Interview with Andy Cabic of VETIVER; Playing A.T.P. this weekend! (@vetiverse)
For years now I have always put a track from Vetiver on all my road-trip mix tapes. The music lends itself well to journeying and traveling, leaving you always with a hint of nostalgia- the good kind, that leaves you half smiling.
I had the pleasure of speaking with lead singer/ songwriter, Andy Cabic, of Vetiver during their tour stop at Lovin’ Cup Bistro in Rochester, NY. I arrived early and spoke to Tom Kohn, owner of Bop Shop Records and show host, and found out that band member Otto Hauser had worked for Bop Shop for quite some time. I’d been listening to this band for years and had no idea a few of its current members (Otto and Bob) had lived right in my hometown.
A very relaxed and spirited Andy greeted me and took the time to sit down and speak with me before putting on a truly lovely show, with Big Search, a group from L.A., opening. When the musicians began we were greeted by lulling and lilting rhythms that entered our skulls and reminded us of the feeling of being home. Vetiver is a group that creates music that takes you to a familiar place in your memories, even if you’ve never listened to them before.
If by chance you’re reading this and you haven’t listened to them, I’ve been instructed that the best way to listen for the first time, is to put on a pair of headphones, and go for a walk around somewhere you know and love. The music will make you love this place even more, I assure you.
Sara: Hi Andy! Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with Live High Five.
Andy: Yeah no problem, it’s my pleasure.
Sara: So I’ve heard a lot about you and your collaborations with Devendra Banhart, but I’d really like to focus on you and your band, and I don’t really know a lot about the other members of the band and their piece to the puzzle so could you introduce us to them?
Andy: Well, my names Andy, and the touring band right now is:
Otto Hauser – drums
Sarah Versprille – keyboard
Daniel Hindman – guitar
Bob Parins – bass
I’ve been playing with them since about 2010, Otto is the longest, Sarah and Dan came in next and Bob came in last. The lineup changes though, sometimes some of them aren’t available and I play with other people. They all are wonderful, talented musicians who keep themselves busy when they’re not touring with Vetiver. I write the songs in the group and I live in San Fransisco, Sara and Dan live in Portland, and Bob and Otto live in New York. Sara and Dan have a group called Pure Bathing Culture. Bob has his own group. We all sort of play with different people.
Sara: Do you feel like those bands sort of influence Vetiver, or Vetiver influences them? Or is it just a completely different thing?
Andy: No, I think they’re all pretty different. I’ve been writing songs and doing this before I played with any of them.
Sara: Yeah. Now I’m really curious, where did the name Vetiver come from? I think it’s very fitting for the band.
Andy: Well at the time I knew it as a scent, as like an essential oil, and a smell. It was something I liked and didn’t really know a whole lot about its uses as a plant, but I’ve grown to appreciate that over time.
Sara; So when I first heard your music I was actually sitting at the side of a pool, sunbathing, in a daydream and I think I actually heard “The Swimming Song” ironically enough. But I’ve heard your music sort of described as a “pool side listener” or ‘background track”. Do you feel like that’s an accurate description of it, or do you feel like people are sort of missing what you’re trying to get out there?
Andy: You know it’s however it fits into someone’s life. There’s a lot of music, and a lot of moments and people match them how they want to. Certainly I put a lot of thought and time into recordings. I think the music can be really subtle and a lot of times it’s soft, and not aggressive in the sense that it’s going to demand your attention and dominate a situation. But I think if you put on headphones it’s adaptable. A lot of music, like Motown is music people put on in the background, and they’ve heard it a million times and at first you don’t notice it, but when you listen really carefully you hear the great musicianship and the good writing, and things that go on. I like to think that our songs have some element of that to them- they sound great when you’re having a barbeque or doing something else, but if you listen more attentively you’ll here what else is going on.
Sara: Yeah, there is that versatility. I feel that the music has really contributed to the memories that I had, so I definitely agree with you. So you just released… well, fairly recently released your album, Errant Charm.
Andy: Yeah it’s been a while. I’m a slow mover, but that was last year.
Sara: That was the last album though, correct?
Andy: That’s right
Sara: I was just curious what is your favorite song to play off of that album?
Andy: Off the last record? Um I like playing “Hard To Break” that’s probably my favorite song to play
Sara: Is there any particular reason?
Andy: It’s just a song that has a lot of elements I like. It’s got some tight little almost like bossa nova beats, and it’s really catchy. I’m enjoying the songs that are more up, and happy, and catchy. Those are the songs I’ve been enjoying these days.
Sara: Absolutely. So what is the first thing that comes to mind for a show where you really enjoyed playing with the other artist?
