TOFU AND WHISKEY: Vetiver and Howlin Rain team up for a troika of shows
TOFU AND WHISKEY Vetiver and Howlin Rain have both been haunting around the Bay for the better part of a decade. Sonically split, playing tender Americana folk and 1970s-tinged psychedelic rock, respectively, the bands share a common thread of superior musicanship and drive — each releasing a landmark album in the past year or so (Howlin Rain's The Russian Wilds and Vetiver's The Errant Charm). The other link? Mutual admiration.
The two bands will play a series of three concerts together this weekend (Fri/28, Sat/ 29, Mon/31, 9pm, $20–$35, Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.cafedunord.com). In anticipation of those, we did a sort of round-robin of interviews. I asked the musicians — Vetiver band leader and chief songwriter Andy Cabic and Howlin Rain's Ethan Miller — a few general questions, then they took their conversation adrift, discussing literary influences, favorite Bay Area bands, and "the softest mosh pit in history." Here are some hearty pieces of the conversation. There'll be more up on SFBG.com/Noise.
SFBG What compelled you to create music in San Francisco, initially? What keeps you here?
AC I was playing music before I moved here and just gradually found folks to play with here in SF. Bands like Thinking Fellers Union and Caroliner were an initial inspiration. I've been here a while and have an apartment with reasonable rent, so that along with the weather, food, community and landscape of the city keeps me here.
EM Initially I moved up from that haunted little paradise that is Santa Cruz to be with my band at the time, Comets On Fire. The rest of the guys had all started migrating to the city and I was finishing up school there, I knew I needed to be with the band and San Francisco had a real buzz of excitement and electricity in the air for us at that time, we were moving toward a dark magic both in the atmosphere of San Francisco and the creative work that was ahead of us.
I actually live in Oakland. I love it here. I stay for my bands, the culture, access to the art museums, the food, the music, the airports, the architecture, the weather, the outlying and incorporated nature, the people, my friends, the work opportunities — I could go on and on, I really don't have any incentive to leave. After 10 years of living in the metropolitan Bay Area I think my romance with these cities and all they have to offer is stronger than ever and my engagement with their mythologies is increasing daily.
AC [Ethan,]I know you are a voracious reader, and someone who is a fan of epic and oftentimes challenging works of fiction, like Valis, Gravity's Rainbow, and War and Peace. What is the attraction to committing to a lengthy or monumental work, and how does this impact your songwriting?
EM I started to get into some pretty dark head places when we were making the last record The Russian Wilds. As it dragged into year three, I realized I really needed some highly focused activities outside of music in my life to dismantle stress/anger/exasperation/despair etc. I began jogging religiously to beat these emotions out of my body on the pavement and I took on some heavy books to beat them out of my mind. Moby Dick and War and Peace were the two big ones that began to clear the mental air for me.