GEN F: Caveman

Photographer Julia Gillard
October 31, 2011

Like every New York City fairytale, Caveman’s story will end in real estate. When they make it big, they’re going to buy the old converted Con Edison building on 6th Street between 1st and Avenue A. (Though that place on Spring right across from Sweet & Vicious wouldn’t be bad either.) It’s unclear what they’ll do once they’ve acquired their monolithic digs, but whatever it is, you can rest assured the place will be filled to the rafters with music, jokes and easy warmth.

Three of Caveman’s five members—lead singer/songwriter Matthew Iwanusa, guitarist Jimmy “Cobra” Carbonetti, and drummer Stefan Marolachakis—grew up in the city (keyboardist Sam Hopkins and bassist Jeff Berrall are from Albany and Atlanta, respectively), but their sound is more rural laze than urban frenzy. As Iwanusa describes it, “It’s really soft on the ears so you can really get lost in the sound and get captured by it. I think that comes from spending a lot of man hours just playing music.” Which may just be a humble way of saying, you have to try really hard to sound this effortless. It’s the quality of being able to take a deceptively simple song like “Great Life,” which repeats its scant lyrics Great life to live/ It’s all you have to give over and over, and transforms it into something bigger, adding texture through soft, driving rhythm, layered and looped harmony and delicate, scissoring keys. Every member has his part and piece in the composition. The orchestration is lush but never fussy.

Caveman developed an interpersonal synergy through years of playing in and being fans of each other’s under-the-radar New York bands, but it wasn’t until early 2010 that they actually started playing together. They call themselves a “supergroup” only semi-ironically, because, really, each thinks the other is just that—super. “Every other band I’ve been in there’s always one or two people you don’t want to be around,” Berrall ventures. “This is the opposite. We hang out first, then we play music.” Marolachakis, who consistently volleys a stream of one-liners, adds, “The genre of music is ‘hang out.’”

It’s true. The ten tracks that comprise their debut, CoCo Beware, invite you to linger, built on crafted, trusty structures—classic rock songs that are buttressed and gilded by studied distortion and twinkling flourishes. “It’s less about one person than it is everybody playing for each other, nobody’s trying to take over,” says Iwanusa, who acts as the band’s principle songwriter. Having paid their dues in other bands and having struggled just to be musicians in New York, there’s this collective sense that they’re primed for something great, but that they’ll only make it together. Technical skill will only get you so far in a city that has a tendency to swallow everything but the cream on top. If Caveman is bent on bringing a bit of brotherly love to the Big Apple, the world at large reaps the benefit. “A lot of times when people say ‘New York band,’ or ‘city band,’ it implies a big scene,” explains Iwanusa. “But I think when you say New York band it’s a lot about the experience of having a band in New York, and how New York fights you to do it.”

“But that’s what’s great, too,” Carbonetti pipes in, cracking a wide, foggy-eyed smile at his own mock hubris. “It’s a big filter. You’re either the best or you’re not.”

Stream: Caveman, CoCo Beware

Posted: October 31, 2011
GEN F: Caveman