The Cave Singers have been undergoing a transition of late. After spending a half-decade performing as a trio, the Seattle indie-folk musicians brought onboard Fleet Foxes multi-instrumentalist Morgan Henderson to serve as their first official bassist.
"People would ask, 'It's just the three of you?' And we'd say, 'Yeah we're a power trio," laughs lead singer Pete Quirk. "That was kind of our joke, but that was essentially what we were trying to do."
Having a fourth member has enabled guitarist Derek Fudesco and drummer Marty Lund to spend less time multitasking.
"Derek would play bass with his feet on these pedals," says Quirk. "So now it just feels fleshed out in the way it's supposed to. Morgan also plays flute on a few things, and it's just like he was the missing piece."
The Cave Singers initially arose from the ashes of post-punk band Pretty Girls Make Graves. Fudesco played bass and Andrea Zollo sang, both of them living in a house with Quirk. When that band broke up, Fudesco and Quirk began writing songs together on an acoustic guitar.
Lund joined in on drums about halfway through the recording of their 2007 debut, Invitation Songs. Although Henderson has been with the Cave Singers for two years now, he didn't appear on record until their fourth release, Naomi, an album that features a noticeably heftier sound.
"I think after Naomi everything feels very new again," says Quirk. "I feel we're almost at the beginning of some sort of new life cycle for creativity within the band. It's like the first three were a trilogy and Naomi was a summation."
Early Cave Singer albums, says Quirk, weren't really "folk" so much as "not rock."
"We were like, maybe we don't want to play such loud music anymore, but we don't really have any experience playing quieter acoustic music," he recalls. "This is what happens when we try to do that."
On record, the band managed to capture a more understated sound. Strummy, ringing guitars? Check. Tender, pastoral vibe? Check. Melodic, somewhat plaintive vocals? Check.
Even so, those albums bore only a passing resemblance to the band's onstage performances. "I feel like our live show is a lot closer to the Stooges than Fairport Convention."
As time has passed, though, the musicians find themselves gravitating toward their original rock roots. Of course, that hasn't really been something they articulate among themselves. What the songs demand isn't a top-down decision. The music is what it is. Or at least that's the goal.
"For me as a listener or participant, if the music has something about it that's unique and honest, and maybe a sense of humility to it, then I usually respond to it regardless of genre," says Quirk.
Meanwhile, bandmembers remain as close-knit as ever. When the Cave Singers had the opportunity to tour China a few years ago, it was an eye-opening experience that also validated the choices they've made along the way.
"We're best friends and partners in this music thing, but we've had all these experiences where we're like brothers," he says. "So there's this feeling of gratitude that we started off writing these songs in a bedroom and now we were walking around on the Great Wall of China."0