I’ve written about The Cave Singers before; I’ve called them Appalachian cult-folk, and hypnotizing, but I’ve never actually called them on the phone. With some patient finagling and luck, I got a hold of charismatic lead singer Peter Quirk fresh out of the wilderness before The Cave Singers performance at Summer Meltdown festival this weekend... Here’s what he had to say:
Your album Naomi has been out for a while, and you’ve been touring playing that material, how do you feel about the songs now? Have they changed at all? Huh. Well, yeah. It changes as everyone gets used to playing it, you get better at playing the songs —or you think it sounds better— then you get to try new things with the compositions. Like, sometimes we’ll go to a festival or play a pre-show set and they’ll want an acoustic version or something. You wonder how you’re going to do that, and then when you do sometimes it actually turns out pretty cool.
It seems like every show is a festival now, do you like playing festivals? Oh yeah. We like to play anywhere, but festivals just sort of work for us. It’s a great thing, everyone is there to play and to see everyone else play, you get exposure with different people who maybe weren’t even there to see your band; you get to walk around, and you get to see shows. Regular venues are cool too, but festivals are just great. Sometimes the sound can be crazy or different outside, but for us they’re a win/win, you know?
I do, sometimes I wonder if bands are just sitting around back stage in the hot sun, but I imagine you get to see some cool bands. Is there anyone you’ve seen lately that made an impression? Quasi. We played a festival they were at and I was impressed by their show.
You know, they came out with that album a while back (American Gong) and I confess to not really knowing anything about them, turns out they (Sam Coomes/Janet Weiss) have been making music for like 30 years. I know, I thought the same thing. Also, we played Pickathon last year, and that stands out to me, I just walked around with my mind blown the whole time.
What does your set list look like for Summer Meltdown? Hmmm. Well it’s kind of evolved into a retrospective kind of thing. Lot’s of new stuff, but lots of the old stuff too.
When I saw you in January in Bremerton it was like a mish mash of old and new, I liked that. Yeah! Well, it’s different now, but same idea.
From my experience at Cave Singer's shows, people are excited to see you play melodica. Any melodica songs on the setlist? Oh yeah! Definitely! Funny story about the melodica, I have the black one I usually play, and I really enjoy it, but I bought it way back in like 2007 for like $20; at one point I thought I’d get a nice new one so I found one online. It was blue, looked pretty nice, and I was really looking forward to playing it live. This was around the same time I was, well, experimenting with some stuff and …well to make a long story short I was on some psychedelics the first time I took this thing on stage, and when I finally went to play it, nothing. Nothing happened, no sound.
Oh my god. You start to wonder if maybe you just don’t hear the sound or if this is real… Yeah! I was like was this all a dream, is the band real? Am I gonna wake up tomorrow and still be a bike messenger? What the hell? Anyway, I always play my little black melodica now. Haha. Of course, Morgan will be playing some flute too…
I’d have to say Derek is my favorite Cave Singer to watch, but I have also been mesmerized by Morgan Henderson’s bass and occasional flute, obviously he’s a great musician, but what would you say Morgan brings to the Cave Singers? Dance moves. His dance moves, which I sometimes have to talk to him about, because, I’m the lead man in this band, and I don’t want anyone stealing the show! Seriously though, we’ve been friends for a long time, and it’s just great to get together with Morgan, I look forward to meeting up with the guys every time we play a show. Obviously conversations with Morgan are great, like those conversations in the tour van maybe no one should ever hear. He’s an awesome musician as well as capable producer, plus he’s brilliant at bringing parts to songs, like a flute part or whatever. He’s just a brilliant guy.
Speaking of the tour van, any good books going around? What are you reading? Ah man. Well, some Eastern Philosophy, some spiritual stuff. You know with those books, when someone finds out you have one, or you're reading something, everyone starts giving them to you. Like, I think I’ve read every Pema Chodron book already. I like Thich Nhat Hanh. He’s got a crazy voice, and they have a lot of cool stuff online. Also, probably some Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman you know, oh, and Emily Dickinson.