Devendra Banhart w/Vetiver & Joanna Newsom

cool cities usa | by Sam Romero

July 2, 2004 @ Gypsy Tea Room - Live review + Interview

A few songs into Vetiver’s set, one of my friends who was there at the show looked at me and said "You know, there are people out there right now saying something like ”it's Deep Friday, so there should be a good band playing, and they have NO IDEA".

And honestly, even though I was lucky enough to have heard Vetiver’s music before the show, even the CD didn’t really prepare me for seeing them live. Not that the show was that much of a departure from the recordings, rather, it was the way the songs were presented that really made them all so much more lush in the Tea Room.

As far as I'm concerned Vetiver is more of a presence than a band. Sure, Andy Cabic was amazing, his voice was dead-on and every single element of his guitar playing added to the songs. Likewise for Alissa Anderson and Jim Gaylord on the strings, (I don't think Alissa opened her eyes once for the entire set, she just looked like she was in love) and Kevin who sat in on guitar. But more than anything it was the entire package that took me from just liking the songs to really believing in them.

Although I hadn’t heard her before the show Joanna Newsom really impressed me and showed me exactly how much power one girl and a harp can have over an audience. Seriously, people were going crazy for this girl, and while I’m not a connoisseur of harp playing let me just say she's a badass. And her voice is just about the coolest thing I have ever heard. Imagining a mix between Bjork, Jeff Mangum, and a little Bob Marley thrown in on the inflections sometimes, and you pretty much have it. What really got me going was the way everyone totally seemed to connect with her, it was just an amazingly fun experience to look around see these huge genuine smiles on peoples' faces. I felt like a three year old on their first trip to the playground.

Devendra Banhart of course was amazing. I overheard a few people saying he sounded like Jeff Buckley, which is true I suppose. But it wasn’t so much his timbre that gave me that impression as it was the delicate vulnerability that would creep into his voice, and the manic sense of urgency that hearing him filled me with. I felt nervous because I knew I was going to this amazing place and I was afraid that on the way I would miss something I needed to see. Really to me the highlight of the entire night were the last few songs where Devendra was joined by literally everyone who had played that night. Usually the very thought of three different acts totally connecting in the way Vetiver, Devendra Banhart, and Joanna Newsom seemed to wouldn’t enter my mind, but they all really seemed to be on the same page.
And more than that, they seemed to like it.

Sam Romero had a chance to sit down with Devendra Banhart and Andy Cabic of Vetiver. Here’s how the interview went.

Sam Romero: Regarding songwriting, what is the process? Do you just sit and jam and come up with an idea as it evolves or do you go into it with the idea fully formed?

Andy Cabic: Those are mostly songs that I wrote on my own. There’s a couple that Devendra and I wrote together; each of those were done differently. One, I had the music for, and we worked together when we wrote the lyrics. The other one, we just came together and wrote it at the same time. Spontaneous combustion.

I did all the arrangements for the record. Devendra and I spend a lot of time together, and we play music all the time, so I knew I wanted him to play on as much of the record as he wanted to.

SR: Is there anything that didn’t make the record?

AC:Yeah. The record is a reflection of some conscious choices of minimal arrangements. Other people who we really wanted to be on the album couldn’t make it, so it is what it is. I’m sure the next record will have some different players.

SR: How about you? (to Devendra Banhart). Are you stream of conscious or more...

Devendra Banhart: It starts from some sort of weird, you call it stream of conscious, place. I don’t just sit down to write a song; some sort of inspiration happens. I’ll go through journals and journals, and those are the initial seeds. Unsprouted inspiration. They’re not arbitray, but maybe it seems like the origins of it are.

SR: You have something coming out in the fall?

DB: Yeah, a second record. We recorded 2 records at the same time. Rejoicing in the Hands and Nino Rojo.

SR: Are you taking a vacation after the tour?

DB: No, I’m just not playing music. I’m working on art for a solo show in New York. I’m going to focus on art and writing.

SR: In the south of France?

DB: Yeah, I’m moving there. It’s not a vacation...just not touring. Bon jour.

SR: What are you all listening to now?

AC: In the car? Today we listened to music from east Virginia. We listened to Lynyrd Skynyrd. We listened to Little Feat.


AC: Yeah, Avalanches.The last Mamas & Papas record.

DB: Caetano Veloso. Bright Black.

AC: We listen to a lot of 70s singer/songwriters like Time Hadin, and a lot of Fleetwood Mac.

DB: We listen to this band The Eucharist Line a lot, and we listen to Little Wings, old time religion, and White Magic... stuff like that.