Andy Cabic, songwriter and familiar voice of indie-folk band Vetiver, is sipping coffee on his couch. Time-zones apart on a dark November evening when I call, what kind of day is he waking up to? “It’s a crisp, bright morning in San Francisco” he reports “and my cat-like dog is searching for squirrel activity out of the window,” he’s in the East Bay Area opposite the bridge. “Wait” he says, stepping outside to check he’s not giving me false information, “it’s sunny through the clouds” he pipes happily and goes back to sipping his coffee.
Bringing his own blend of Americana to Brighton for a rare solo tour of the UK this month, this is a chance to catch Andy at his intimate best. Or worst as he says. Taking to the stage without his band to promote seventh studio album Up on High, he’ll be touring from Sheffield to Scotland and closing out the winter gigs at the O2 Academy in London. What brings him over here on his own? “The record came out and the logistics of bringing a band over wasn’t possible” he says matter-of-factly. “This is something I’ve tried not to do, tour by myself all my career, but I saw that there might be some utility in it and it might be fun and I won’t bore others.”
For every straight-up reply from Andy there is a playful comeback and I imagine his acoustic set will be no less entertaining for all it lacks in surround sound. It must be quite intense, being ‘on’ all the time in a solo show, having to keep it going? He is self-deprecating: “I’m not much of a frontman, I’m more of a songwriter and a mellow crooner and I’m not gifted with the gab – whatever that is.”
What he most certainly is gifted at is writing lyrically wistful songs of folksy perfection. He speaks of chasing melodic ideas down and clearing time for them to tell him where they want to go. “Their genesis comes from many places, I make the best of it” he says. It’s fair to say this has turned out quite well for him on new album Up on High, praised for its tight compositions, easy intimacy, and pure “sunset acoustic pop.”
Recorded in the high desert of California with stripped back accompaniment and largely written on acoustic, the album was polished up in LA over the summer. Speaking about Vetiver’s sound he said he “wanted to create the music of his youth, the jangle-pop Americana of the 1980s, when groups such as REM ruled the indie underground”. And there is real radio warmth to his vocals, cut from the heat and pressure of his native home, songs that deal with themes of forgiveness, second chances and the clarity that comes with experience. The self-reflective single Wanted, Never Asked is a masterstone in the album’s crop – this solo tour makes sense at this point in Andy’s 15-year career with Vetiver.
And he has worked with a raft of artists along the way. Collaborating with musicians as various as Joanna Newsom and psych-folk rocker Devendra Banhart on Cripple Crow, he says of their friendship: “Unlike other musical friends of mine we have some spark and openness that can easily slide into collaboration.”
Vetiver have supported Fleet Foxes, The Shins and Beach House on tour, and it’s easy to see a synergy between the musical styles. Who would you most like to work with musically and creatively? “Y’know, someone I want to work with is Paul Butler from The Bees, he’s a friend, I don’t see him often, as often as I’d like.”
When Andy’s not chipping away at folk-pop gems he’s moving a dancefloor with Bossa nova and house (the tour kicks off with a DJ set in London) and he’s curated a compilation of Japanese City Pop. He’s looking forward to playing The Brunswick in Hove and sees it as a nostalgic “homecoming” of sorts. Some of Vetiver’s early releases were put out in Brighton by Fat Cat Records and Bella Union.
How is he preparing for the tour? “I just spent the week playing these songs, trying to make them more interesting,” he says, “fingerpicking with a rhythm so they don’t float off into the air without a beat. Finding a way to get everything under my fingers, under my voice.” He pauses and I wait for the punchline ”And I’ve bought a new washbag, I’m looking at new ways of folding my clothes.”
Vetiver will play a solo show at The Brunswick, Hove on Sunday December 15. TICKETS
New album Up on High is out on Loose.