‘I’m Not Certain if Format Fetishizing Helps Musicians or Not.’
Interview curated by Robert D. Patrick
The hushed, gossamer-like vocalizations of Vetiver’s Andy Cabic ethereally dot the airy instrumentation on “Complete Strangers,” the band’s sixth full-length album. The Virginia-born lyricist and singer muses over the tenuous ebb of traveling, time, and mortality in a way that only few can. Before he sets up at The Irenic this Thursday night, Cabic took time to speak with us about peoples ever erratic relationship with music, the importance of beginning or ending songs with instrumental melodies, and the reluctance to mull over the past.
ROBERT PATRICK: At seven minutes in length, “Stranger Still” is quite the table setter. The lyrics are so intensely articulate, so profoundly curious in their introspection – you really throw the listener into an emotional tailspin, right out of the gates. Was that your intention?
ANDY CABIC: As much as I enjoy an emotional tailspin, I’m not sure I had that intention. The song just didn’t fit as well elsewhere in other sequences of the album. The puzzle of trying to balance two sides of a record, their time, fidelity and flow, led to the decision to have “Stranger Still” as the first song.
You’ve experienced the opening salvo of “indie rock” popularity in the early aughts. Looking back, what do you think will be the legacy of that particular era of music?
People’s relationship to music and nostalgia is everchanging and a mystery to me. Better to make music as best I can and let the legacy side of things take care of itself.
What’s your take on the renaissance of vinyl, and do you think it’s helpful to musicians in a climate where physical media is seemingly less popular than ever?
I’m not certain if format fetishizing helps musicians or not. Receiving remuneration for their work certainly does. If anything, the emotional radius vinyl entails neatly demands you stay in it’s vicinity if only to pick up the needle every twenty minutes. That kind of commitment to active listening and engaging with music is reassuring in a time of waning attention spans and myriad distractions.
Your music has always been very lyrical. In your opinion, what makes the perfect ending line of a song?
I never think of ending lines as steps towards perfection. I like songs that end with strong instrumental melodies or performances, a good hook. That’s usually what I’m left thinking about, not the lyric.
Has Pitchfork been a positive or negative sundial for readers and musicians?
I couldn’t say. It throws about as much shadow as sun, like any working gnomon would. It’s increasing TMZ gossip stylings are a bit of a bore. I miss sites like Dusted and Stylus.
Have you ever thought about scoring a film, and if so, what filmmaker would you want to work with?
I’ve worked on a couple films, both with my good friend Eric D. Johnson. Smashed and After Tiller are two I’ve collaborated on. I enjoyed the projects and would gladly work on another again. It all depends on the people involved, the timing and of course the film.
Colorful genres and strange monikers seem to be continuously affixed to musicians. In 2006, the website Pop Matters dubbed your sound as “slow-burning.” Do these descriptions or titles ever appropriately describe how you feel about your music, or do they simply get in the way?
It isn’t especially helpful to read most of what’s written about you in the press and I don’t make a habit of doing so. The way I feel about my music changes along with my music and with time. It’s easier than ever for people to find the things they want to listen to and draw their own conclusions, so I’m not certain how effectively descriptions or titles ‘get in the way’.
Which one of your songs, from the newest LP, is the emotional to play live?
Finally, when you come to San Diego, what’s your favorite place to grab some pre or post-show food?
Unfortunately I don’t make it down to San Diego very often. I would likely call up my buddies in The Donkeys and ask for a recommendation. If you have any suggestions for spots near the Irenic, please do let me know!