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Q&A: Vetiver in San Francisco Fog

By Jon Pruett; Photo by Alissa Anderson on August 10, 2011


Q&A: Vetiver in San Francisco Fog

Over the course of several albums, Vetiver has carved out a world of folk-driven cosmic melodies, tumbledown rock 'n' roll, and pop songs suitable for framing. Their latest, The Errant Charm goes even deeper into dreamland. Andy Cabic comes to terms with the Cocteau Twins, San Francisco fog, and this writer's inability to correctly type "Led Zeppelin."


Allow me to preface this with - hot damn I really love your new record. I really, really do. I have bought them all, but I really like this one quite a bit. That said, were you trying to shake off any conceptions about you guys just being moccasin-wearing luddites?

Andy Cabic: Do boat shoes count as moccasins?  I don't own any moccasins, but I do have a pair of boat shoes and I did wear them while working on this album.  Can you hear them in the mix somehow?  No, I wasn't concerned with these concepts you mention.  I was trying to write and record a good album of songs I enjoyed and hoped others would too.

I ask because there is a sound here that is slightly more modern than some of the vintage of tones of yore. Natural evolution or just going through a Cocteau Twins phase?

This is the fifth album I've made with Thom Monahan, so I'd hope we'd be evolving some way by now.  I grew up listening and going to see bands in the golden era of 4AD, so that's part of the musical fabric I've stitched into my songs, albeit in ways that perhaps seemed less perceptible in the past.  "Aikea-Guinea" is my favorite Cocteau Twins song, though "Cico Buff" gets played more these days.

Throughout all of your records, there is a defiantly cloudy nature floating through - would you say you live your life in a perpetual state of dreaminess?

No, not really.  Maybe the fog in San Francisco has seeped into my brain at this point?  I would put forward that the sound you describe is one element amongst others, and though you may feel this cloudy, floating feeling, there are other sonic things happening that push against that as well.  The same can be said for life.

The odd-man-out on the record seems to be "Ride Ride Ride" which is very Velvet Underground. Do you think it is possible to be a guitar band that is not influenced in some way by the Velvet Underground? A good guitar band, that is.

Sure.  There's a lot of music out there.  Plenty of room for anyone to sound like anything.

My experience with musicians is that the dreamier the sound, the more self-destructive the band. Where does Vetiver rate in this?

We don't rate too dramatically on your dreamy-sound/self-destruct Venn diagram, I'm afraid. Vetiver the band is not unlike the plant, a pretty rooted, solid, living thing that should hopefully last a long time.

You've worked with artist Nat Russell with a lot of your art-work - do you provide any guidance or do you just let the dude go hog-wild?

We collaborate with each project, talk about ideas, look at old records and send images and comments back and forth. I trust Nat and we're friends so it's an easy and fun process.  He is a very talented and open-minded artist.

You guys have done two albums of cover songs (thanks for turning me on to good song by Norman Greenbaum that wasn't 'Spirit in the Sky.") Are there songs you admire that you would not cover - either out of respect to the original or difficulty factor?

Of course. I would only record a song I thought we could do well or bring something to by performing. As there is a world of amazing music out there beyond the scope of my abilities, there are many, many songs I have no business covering. 

Can you please tell me what the ideal activity to engage in while listening to The Errant Charm?

You know, I don't deign to decide what other folks should do while listening to my music.  I find that it's a good record to put on headphones and walk around with, but I didn't make it with any 'ideal activity' in mind.

And no really, what is The Errant Charm?

"The errant charm" is a phrase from the song "Faint Praise".  It can take on meaning in many ways.  In that song, it describes the end of a moment of privacy that seemed would last forever, but which was actually temporary and ever-changing.

Who in the band is not allowed to pick the music while driving/touring? and why? (alternately, what is the best music for driving?)

The driver picks the music.  That's a known rule of the road.  Mott The Hoople is the best music for driving.

What is the worst Beatles song?

"The Long and Winding Road"

Leppelin or The Who?

I've never heard of "Leppelin", so I'll pick The Who.

For more news on Vetiver, visit their website.

Purchase The Errant Charm here.


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