Vetiver Interview 2008

BY Alexander Laurence

Vetiver is a folk band based in San Francisco. They started around 2003. Andy
Cabic writes most of the songs and has been the main person in the band all
these years. Andy Cabic moved to the Bay Area and met up with people like
Devendra Banhart and Noah Georgeson. Their first album Vetiver came out in 2004.
They toured with Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom that summer. The second
album found Vetiver defining its unique sound more. To Find Me Gone (2006) moved
away from being a Devendra Banhart side-project, and became something in its
own right. The Vetiver band as we know now it was assembled around this time,
with Cabic (Guitar/Vocals), Brent Dunn (Bass), Sanders Trippe (Guitar/Vocals),
Otto Hauser (Drums, and Kevin Barker (Guitar). Vetiver started several long
tours at this time. Cabic also was a member of Devendra Banhart’s touring band at
the same time.

Now they are releasing Thing Of The Past (2008). It is a covers record with
songs by Loudon Wainwright III, Biff Rose, Ian Matthews, Garland Jeffreys,
Hawkwind, Townes Van Zandt, and Michael Hurley. The record features the Vetiver
band, plus appearances by Michael Hurley and Vashti Bunyan, as well as Dave
Scher, Jonathan Wilson, Emma Smith, and The Chapin Sisters. Vetiver is off for a
two-month tour of Europe. I spoke with Cabic at its sold out show at the
Troubadour in May 2008. He was just excited having seen Mudcrutch at the Fillmore.

AL: I saw you play a very early show as Vetiver in 2003. It was you with
Alissa Anderson and Jim Gaylord. The band is a lot different now. When did this
band start to come together?

Andy: Right after To Find Me Gone came out, I started to put this band
together. I had toured with Kevin and Otto before in Europe, with Devendra and
Alissa. We all played on the second record. Sanders and Brent are old friends of
mine from North Carolina. We also did a short tour with Viking Moses.

AL: Why did you do this covers record?

Andy: I didn’t have a record of my own stuff ready to go. I was still writing
the next album. I wanted to try out some stuff with this new band, and with
Thom Monahan. This new band hadn’t tracked anything. We had recorded some stuff
in a studio in Sacramento. We recorded some stuff live. We hadn’t done that
before. The first two records were done in layers. We added in some guitars.
The first record me and Devendra would play live and add stuff. It was fun to do
this record. Some of the songs we had been playing live, and others I thought
we could bring something to them.

AL: I remember you used to do a Randy Newman song. Some of these people like
Garland Jeffreys, I hadn’t heard that name in a while.

Andy: I know. I know most of these artists through their records. I have
never seen any of these artists play live.

AL: How did you curate this album?

Andy: I just chose songs that I thought we could do well. These are songs
that I love. These are songs that meant a lot to me, but I didn’t hear anyone
discussing these artists. At the time, it was having fun. At the time I wasn’t
analyzing it too much. Now I am being asked a bunch of questions about it.

AL: How long have you been listening to Garland Jefferys?

Andy: Everything weaves around to something else. Jeffreys’ first album was
on Atlantic. His backing band was called Grinder’s Switch. Grinder’s Switch
played on an early John Cale record, that also had a song by Garland Jeffreys. I
must have found out about Jeffrey through John Cale. I found his record in a
store and fell in love with a few tunes on there, like “Eggs” and “Lon

AL: Who does that song “Houses?”

Andy: That is by Elyse Weinberg. That is on a re-issue that Orange Twin did a
few years back. That song wasn’t on the first record. It was on a second
record she did with Neil Young, and it never came out.

AL: Some of these people like Michael Hurley actually played on your record?

Andy: Hurley? Yeah. He stopped by a session to help out and he stayed with us
for a while. We have toured with him before. We have toured with Vashti.


AL: Vashti Bunyan played on the record?

Andy: She did. She sang on the record.

AL: Jonathan Wilson played on the record. He is a guy who plays in Los
Angeles a lot.

Andy: Yeah. He played on one track. We have done a lot of shows with him.

AL: Have you toured a lot this year?

Andy: Things have just started. We played with Gary Louris. We played with
him as his backing band and supported him.

AL: You played with Jolie Holland?

Andy: Yeah. We played a couple shows. Last time we played in Los Angeles was
with Bright Eyes, but before that was with Jolie Holland.

AL: Are you playing with Devendra Banhart this summer?

Andy: I am going to miss some of the shows. He is playing some festivals this
summer. He is playing at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and the Hollywood
Bowl. We are playing Glastonbury at the same time. I haven’t seen the lineup
but we will only be there one day.

AL: What do you think of the European Festivals?

Andy: It varies from country to country. I had the best time playing the
Greenman Festival in Wales. That is the best festival that I have been too. We
haven’t played a ton of festivals.

AL: What about the “Been So Long” remix. How did that come about?

Andy: That was me and Thom experimenting. We were trying to do different
things. Those were two songs that I thought had some possibilities that had

AL: It was like a dub version?

Andy: Yeah, one is like that. The other is like a techno shuffle.

AL: What do you think of this “Freak Folk” label?

Andy: I don’t think too much about that. People should revisit that concept
and improve upon it. It seems like a weak and lazy category.

AL: Now that all those bands have a few albums out, it seems to ..

Andy: Things are changing. It’s more about the lens of people writing about
it and how they chose to look at it, rather than the artists themselves. It’s a
false construct. It’s a straw man. I treat so lightly. I don’t even care at
this point. It makes less sense when we come out with each new record.

AL: You make fun of labeling with Myspace.

Andy: Yeah. I did that when I first signed up for Myspace. I don’t care for
the labels.

AL: When are you going to start on the next record?

Andy: We started on the new record recently. Hopefully we will have it out by
next year.

AL: Do some songs you have recorded don’t get played live?

Andy: We don’t play “The Porter.” Nobody in the band lives in San Francisco,
so we have to rehearse new songs a few weeks before a tour.

AL: Do you practice a lot?

Andy: Not really. Our first few shows are practice.

AL: Are there any new bands that you like?

Andy: This band from San Jose called The Mumlers. I think they are good. I
like the new records by Sebastian Tellier and Panda Bear. We are playing with
Kelley Stoltz.

AL: How is it in San Francisco?

Andy: I try to check things out when I am there, but I am gone a lot.

AL: People like yourself and Joanna Newsom and Noah Georgeson started out
there, but have moved on.

Andy: They don’t live there anymore. Noah is in Los Angeles and Joanna has
moved back to Nevada City.

AL: Has there been a lot of hometown support in San Francisco?

Andy: Everywhere is the same. It’s been very organic. We have been steadily
becoming popular. But we have bigger audiences in SF, LA and New York. That is
how it is for most artists.

AL: So what is it like to go to the South or the Midwest?

Andy: We are doing that more with this record. We hope to go to new places in
America with this record and the next record. We haven’t done that before
with the new band.

AL: What is the plan for the rest of the year?

Andy: This record is coming out. We might do a follow-up EP. We recorded more
songs than the album. We are going to tour more and finish this album. We are
touring the east coast in August.

AL: You played in Iceland. What was that like?

Andy: It was great. Everyone in Iceland is amazing. They have the standard
rock clubs there.

AL: Any good books to recommend?

Andy: Black Mass by John Gray. Austerlitz by Winfried Georg Sebald. I used to
read so much more, but I have been bogged down by touring.