Posted by Tobias Carroll
The music on Vetiver’s latest album, The Errant Charm, falls somewhere between laconic autumnal pop and a more hypnotic, immersive sound that recalls The Sea and Cake. It’s the group’s fifth album overall; since 2004, the Andy Cabic-led group has quietly explored the boundaries of their folk-rock sound. We spoke with Cabic via email about Vetiver’s literary influences, his time as a bookseller, and more.
I found an interview with you from a few years ago in which you talked about working at San Fransisco’s Aardvark Books. How was (is?) your time as a bookseller?
Being a book buyer at Aardvark Books was the best job I’ve ever had. It’s an underrated bookshop in San Francisco. Concise selection, great prices, accessible location and a lot of turnover in stock, not to mention a great staff. Working there was a formative experience for me in the city. It helped me find my bearings in a city I had only just arrived in. It brought me into contact with so many people who’d become friends and introduced me to a tremendous amount of books and authors I’d never heard of before.
Did that experience have any effect on your music?
Yes. It allowed me time to reflect and tinker with lyrics, to sing songs in my head as I shelved books, and provided a place to keep in touch with creative friends and nurture collaborative experiences that would help develop my songwriting. Many Vetiver songs started as ideas gleaned from books I came in contact with at Aardvark. “Red Lantern Girls” comes to mind. Aardvark is also where I first met Devendra Banhart and Alissa Anderson, whom I would perform with for the first few years of Vetiver.
What are you reading nowadays?
I just finished James Nice’s Shadowplayers, a history of Factory Records, and picked up The $12 Million Stuffed Shark by Don Thompson yesterday at Three Lives & Company in the West Village. I’m about to head to the beach for a week, so I’ve got that and Paul Bowles’s The Spider’s House in my bag.
What are your favorite books? Do you find that the list of them has been consistent over time?
The Master & Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, Macunaíma by Mário de Andrade, anything by Charles Portis, Robert Walser’s Jakob Van Gunten. I’ve read these all a couple times and they’ve stayed with me. I always recommend Portis when friends ask for book recommendations.
Have any particular books turned you on to specific musicians, or vice versa?
Sure. Obviously reading Shadowplayers clued me into some of the corners of Factory and Les Disques du Crépuscule’s roster that I’d missed. Really The Blues by Mezz Mezzrow, Rumba On The River by Gary Stewart, and old editions of Trouser Press are a few others that come to mind. I share book ideas with my friends all the time, many of whom are musicians, so the circles of inspiration and recommendation form a pretty profound Venn diagram in my life.
(Photo: Alissa Anderson)