I say it all the time
You don’t pay no mind
when I tell you that I love you
Now do ya?
I wanna be clear
All I wanna hear is your voice
Have your face to see
How happy that would make me
“I guess that’s true within my own songwriting, where something accrues and amasses to be a sound that one could say is Vetiver. I wouldn’t say I’m doing it intentionally or by design, but if I dig deep into any of my favorite artists or writers an invitation to happenstance and happy accidents might play into the form of their work, too,” says Andy Cabic, Vetiver’s songwriter/leader/soul, a man cautious to a fault when speaking about his music, eager to never give anyone too firm a nail to hang anything on his work. Still, there’s a reoccurring vibe that tells one they’re listening to Vetiver and no one else. “I know what you mean! But the fact that we would have a hard time putting our finger on it makes me skeptical about people who seem to easily put their finger on it.”
Case in point, the band’s Wikipedia entry describes them as “an American folk band.” Other common misses in describing their sound include “indie psych-folk,” “Americana” or the dreaded “freak folk.” Most writers focus on one aspect of the band, namely the more patient, airy numbers, which completely misses the subliminal swing or blues toughness that also runs through their catalog. Vetiver is so fluid in their execution of whatever they’re playing that one gets the feeling they could play anything and play it well. It’s a wide musical grasp and quiet confidence that’s seen them called into service as the touring band for The Jayhawks‘ Gary Louris and Vashti Bunyan.
“[In describing the band’s sound] I might describe the instrumentation. I say I’m a singer-songwriter, because at the root of the project that’s what’s happening. I’m writing these songs and I’m not living with or practicing with my band until right before a tour. Usually I just tell people to go listen to something we’ve done,” offers Cabic sensibly. And he’s right about the songwriting being the foundation of everything in Vetiver, where one hears tunes that have been refined until just what needs to be there remains. However, he knows full well there’s a lot of competition for your ears. “There’s just so many people doing music. You have this surfeit of things to choose from, and if that continues, realistically, there won’t even be a need to hear anything old 10-20 years from now because there’ll be this plurality of options everywhere, more even than we have now.”
In a very real way, it can feel overwhelming just choosing what to listen to given all that’s out there, especially knowing there’s more on the way, and then more after that. In a way, the purity of Vetiver’s music, the way it feels a part of something sturdier than fashion and charts, provides a bit of an oasis from the sonic onslaught. Press play and one is transported to the Vetiverse, where music is just this fine human creation to be enjoyed and allowed to inform our hunting and gathering. We all need music of retreat, our safety spots, and Vetiver is a swell one (and by the way, for Cabic it’s Skeeter Davis).
Continue reading for more on Vetiver…
While frequently tagged as California hippies making mellow rock, Vetiver draws inspiration from a vast, unpredictable pool of ancestors. Their 2008 cover tune album, Thing of the Past (and companion EP, More of the Past) went some distance at showing there’s more going on below the surface than Crosby, Stills & Nash and the like.
Tight Knit resonates this diversity but in a way that defies one to follow the accents back to their sources. It is, without question, their most blended album to date, and as such it may not leap out quite as quickly as their previous original release, 2006’s To Find Me Gone (JamBase review). However, Tight Knit is a quintessential grower that amply rewards a slow drip into the subconscious leaving behind a rich yet elusive aftertaste.
“The album is a collection of songs and different approaches that I found a way to sequence together with the album art and title to kind of unify them. For a while there I wasn’t sure it was gonna work, but in the end I think it did,” Cabic says. “I didn’t set out to show off some sort of range or anything. I’m sure there’s many people who would hear it and NOT hear that range at all, taking it all as sort of subdued and quiet. I always liken it to painting. A painter spends an inordinate time working and staring at this space and then this person is going to just walk by it in a museum or gallery and look at it for 30 seconds. I never expect I’m going to get ‘time spent’ in return that I spent on it, but it’s nice when that happens.”
Though possibly a stretch for some ears, this writer picks up on some of the winged loft of U2 in the new material, say “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” or “A Sort of Homecoming” stripped of bombast but not their heart tickling sparkle. Vetiver is also developing a poppier edge that’s not dissimilar to the Irish quartet’s moves that ultimately landed them in the Top 10. It’s pop but pop crafted on their terms and not the prevailing markets. All Music remarked that Tight Knit‘s “Everyday” was “peppy, perfect for a soda pop commercial.” Really?
“[Laughs] Oh, I certainly was working on pushing things in as poppy a direction as I knew how. Probably what they’re saying is in popular culture typically ridiculously catchy songs like Feist‘s ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ wind up proving it in some ad. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all, but I did push things as far as I could as far as catchiness goes,” says Cabic, whose music actively reaches out – it’s engaging and easy to enjoy in a hurry – but in musical not commercially minded ways. “It’s not always been that way. For a while the body of our music was more melancholic and quiet and didn’t survive in a bar atmosphere. But this album has more songs that allow us, in a live setting, to take things in different directions depending on what the setting is like.”
“I think we’re still figuring it all out,” says Cabic, putting a fittingly opaque, oblique spot of punctuation on our conversation, keeping the edges of his private galaxy open and ready for further exploration.
Vetiver tour dates available here.
JamBase | In The Tall Grass
Go See Live Music!
Dave Matthews Band will return to the road this summer in support of an upcoming new studio album.
Former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne has announced the American Utopia Tour in support of his upcoming new solo album.
Check out photos and listen to every set played on Sunday in Boca Raton at the Sunshine Music Festival.
A North Country Reunion: Ominous Seapods Perform Together In Upstate New York - Recap, Photos, Videos & Setlist
Veteran jam act Ominous Seapods reunited over the weekend for three shows. Here’s full coverage of the band’s first concert back.
Watch an episode of ‘Austin City Limits’ featuring Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit and Amanda Shires.
Watch Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds perform “Waste” by Phish and welcome Brandi Carlile for “Angel Of Montgomery.”