The Cave Singers hit stride on third effort, ‘No Witch’
When they first began composing the sparse folk tunes that would ultimately become The Cave Singers' first record, Pete Quirk and Derek Fudesco were just two fellow musicians looking to pass the time.
"We started playing music for kicks," says singer and guitarist Quirk, recalling the genesis of his current band. Back in 2006, he was playing keys and singing in a Seattle-based disco-punk outfit called Hint Hint and living with Fudesco, bassist and vocalist for progressive alt-rockers Pretty Girls Make Graves—also headquartered in that perpetually rainy northwestern city. "We didn't even think we were going to play shows."
But both men soon left the angular, fast-paced music of their prior groups behind in favor of the churning, dark and brooding Americana/blues/folk that is The Cave Singers—and they haven't looked back. The group, which plays The Crepe Place on Wednesday, Dec. 7, released its third full-length record, No Witch, in February.
Quirk says he and Fudesco didn't swap their electric guitars for acoustics and unplug their effects pedals in a deliberate effort to distance themselves from their prior projects.
"There wasn't a dire need to do something else," he says, noting that there are, in fact, many similarities between what he does now and what he did when he was with Hint Hint: "I just sang and ran around like a crazy person … I still do!"
It's true, The Cave Singers have plenty of plaintive, slow-moving dirges that don't particularly lend themselves to frenzy. However, on all of the group's albums, such meditations are merely rest stops, which give you time to catch your breath before another foot-stomping, holy rolling explosion.
The new album's third track, "Black Leaf," sways to and fro with the energy of some backwoods preacher, drunk on moonshine and the holy ghost. "Round and round and round and here we go!" Quirk exclaims on the track, over the boom-wap of the tune's bass drum and rim clicks.
The record then slows down for a spell after that, with "Falls" and all of its trembling church organ and choir-backed refrain, and then the droning, psychedelia of "Outer Realms," with its eastern guitar line aping The Doors' "The End."
Though the record is called No Witch, the collection of tunes conjures images of the uniquely American witches described in Arthur Miller's “The Crucible”—dancing with ecstatic abandon in the dark forests outside of Salem.
Quirk says the Singers' gloomy sound on No Witch is no accident. The group chose producer Randall Dunn precisely because of his shamanic character.
"He's kind of like a mysterious gentleman," Quirk says of the man who has produced the likes of Sunn O))), Boris and Black Mountain. A student of world music, philosophy and religion, Dunn became a bit like a fourth member in the band.
The Cave Singers used many of Dunn's "crazy instruments" and "utilized him as kind of like a band member to help us figure out how to do things," Quirk says.
The producer really helped the band find the sounds it had been searching for from those very first bedroom jam sessions, Quirk says—and it shows. No Witch has a fuller sound than the group's previous two releases and is stronger from start to finish.
"I imagine that this record seems like somewhat of a departure," Quirk says. "But it's not really a departure. I think we probably had those ideas before, but we didn't know how to fully realize them."
The Cave Singers play at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7, at The Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $10. For more information,
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