TOFU AND WHISKEY: Vetiver and Howlin Rain team up for a troika of shows
Even though we'd finished the album and life moved on to a different kind of pace and substance, I loved the challenge and grandiosity of those works and continued on with the epics. I read Gravity's Rainbow this year while on the road near the end of our tour cycle and loved it. It is a work that has taunted, haunted, and eluded me for years and now I can say it's one of my all time favorites; it just took some relatively hard work and time to begin to engage properly with it. It is a true and singular masterpiece but it plays by a different set of rules than most of us are used to dealing with in literature.
AC Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with Tim Green and his role in the recording process of 'The Russian Wilds'?
EM Tim worked for months and months, perhaps dedicated half his year to The Russian Wilds. I can't say enough about his focus and enthusiasm for the making of that album. Tim and I have been working together on records for 13 years now and we have a pretty telepathic level of communication at this point. I always learn from him, a true professional and an incredible mix of artist and scientist and a great friend. The songs that you hear on that album were chosen and shaped by Rick in their basic forms but the sounds and the "album" that you hear is Tim Green. That's his blood, sweat, and tears along with ours.
EM Stylistically, perhaps the thing Vetiver is most famous for is your "hushed"/"understated" delivery. Your singing, phrasing, and various levels of serene projection really are the mechanism that delivers Vetiver's artistic manifesto. When you first began to sing, was what we now know as your style already there by intention or default? Was there a conscious decision to build that style?
AC I think I've always sung in a soft way. I had a band in college where I tried yelling and shouting and in that context it worked alright, but never quite clicked for me. I was usually hoarse by the end of those songs. I have a predilection for jangly, poppy sounds and melodic singing, and having never been trained or really taught how to sing correctly, I don't sing with a very strong voice.
Getting an acoustic guitar and learning to fingerpick allowed me to bring the volume of the performance in line with my voice, and helped me develop a songwriting style that felt easier and more natural.
EM I'm keen to know what kind of literary influences move your musical mind...favorite books or authors that you go back to for musical inspiration year after year? Do you often cross-pollinate influences for songwriting inspiration? Cinema, poetry, visual art?
AC I worked for some years as a buyer for a used bookstore (Aardvark Books on Church at Market...the best!), and though it was one of my favorite jobs, it kind of ruined my ability to stick to one book at a time, hence my reading taste is a bit divided. I read a lot of non-fiction, history, and biographies.
As far as fiction goes, I'm a fan of authors who imbue their writing with their own personal voice. Charles Portis, Robert Walser, Eric Ambler, Paul (and Jane) Bowles, Donald Barthelme and Gertrude Stein are a few of my favorite authors. I'm inspired by economy of language and simplicity, when a lot is communicated with just a few well-chosen words. Conviction of conception is important to me. Bold ideas executed with modesty. The artwork and lived life of Wallace Berman and Marcel Duchamp is a big inspiration for me as well.
EM When we were backstage at a show a while back you told me about a mosh pit that broke out at a Vetiver gig last year. You or someone in the conversation described it as one of the softest mosh pits in history...