes upon life inquisitively. We are located under the gray blouse of the pacific Northwest, but a little history... Derek and myself originally hail from the East Coast, whereas Marty and Morgan are Washingtonian natives. In our previous lives we are convinced that as specks of light we shared the same leaf for an afternoon, but spoke none and went about our day.

2. As a follow up on the previous question, and by way of leading into the following one, what do you see as the tie between personal/cultural experience and creativity? In what ways do you see this element as a strength in a collective? To what extent is the band's sound collectively conceived?
As a plant needs water, creativity/art needs experience.
But I guess it is what we do with experience, do we learn from it? Or do we pile it up in the backyard never considering what lessons it may contain?

Friendship is at the core of our beliefs as a collective/band of mortals. Underneath the storm swells of the music, we are indebted to a peace we find in one another, that usually results in laughter and mockery. But do not fret, we have a safety word if things get too hot in the kitchen/van.

We experience as individuals; and process our days in different ways. As a band, we have found and continue to find a unified consciousness, that is a dimension we would not have access to on our own.

3. As the group's sound has gently grown and matured, from Invitation Songs to No Witch and now with Naomi, how has the process of creation changed and been refined? Musically? Lyrically? Has the gradual smoothing of the literal and figurative jagged edges been the result of a growing tranquility or a cleaner studio approach, or both?
A constant state of change is upon us whether we like it or not, as far as refined? I’m not sure about that one. We seem to dress better.
Tranquility, possibly from time to time. Also uncomfortability, heartsick, joy, wonder, agitation, lostness, redemption - happy to be there to endure, watching the sea chew on the shore.

4. What was the making of Naomi like? What interesting new challenges arose? What is the significance of the title? Also, will you address, from an aesthetic standpoint, the evolution in sound that this album represents.
Sort of like setting up camp. I guess the whole deal was one big challenge, but we were dedicated to the idea that we were going to work as diligently as possible, without much reservation. Less weed butter and arguments over appetizers? No basketball or soccer, but fondly remembering as the sun went down. An incredible amount of gyro boy. Espresso machine!

Essentially a disconnect from the world at large, to focus on the stage where our collective stories take place. Naomi laid on the tops of the trees at night burping out stars for us.

5. How would you describe this record, your previous records, and your music in general in terms of weather?
Cloudy with a chance...

6. There are certain unique lyrical opportunities with music like yours, that tends toward a folky heart. Cave Singers lyrics have contained a lot of material about home, love and death. Please explain your lyric writing process. What level of importance is placed on lyrics? What themes do you feel most compelled to address and why?
Overall, lyrics are very important to me. I find spoken language's relationship with music puzzling and ultimately fascinating. And I work at lyrics rather obsessively, with hopefully some economy and love. I gather they float somewhere between meaning and being and serve as human notes with some narrative purpose.

The music and its demeanor steers what words/phrases and images seem to materialize while we’re jamming/writing, there’s something mysterious in their arrival that I don’t tend to question.

If lyrics have a good sense of humor about themselves, they seem to be more likable.

7. I'm interested in musical influences, as well as other types of general influences. For this question  who are the strongest specifically musical influences on your work?
For me it’s a mixed bag of musicians and writers. And also friends and families are influences, everyone out in the world is pitching in, and I try to do my part to pour some color into the stream. But today, I was listening to Neutral Milk Hotel, Kurt Vile, Paul Simon and Jana Hunter. Talk radio about snow tires. The wrapping up of a basketball game and few seconds of static.  And I was reading some James Tate poems, the I Saw U’s in the weekly, some Pema Chodron and my electrical bill. What a day! Oh and I had a good to great Cobb Salad too! And I’m totally going bowling later...

8. Speaking more generally about influences, what other things influence how/what Cave Singers create? How have experiences with literature, philosophy, and the other arts shaped the music and the approach?
Everything’s an influence in one way or another. I have been to a few dance/art performances lately, very inspiring. Zoe/Juniper a particular favorite. Exceptional in the friend department too.

9. A topic I have resolved to start bringing up with all the folks I talk to  I wonder what y'all's thoughts are about music downloading and the changing face of the music biz, philosophically and practically...?
I don’t think about it much, to be honest.

10. I've always thought Cave Singers was a sweet band name. Will you talk about the meaning of that name.
It’s a little bit of light, that hides in the monkey’s paw.


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