It was appropriately raining the afternoon I got a chance to talk with Pete Quirk, singer and guitarist for The Cave Singers, an indie folk band hailing from the rainy city of Seattle, Washington. The band formed in 2007 when Quirk moved from New Jersey to the Emerald City. When asked about the coast-to-coast transfer, Quirk alludes to a “life rut.” His previous band, Hint Hint, had recently gone their separate ways, “things had just sort of stagnated.” We briefly bond over life ruts. “One of several,” he deadpans. So, Quirk decided to change the scenery. The life rut brought him to the west coast and, upon arriving, he decided immediately he was going to live there. “It had this scenery and landscape, the city on the ocean. It was very different than out east. It felt like there was room, space. I know Seattle is a large city, but, compared to the cities in the east, it felt like there were trees and mountains close by.”
It came up in conversation how Seattle has been a famous birthplace and mecca for bands, from Jimi Hendrix and Ray Charles, right through to Nirvana and Fleet Foxes. Quirk is quick to respond. “I think bands are inspired by the place and all the surroundings. How could they not be? We’re so close to such natural beauty.” When asked about the storied musical history of Seattle and its current shift towards a more folk oriented sound, Quirk interjects, “I didn’t come here to start a band, it wasn’t planned that way, it just kind of happened.
“The folk scene emerging out of Seattle is not tied to any one influence,” he adds. “People play what they like and if it has a more folk sound than that’s just how it is.”
Shortly after arriving in Seattle, Quirk moved in with guitarist Derek Fudesco, a former member of Pretty Girls Make Graves and Murder City Devils, two popular, punk-influenced bands. “He let me move in and we started to play together. Then it sort of went from there. We moved from playing around to writing songs and so on.”
Five years and three albums later, Quirk’s “life rut” seems to have paid off. Matador Records signed the Cave Singers shortly after they started playing shows. They stayed with Matador for two records, releasing 2007′s Invitation Songs and 2009′s Welcome Joy. With these albums, the band established themselves as a capable and rousing acoustic act, a departure from their past bands’ more angular post-punk. Quirk and Fudesco were now crafting timeless pastoral melodies that were unassuming, affecting and undeniably catchy.
Through a friendship with Stephen McBean (of Black Mountain), the Cave Singers hooked up with Jagjaguwar Records and released their third album, No Witch, an album that features many standout tracks, such as “Swim Club” and “Haller Lake.” “When we met with the Jagjaguwar Records people, they were all really nice people, people we liked hanging out with. They’re just people who really like music and they happen to have a record label,” he confirms.
The Cave Singers are set to begin recording their fourth album this month and are following up with a tour. “We are excited about the new record and have added a fourth member, Morgan Henderson, on bass. We have also expanded the sound with more orchestration, including flutes. We’ve spent more time on this album planning it out and readying the material for recording than for past albums.”
When asked about their upcoming show in Calgary, Quirk is sincere and enthusiastic. “This will be our first time there, we are very excited, we have heard from a lot of other bands that it is a great place to play.”
Catch the Cave Singers at the HiFi Club on July 23.
By Graham Mackenzie