Cave’s original description on Facebook read something to the effect of, “Your comp sci TAs play shoegaze.” It’s an illuminating description; they’re a band of seniors who mix familiar basement rock with the unfamiliar. A few surf beats float on the album. Their single, Eel Yevrah (or Lee, as in Lee Harvey), starts with an elated riff before the song shifts into heavier rock.
They’re a bit of a disheveled trio, yet cool and confident when talking about what they love. They lounged across from me in the spacious Hodgdon lounge in early April. We talked not only about Cave, but also of their experiences with the Tufts music scene in general.
You’ve been around for a year, but your name has only been popping up on campus in the last couple of months. What’s the story?
We played a little last spring, towards the end, but just jamming once a week. We worked a lot during the summer; we recorded. Then we did a show with Vundabar for Applejam, and then I got tendonitis in my thumbs, so I was out.
Meanwhile, we were editing our album, mixing and all that.
Now my thumbs are good, so we did a show before spring break. We finished the album and now we’re trying to generate buzz.
The narrative of a lot of bands at Tufts is that they’ve come together in a really spontaneous way. Is that what happened to you guys?
No, some of us had played in other groups together before. Jesse and I (John) said, before I went
abroad, let’s make a surf band. Being a surf band was the idea we started with, but it didn’t really go in that direction. I mean, there are some surf beats, but it’s [not] the main thing. Like the single, “Lee” which on the site is just “Lee Harvey” spelled backwards. [Yevrah Eel]
You’ve got a real lo-fi aesthetic to the videos you’ve uploaded on Facebook. Is that what you’re going for?
Not really. With one of our videos, we were just looking for something fucked up. We found footage of Evil Knevil just eating it. We slowed down the audio on it. There’s not something we’re consciously going for; it just kinda comes out. We all listen to similar music, so there’s a lot of the same imagery.
Do you think there’s a pressure among indie bands to conform to the aesthetic norms set in that scene?
We just wanted some open, visually textured stuff, something dirty. There’s not much conscious decision-making. It’s not really a pressure to conform to that setting, but, for John, it’s a pressure not to make people upset with his shirtless drumming. The only thought-out thing is that Jesse draws all the stuff, and it’s all these disgusting hand-drawn images.
How did the decision to stream your album on the radio form? And did anyone listen to it?
I think we have different ideas on how to put stuff out. I definitely have the mindset that once we sit on something for so long, we just want people to hear it, put up a Bandcamp link, but John was the mind that it’s nice to stifle things, to let people know that something’s gonna be happening. We want to create as much buzz as we can. If you put out an album and no one knows it’s going to come out, it’s hard. You put it out, and then you don’t know what to do with it. It’s nice to have links to send to your family and friends, but then it’s cool to give access to someone who’s not your friend. We want someone to hear of us who doesn’t know us personally. Or if they know us and say, “hey, I didn’t know you sounded like that.”
It’s almost paradoxical in that if you put your music out online, it might just die like that. But at the same time, that’s how most artists get discovered.
That’s an interesting phenomenon. It allows for the hype band to be a thing. But sometimes bands can’t live up to it. It’s super cool when you have a recording project that’s just a person and then it gets translated to a live act.
Have you guys had enough opportunities to “translate” your music?
Yeah most definitely. Tufts provides a lot of opportunities. Basement stuff around here is hard though. The houses here are really dense and kids are just sandwiching families. Those kind of shows get shut down quickly if they’re too loud. We’ve never played a basement show. It’s a nice opportunity though at Tufts to have people you know come and support you first before you go and do some random DIY thing. I think though that Tufts has more opportunities for student bands to play than most other schools. Sometimes there are multiple a weekend. It’s easy to shit talk the school and the things you’re offered but we’ve got a much better platform to be heard at Tufts. Playing at Tufts is a nice place to get your bearings before you move out to Boston. It’s a nice sandbox, it’s super low-key. There’s no money on the line.
The way you’ve built Cave then is that it’s almost like a side project for all of you.
Yeah, that’s super accurate. But there’s something nice about that too. There’s a lot of pressure on all of us on more serious things going on. So Cave came together in kind of a carefree way. Making the album and getting ready for shows, that’s been kind of stressed, but at the beginning there was this bliss period.
In the beginning it was carefree jamming until we got super into recording. Then we got ready for our show with all the old material and it kind of fell apart. But after school, once we get jobs and stuff, hopefully we can again be cool.
Do you have any insights into what’s key to becoming known at Tufts?
Go to shows, and get to know the people who put on shows. Applejam, Midnight, other booking groups. Build a relationship with all those involved. It’s easy to play a show at Tufts. There’s so many circles of bands that have overlapping members. The network of musicians involved is pretty tight. You go to Berklee, and say you’ve got a show on the weekend, well no one’s going to support you. Everyone’s got a show on the weekend. At Tufts, there’s something to be said about the small pond thing. You know the people involved in music. There’s something to be said about how this isn’t a music school. You might think the odds are stacked against you but it’s cool to stick with one musical group and try different incarnations of musical things. The problem is that there’s one practice room that everyone wants to use. It’s in Granoff and it’s open to anyone. It’s super hard to book.
So there’s a discrepancy between how easy it is to play at Tufts and how hard it is to practice?
It’s super difficult, everyone is well aware. There are super great facilities, they’re awesome. Granoff’s so cool, but the booking process is super bad. They assume that you’re doing wrong. Guilty until proven innocent. There’s a lot of skepticism about who you’re practicing with and what gear you’re using. There’s been a black market of trading for hours. It would be nice if that could change. They have these expectations and you’re stereotyped based on the kind of music you play. They allow you to book differently.
Does the way Cave is received vary across Tufts?
There are people who don’t give a shit, who don’t care about local music. It’s rare to have a show on a college campus where basically people who aren’t related to you in a friend-way are like, “oh I’m here at this show; I like this music.” What I’m trying to say is that most bands get a fan base here by inviting their friends and their circles. They love the music because they love the people. Some people who I don’t know have come up and said, “I love the Cave stuff.” That means a lot to me; I don’t trust anyone who says nice stuff about Cave that I know. Someone said we were tall once. Exceptionally. It’s way better if it’s coming from someone who you don’t know. It’s cool for someone to relate to your music who’s not relating to you.