Vetiver, Ryley Walker
Something has been missing from the last few mini-millennia we’ve all been living through here in the two-thousand-teens, but it is a discreet thing; have you noticed at all? Listen freak – if you can raise your thousand yard stare from the heart of the campfire embers, you might be roused by the sign that’s been posted on your cabin wall: our old favorite neo-troubadours Espers are manifesting once again! Re-birthed into an inextricably changed world after the interminable gap of nearly a decade, Espers mean to bring their kaliedoscopic folk vibe back with a vengeance – while not committing to a world tour (oh, pleasant hope!), their three shows in the Northeast will doubtless be a potent presentation of their earthy-yet-expansive style! The classic sound of Espers is intact (Greg Weeks, Meg Baird, Brooke Sietinsons, Helena Espvall, Otto Hauser) and you know what that means; impeccable live performance of an almost timeless vintage. Tickets will go quick, so act fast and free!
Vetiver is what I’ve been calling my songs and recordings since about 2003 or so. I live in San Francisco, have since 1998. My touring band and the musicians I’ve recorded with over the years are always changing, though many friends and players have stayed with me over albums and tours. The one constant has been Thom Monahan who has engineered and co-produced every Vetiver album. Thom lives in L.A., where most of Complete Strangers was recorded.
The album came together slowly over demos at my home in San Francisco and quick trips to L.A., continuing on with Thom at his studio. It moved in fits and starts for a couple years. Once we had the basic arrangements we jumped in the studio with Bart Davenport, Gabe Noel and Josh Adams for a few days to put down rhythm tracks. That’s when the album really took shape. Thom & I fleshed everything out with a few more musicians in San Francisco & L.A. and eventually Complete Strangers arrived.
The songs on Complete Strangers bear some resemblance to the album’s title. They share things in common but come from different places, different times. “Stranger Still” is an anthem for insomniacs, illuminating the hours when the world exceeds our grasp. “From Now On” rings out some emotional tinnitus, the moment a night runs away from you, when freedoms turn into responsibilities. The album builds around dualities, the way people pair at parties. “Current Carry” percolates with the confidence of love, while “Confiding” reveals how vulnerable we are chasing love. “Backwards Slowly” and “Edgar” are vignettes of transition, more ebb than flow. As with many of Vetiver’s better moments, sunshine is only a chord away from melancholy. An introspective lyric underlies an extroverted chorus. Subtlety tries to be outgoing, loneliness familiar, in an effort to connect the dots of life’s ellipsis.
I’m still figuring the album out. It feels like someone I’ve just met yet known for a long time.
– Andy Cabic
“I think more than anything the thing to take away from this record is that I appreciate what improv and jamming and that outlook on music has done for me, but I wanted rigid structure for these songs. I don’t want to expand upon them live. There’s a looseness to some of the songs I guess, but I didn’t want to rely on just hanging out on one note .
I was under a lot of stress because I was trying to make an anti-folk record and I was having trouble doing it. I wanted to make something deep-fried and more me-sounding. I didn’t want to be jammy acoustic guy anymore. I just wanted to make something weird and far-out that came from the heart finally. I was always trying to make something like this I guess, trying to catch up with my imagination. And I think I succeeded in that way — it’s got some weird instrumentation on there, and some surreal far-out words. And it’s more Chicago-y sounding. Chicago sounds like a train constantly coming towards you but never arriving. That’s the sound I hear, all the time, ringing in my ears.”