Andy: Well we’ve really been fortunate to play or tour with people that we’re friends with. I did a tour with Richard Swift a couple years ago, and he was someone whose music I really enjoyed, and we hadn’t met before, but it worked out really well. We’ve done lots of shows with this band called Fruit Bats from Portland that we’re really close with. We did a tour with Fleet Foxes and another tour with Beach House who we really like.
Sara: So I heard that when you recorded Errant Charm you did a lot of walking around when you were in the writing process of the music, and I was just thinking about how the music really lends itself to driving and road-trips, I was just curious as to why you chose to walk around as opposed to driving around?
Andy: Well it’s funny that statement and my walking is my press release but it’s turned into this whole thing where people assume I wrote the whole record walking around or something like that. The way that was meant was to create a scenario or an instructive way for people who have never heard the record before to put on headphones, and to go for a walk. Corollary with that it said that I was walking around and worked on the songs, but that’s what I’ve done for years. I live in San Francisco but it’s very pedestrian friendly and my neighborhood is great for walking around in. So when I was working on the record, which I recorded in various places over some time, as I was getting to the stage of editing and working on the lyrics I would put them all on rough demos, rough mixes and walk around and just like sing to myself and hone in on the words. So that’s how that played out. But that’s really all the walking was about. I think that the way it seemed to make sense for me and walking around, if you’re walking around your usually doing it in a familiar setting. It’s near your house. I thought that the pace of the album fit well with a familiarity with places you love, assuming you love where you live.
Sara: So is that sort of what you wanted people to take away from it?
Andy: Well just that I thought that that would be a good way to first listen to that record. You know if you’re gunna put on a record for the first time, do you do it at home? Most people do. I mean do you do it over some shitty computer speakers? I don’t know how most people listen to a record for the first time. I was sort of trying to, in that press release, set people up for, okay here’s the new Vetiver record: put on some headphones, go for a walk, and listen to this record. That’s how I was envisioning it, and it turned into this whole thing about “Oh, he wrote it while walking, and it’s all about walking:. No its not, I was just saying as a suggestion.
Sara: Well, I’m glad we got that straight.
Andy: Well it’s funny, it comes up all the time. Is this a walking record? Well, I don’t know, is it? I was just suggesting it might sound good that way.
Sara: I actually tend to listen to new records driving, I don’t know why.
Andy: And it would be fine there too.
Sara: Is that okay to do?
Andy: Yeah that’s fine. Yeah.
Sara: What do you do when you’re not writing music or playing music?
Andy: You know it seems like for years I was on a schedule of doing a lot of stuff like that. So this is the first year where it’s been more relaxed and I’ve just been enjoying being around San Francisco and seeing my friends and going on bike rides, going to the ball game, cooking, working on some soundtracks, slowly playing and trying to write for another record.
Sara: And you’ve been doing some deejay-ing as well?
Andy: Yeah well I have some friends who are promoters and put on shows, and various people will ask me to deejay at an event. I’ve always kind of done stuff like that. About 10 years ago I had a regular night in San Franciso, every Monday night for a few years, and then Vetiver and playing with Devendra sort of took me away from that. But yeah, I have a lot of records, I love to go record shopping, and I love to play records.
Sara: It’s probably a completely different experience playing records versus playing a live show?
Andy: Yeah, I’m not a very forward person, so I don’t relish being the center of attention ya know? I like deejay-ing and hiding behind the turntables. But that aspect of making music isn’t really what got me into the whole thing.
Sara: So what’s next for Vetiver or for you I don’t know if there’s any new projects you’re working on I saw you worked on a soundtrack for an independent film.
Andy: Yeah that’s coming out next month.
Sara: Cool, can you talk a little bit about that?
Andy: Sure, yeah it’s a really great movie. It’s called Smashed. It’s directed by James Ponsoldt. I did that in January, the film debut at Sundance, and I think it comes out on October 12th. It was the first time I’d worked on a film. I did it with my friend Eric Johnson (he plays in Fruit Bats). It’s both a comedy and a dramatic film about a married couple, where one of them has a problem with drinking and she wants to clean up and change her lifestyle, and can the marriage withstand that. It’s done really well, the characters are really sympathetic, and the acting is great. I did that and I just worked on another documentary, and I’ve really enjoyed writing music for other peoples narratives and films, that’s something I’d like to do more of.
Sara: Very cool, and is there anything new Vetiver is working on?
Andy: Well I’m just writing. Slowly. There’s nothing really pressing. I will be doing a tour of Japan in a week with Devendra Banhart, after this tour.
Sara: Well that sounds awesome. Thank you again for your time.