Vetiver’s Skiddle U.K. Interview
Vetiver interview: Less Hostility and More Listening
Mark Dale speaks to Vetiver’s Andy Cabic about latest album Complete Strangers, collaborations, cross-cultural musings and more ahead of the band’s upcoming UK dates.
Vetiver are a band that is centred around the songwriting of sole constant member Andy Cabic. They were formed in San Francisco in 2002, a city Cabic has lived in since 1998.
They released their self-titled debut album in 2004 on the small indie folk label DiCristina and were regarded as one of the key acts in the emerging ‘freak folk’ scene of the time. Particularly because of Cabic’s relationship with one of that scene’s perceived leading lights Devendra Banhart, with whom Cabic has collaborated, including on Vetiver material.
Alongside this association with Devendra Banhart, Vetiver cemented their affiliation to the freak folk scene by opening for and collaborating with Joanna Newsom. Vetiver have also performed with Juana Molina, Vashti Bunyan, Adem and have toured with the likes of Fleet Foxes, The Shins, Fruit Bats and Wilco.
Together, Banhart and Cabic launched their own label, Gnomonsong Recordings, releasing Jana Hunter’s Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom in 2005, There’s No Home in 2007 and Vetiver’s Thing of the Past album in 2008 – a collection of cover versions, mostly of American folk music but which also included a memorable take on Hawkwind’s ‘Hurry On Sundown’.
Since 2009 Sub Pop Records and Bella Union have released Vetiver’s albums in the US and the UK respectively, including this year’s Complete Strangers album which is their sixth.
Cabic writes material that is suitable for his at times understated voice. His vocals can sometimes appear quite low in the mix on Vetiver’s albums, which have progressed in musical scope considerably since they were first pigeonholed as a freak folk act.
New album Complete Strangers (listen to the band perform ‘Stranger Still below) contains dance music, soft rock and Latin music influences and is currently being toured in the US.
Mark Dale put a few questions to Andy Cabic prior to Vetiver bringing this live show to the UK. These questions, which include one about the American Bill of Rights and gun control, were put to Andy Cabic prior to the October 1 mass shooting at Umpqua Community College, Oregon.
Your Vetiver project arrived at a time when folk music was a bit of a buzz for media who like to put things into scenes and boxes. Kinda annoying that they do that. Would you agree that you’ve moved away from that sound gradually over subsequent recordings?
The first Vetiver album came out over ten years ago. I think exploring new sounds and changing with each record is to be expected and I don’t pay much attention to genres or media buzz when I write or record.
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