Q+A: Cold Cave

August 14, 2009

Cold Cave recently released their debut Love Comes Close, a record of synth-heavy melodies often simultaneously dark and light. The album has been a recent favorite of our Freak Scene columnist Jamie Johns, and she spoke with the group's core, Wesley Eisold about the album, stormy thoughts and how the joy of performance might overcome the desolation of nostalgia. Listen to and download Love Comes Close's "Life Magazine" below and read the Q+A after the jump.

Download: Cold Cave, "Life Magazine"

How did Cold Cave start? What were your influences, musically and emotionally, when you started the group?
It wasn't really a conscious effort to sound like anything but rather recordings of first fumbles through synths and recording. Emotionally I was in a rather drab world, not playing music with anyone else and at a loss, because with the bands I had been in before I had to rely heavily on other people to write music. I can't ever really articulate what I want in any facet so after some time of singing over other people's music I grew tired and would quit. With Cold Cave, I was concerned less with quality of musicianship and sound and more with the emotion and everything I couldn't live out or communicate to the people I wanted to play with and to the rest of the world in general. I don't think the musical influences at the time were much different than they had ever been to me at any time. The only real difference is that I felt time was running out in life, not like dramatic crisis, but genuine fear that I hadn't done anything that really felt right yet. The haunt of mortality really followed me everywhere existentially. I couldn't understand why people were wearing watches because they seemed like hour glasses of death, keeping track of how much time was running out. I didn't know many people here that I cared for so I holed up and made records. The Hospital 7-inch and Dais 12-inch were really important for me. Sure they're just records, but I feel I've been so many people and those were the beginning marks of how I actually saw myself in the world. I dread clubs but I love the music they play in them.

Over the course of a handful of releases you have cut across a variety of sounds, genres and lyrical themes. Was it intentional for the group to have many faces or just something that developed along the way? How would you describe Cold Cave's music?
This answer is so boring, but I really don't try to define it, not because I feel its indefinable at all, but just because I don't know anything certain about anything that I'm doing. I just wanted to make music that I'd listen to. I liked the music I made in the past but it wasn't ever really contemporary, in that it wasn't ever music I actually listened to. I can't say what is and isn't intentional. It’s natural to roll your eyes when people say things like "I just wrote and this came out" but I feel that’s true more often than not with Cold Cave.

You have a rotating cast of collaborators like Dominick Fernow and Caralee McElroy from Xiu Xiu. How did they become involved with Cold Cave? How do you approach collaboration?
Caralee played on and wrote a lot of parts on the LP. She was living in NY and joined Cold Cave and began helping me play parts I couldn't and then it just went from there. We did a UK tour with Prurient that was a collaborative set and decided to continue with each other as Cold Cave. I think in the future everyone will play bigger roles in writing music.

Something which has always struck me about Cold Cave is the contradictions in the music, lyrics, and imagery, especially regarding sexuality. On "The Trees Grew Emotions and Died" 12-inch, there are these slinky sexual tug-of-war vocals and a sweet looking beautiful nude couple on the cover paired with really depressing lyrics. Where do these contradictions and the treatment of sex/lust/romance in your music come from?
It’s an absolute fixation with nostalgia and the idea of people and loves that never happened, so much that I can't function properly with the people in my actual life. I don't think nudity always includes innocence but it does almost always include honesty, which is what I wanted to show with the Brady/Manson looking couple. Going from being obsessed with the notion of sexuality to wanting no one to come within a mile of you. I find it all so disheartening, what we hope to find when we leave our homes. I want the music to feel that way too.

You have been playing more shows recently—how has it been transitioning your solo project into a live band? What separates Cold Cave the live band from Cold Cave on record?
I think we are getting better. It’s really exciting for me to play these songs I made with people I admire as humans and musicians and artists. The difference is that the music was never meant to be performed and now it is.

Your first full length, Love Comes Close, was just released on your label, Heartworm Press. Did you approach it any differently than your previous work?
Having Caralee to play and help write changed it. I wasn't initially writing music that had a lot of room for vocals and didn't intend to perform live often. Not that the music is complicated now, but besides aesthetic in the beginning, it was so minimal because that was all I was capable of. I just wanted to make a pop record and to celebrate everything, the good and the bad, and I wanted the record to not have any songs I didn't love.

Posted: August 14, 2009
Q+A: Cold Cave