After a period spent band-hopping and rubbing elbows for pet projects, Brooklyn-based music makers Matthew Iwanusa (lead vocals, guitar, drums), Jimmy Carbonetti (guitar), Stefan Marolachakis (drums, vocals), Sam Hopkins (synthesizer, vocals) and Jeff Berrall (bass, vocals) came together in 2010 to form Caveman. Indulging primal musical urges, the quintet forged a striking sound rooted in post-rock, indie and African music, begetting murky dreamscapes and sometimes eerie scores. Their debut LP CoCo Beware – replete with four-part harmonies, rolling drums and nebulous guitars – landed on numerous year-end lists, including Paste Magazine’s 20 Best Albums of 2011. According to Iwanusa, Caveman’s distinctive quality is quite simply a result of men gathering with their instruments, doing exactly what they want to do.
You’ve been compared to Band of Horses, My Morning Jacket, The War On Drugs and early Shins. What do you think of those comparisons?
I think it’s great. The War On Drugs write some of the best songs out there right now so it’s awesome to be compared to them. We did two weeks of shows together and it was so much fun; they’re such great guys.
When you’re in an airport or bar and someone asks what you do, how do you describe your music?
I say there’s a lot of harmonies…and that we’re dark and vibe-y.
Why are harmonies such a major component of your sound?
I sang opera as a kid and I grew up listening to The Beatles and The Beach Boys, so harmony just connects with me and connects me to my youth. It seems like the only way to go.
Are harmonies primal?
Well, sure. If there’s one thing that every person can relate to is the powerful feeling of making noise. Singing is ingrained in us as human beings.
Did it take time for you to lock into your sound?
When we first played together, we were already so comfortable with one another that it was just there from the beginning. We had a pretty specific idea of what we wanted to sound like…but of course, it’s always evolving.
Does playing live shape it?
Oh yeah. We love playing live. It’s so much fun and we’ve played together so many times that we’ve definitely evolved as a result.
What’s your live show like?
We like to bring the vibe. There’s a lot of energy in what we do and people really respond to it.
Was there a particular focus when assembling songs for CoCo Beware?
There was an idea of how it would go and different energies we wanted to incorporate and the structure we wanted to follow. Recording the album was done in our friend’s studio, and it was just this small, dark little room. It took us a long time… but it was such a relaxing process.
And did it come out the way you expected it would?
I think it came out exactly the way it should have. My expectations were to make something that I was proud of – and that’s what happened.
Many reviews of the record mention that it gets better with every listen.
I think so – and that’s the way you’d want it to be. People often give something a first listen with certain prejudices in mind so it’s great to know that they’re going back and giving it more listens.
What about this record pleases you the most?
Just that it was a situation where we got together, did exactly what we wanted to do as men…and got it done.
What’s on the agenda for 2012?
There will be a lot of touring and then we’re going to start recording another record as well. We just signed to Fat Possum, so we’re going to see what happens with that.
What are you really looking forward to?
Definitely playing a lot of shows and having a good time. This is all fun for us…and it’s all just…really awesome.
Learn more about Caveman and forthcoming 2012 tour dates by visiting their Facebook page.