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Cave In: Hot or Not?

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: Sept. 16, 2003

Cave In
w/ From Autumn to Ashes, Every Time I Die, Funeral for a Friend
Sept. 25
Sokol Underground
13th & Martha

Turn back the clock to the fall of 2000. The buzz was on, and it was all about Cave In.

With the release of Jupiter on indie label Hydra Head Records, the band had gone from being just another Cookie Monster-growling metal band to the next generation of prog-rock heroes. Suddenly, it was cool again to sound like Rush.

The big labels took notice, and a year later, the Massachusetts-based four-piece was spending RCA Records' cash on a big, new CD designed to take their sound to the next level, whether the band wanted to go there or not.

The jump to a major was the second big change in Cave In's short but storied career. The first shift was from metal to cosmic stomp, featuring spacey guitars, soaring vocals, and an over-reaching, pompous, prog-rock atmosphere. The shift didn't sit well with the band's fans.

"People hated it," said Cave In guitarist Adam McGrath, calling from New Haven, Connecticut, before the evening's gig. "It got to the point where they were throwing shit at us when we were playing. They were pissed. Some people said 'fuck this,' but others tried to figure out what were doing and grabbed it."



McGrath said their move from metal was necessitated by a combination of physical and creative limitations.

The band's lead singer, Steve Brodsky, was a huge metal fan. "But he realized he couldn't keep singing like that without destroying his voice. On top of that, we were scared that we were being pigeonholed as a metalcore band, stuck playing shows with the other metalcore bands. We wanted to do something different."

Jupiter, hailed as the band's masterpiece, was different indeed. It was Rush without Geddy Lee's annoying, whiney voice. Brodsky's vocals instead resembled a polished Tommy Shaw, a la Cornerstone-era Styx. Drummer John-Robert Conners was no Neil Peart, but his stickwork was more than adequate, and at times just as good. Add to that the fact that five of the eight tracks on Jupiter were over five minutes long (one track, "Requiem," spanned an epic nine minutes), and you had the reincarnation of a rock style invented by fossilized proggers like King Crimson and Yes.

Things, however, have taken another turn with RCA. On Antenna, released last March, the marathon sonic mountain climbs have been replaced with three- and four-minute rock songs that boiled Cave IN's intricate, intense sound down to radio-friendly nuggets.

McGrath characterized the band's stormy relationship with RCA as financially rewarding, but creatively frustrating.

"Indie labels are like majors, they have the same problems but on a different scale," he said. "It's the difference between working with 200 people versus two. RCA tried harder to get things done, but more people wanted to put their fingerprints on our record. They said there had to be a few radio singles, and for us, that was a challenge because we never wrote songs like that before."


"It got to the point where they were throwing shit at us when we were playing. They were pissed. "




"We were young and naive to the whole process and it affected how we wrote songs."



McGrath said the expectations were ratcheted up along with their lifestyles. "When we signed with a major, we went from having day jobs to being completely consumed by Cave In. Suddenly, there was no time for anything, including a personal life," he said. "All these new people came into the picture. We had a business manager, lawyer, A&R guy, marketing guy, people that are your quote/unquote friends. We were young and naive to the whole process and it affected how we wrote songs."

When it came time to roll out Antenna, RCA insisted on releasing the 3-minute rock single "Anchor," against the band's better judgment."There are so many better songs that could have been dropped on radio," McGrath said, "but it fell into the radio-friendly criteria because it was short; and looking back, the people at RCA were really into it. Two years after the fact, it was a mistake."

When "Anchor" didn't set FM and MTV ablaze, the weather began to shift at RCA. "A lot of people gave up on us from the label," McGrath said, adding that these days, the band's relationship with RCA "changes from day to day."

"We don't have an A&R guy anymore. RCA merged with two other labels. People are scared for their jobs. We were suppose to do a meet-and-greet the other night and no one showed up."

Will they release another album on RCA? McGrath could only say, "We'll see."

"We can do this all by ourselves. We did it long before a major got into it," he said. "The last two years have been a big learning experience, and we haven't taken a step backwards in terms of record sales."

Despite that, the band is ready to make its third change to their sound, and this time it'll be in the direction they want to head. "The next record is going to be completely different from Antenna," McGrath said. "We're writing songs the way we want to write them. We're not going to go through that again."

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Published in The Omaha Weekly-Reader September 17, 2003. Copyright 2003 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.