With the release of their fourth full-length and Sub Pop debut, Tight Knit, naturalismos extraordinaire Vetiver are poised to make another potent mark on the thriving American, indie folk scene. The new record is another collection of well crafted songs of quiet bomp and laidback goodness, every bit as enjoyable as To Find Me Gone, their last album of originals. As usual, leader Andy Cabic’s songcraft is without spectacle or grandiosity, instead relying on a sort of a musical altruism that comforts, soothes, and tickles the singer-songwriter in all of us.
The band returns to common themes where they have succeeded in the past to fantastic ends. Tracks like “Rolling Sea,” “Sister” and “Through the Front Door” scaffold the album with a subtle brilliance. However, where Cabic and the now relatively permanent line-up really shine are on some of their “risky” (and I mean that in the safest sense of the word) ventures. “Down from Above” plays like a midsummer dream sequence, while “More of This” showcases a kind of jukebox boogie we’ve rarely seen out of the group.
I had a chance to catch up with Andy before the release of Tight Knit to talk about the new record, the process, a few things of the past (pun intended), and some exciting things on the horizon.
It looks like it’s going to be an eventful couple of months for you, huh?
Andy Cabic: Yeah, I mean the new record, shows—that sort of thing, yeah.
You guys are off to Europe, right?
AC: Yeah, just a short little tour to meet with our new label over there and play a few shows.
Any pre-touring rituals or are you just mellowing out?
AC: Well, rehearsing. I don’t live in the same town as my band so the pre-tour ritual would actually be to rehearse.
It seems like you guys haven’t really stopped though since you released To Find Me Gone—I’ve caught you guys three times on the road since then. It would seem as if you’re pretty hard at work.
AC: I guess so. I mean, we take breaks! But generally speaking, I guess so, but still I’d say we’re the average for bands.
About your newest record, Tight Knit, it’s hard not to notice a good deal of continuity with your previous work. In particular, the opening track concludes with the lyrics, “It’s been such a long time,” a lot like the opening track on To Find Me Gone, “It’s Been So Long.” Is there some kind of separation anxiety that’s going on?
AC: No, it’s just... I don’t know. I tend to write a lot of those...
“On my way back home?”
AC: Yeah, those sorts of songs. I mean, when I have a melody those kinds of lyrics are called for. That’s just where it all led. I acknowledge that that refrain, especially putting it first, would harken back to that album. But yes, there is a motif that I seem suited for.
I think a lot of people find your music comforting in that respect. I’d like to think that a great deal of your success has been due to the kind of warmth and familiarity that your music radiates. From my perspective it really makes it easy to share with people you care about. Does that mean anything to you?
AC: That’s perfect. That’s what I’m aiming for. You know, I think that becomes something of a rare thing. I know that the music I love and listen to elicits the same response in me in terms of wanting to share it with friends. Choosing records when you find yourself in a particular moment—that’s what it’s about, surrounding yourself with songs that add to the air of the unique moment in time. So that ‘s nice to hear.
So you’ve been playing some of these tunes out on the road for a bit. Did it make it any easier to put the album together?
AC: I always wait until I have a solid enough collection of songs to put together an album. We went into the studio and completely reworked some of the stuff we were doing live. Oddly enough, it didn’t make it all that much easier. We found that some songs we had an easy time doing live just didn’t work out in the studio, so we had to completely rework those. Some things just don’t come across the same way—or the way I’d envisioned it—so they had to be reconfigured. So, easier? I don’t think so, but it does keep things very surprising and exciting for us.
It seems like playing with your friends is a real priority, or at least something that just seems to happen. Is this where the title of the new album came from?
AC: I think it’s a little bit of that. I just wanted something to tie all these songs together. It seemed like a suitable name.
It looks likes there’s a couple new faces joining you this time around.
AC: Yeah, Sarah (Versprille) and Daniel (Hindman). Sarah is actually Otto’s (drummer Otto Hauser) cousin. They live outside New York. Both of them are just great musicians.
That seems like quite a musical family then. Otto is a total fan favorite. I remember seeing you guys in Cleveland a few years back, and I think he just joined you guys.
AC: I think he came to that show that I played in Devendra’s (Banhart) band at... I’m blanking on the name.
The Beachland Ballroom! I was there!
AC: That was the first tour that Vetiver did.
Isn’ t that something? And I see that Eric Johnson from the Fruit Bats does a little guest appearance on this album. How did that come to be?
AC: We did a short string of shows up the West Coast a couple years ago with him, and by the time we did the last show in Seattle, we really struck up a friendship and he just hopped in the van and did the rest of the shows with us. So, you know, we have some friends in common. We did a short tour with the Shins. It’s really great.
I just have to ask, how were those dates you did with the Black Crowes? It looks like you had a great time judging by the pictures online. You guys played that old Carter Family tune, an old Byrds tune?
AC: They were great! We went a bunch of places we’d never been able to go. And those guys are amazing musicians and it was a thrill to be invited along.
One last thing, how’s producing the new Vashti Bunyan record?
AC: Actually, I’m in LA right now working on it. Her songs are amazing! We’re really just starting as of yesterday. It’s hard to believe it’s actually happening.