Cavernlight play emotionally important music. It isn’t flashy, like thrash or death metal, but it crackles with personal darkness that envelopes the listener. Cavernlight wring slow tension from their instruments in corrosive waves, but their debut record As We Cup Our Hands and Drink from the Stream of Our Ache (out now on Gilead Media) mostly defies simple doom or sludge tropes, instead delving convoluted crawlspaces that satisfy its authors’ particular urges. It’s a frightening listen, but also powerfully compelling.
We spoke with guitarist/etc. Scott Zuwadzhi, drummer Adam Bartlett (owner of Gilead Media) and guitarist Patrick Crawford about their journey with this project and the creation of the album. You can read some of their responses in this month’s issue of the magazine (#155, September 2017, Wolves in the Throne Room cover), and what follows is what didn’t make it to print.
If you plan to doom today, doom to this.
You say that Cavernlight wasn’t initially supposed to be recorded or performed, which is a rare thing to hear. Can you talk about what the music meant to you initially, or how you benefitted from playing it?
Zuwadzhi: It’s hard for me to look back at that time of my life and try to even begin to think what was going on in my mind at that time. I spent quite a few years in the noise scene in my 20s. I tried to study performers’ execution. You could give 10 people the same set up to perform with and always get a different result. This could be said about guitar players as well. Though I feel that executing that on a sonic level where feedback, contact mics, and field recordings are your only option challenges you to think beyond your normal perception as a musician.
Bartlett: Music has always been about catharsis and emotional expression for me, whether listening or performing.
Crawford: Cavernlight was never meant to be recorded or to be performed live. Just like most things, Cavernlight evolved into what most bands do.
Back when it began, did you feel that you were writing songs with narrative/emotional arcs, or was it just stream-of-consciousness flow?
Zuwadzhi: Life isn’t something that happens in a stream of consciousness for myself. From day to day, sure. But, when I look back upon events I don’t always see them as they happened in a timeline. I’m living this life with ADHD/Anxiety/Depression. Nothing happens as it “should”.
Crawford: Our song writing is of both narrative and emotion. Musically, it comes from the conscience/subconscience, then molded to fit structure.
Bartlett: Lyrically I always try to achieve some type of narrative in what we write. Selecting songs that thematically “feel” like they go together and then crafting the words around the feeling invoked by the music. On our full-length we specifically tailored the album so there would be a distinct narrative from one movement to the other, from one side of the LP to the other.
How often did you play together on Cavernlight material during those first (pre-recording) years?
Zuwadzhi: That has always depended on time, which seems to be a constant for any of us. Between record labels, touring with other bands, whatever it may be. It also depended on people and their emotional states and well being.
Crawford: When I joined the band, we only got together once, sometimes twice a month. This took place over the course of a year or more.
Bartlett: It was entirely erratic, on an as needed basis. When we felt like we should get together and play, we did it.
Why did you choose to include other people as time went on? Did they have the same connection to the music that you did, or do you feel that they brought something new and different to the mix?
Zuwadzhi: Adding other people was a conscious effort to be able to create more textures and depth to our sound. Everyone has been chosen to participate in this process due to their mental nature and our desires to work with people who share the same vision as us. From recording with Adam Tucker, to all of our guest vocalists on the album, these are people that provide something that we cannot.
Crawford: We all share connections to the music in general. Adam, Scott and I played music together at various points in our lives. When I was asked, it was because of our connection, where we were in our lives, and our thoughts about the art we wanted to create. I feel/ hope that I brought something new and different.
Are these songs autobiographical, or do they explore experiences outside your own?
Zuwadzhi: Everything that we try to do is based upon our own experiences within our lives. The songs and lyrics are very much based on personal lives and perspectives. Whether those perspectives are true or not is another story.
Crawford: Autobiographical, but can be interpreted as exploring experience outside our own. Even though I never contributed lyrically, the subject of the lyrics holds true to what was going on in our lives. Those emotions that were put into our music transcend to all of us as one entity.
When you perform this material, do you relive the emotions that went into creating them, or do repeat performances come out of a different place?
Crawford: It’s always reliving the emotions. That’s why we don’t play out too much.
What events or processes led you to decide to record and release this work, after not doing so for so long?
Zuwadzhi: It felt like it was time to share our pain and grief with others.
Do you feel like this is a beginning for the recording life of Cavernlight, or does this complete what you wanted to create?
Zuwadzhi: I will never be completely satisfied with anything I have done. It is not in my nature to do so. Whether or not these experiences will be shared with general public all depends on the struggles in my brain and the willingness of my bandmates to participate.
Crawford: For now it completes what we want to create.
Bartlett: We have plans to write more music together, but whether or not we want to go through the process of recording again is something we haven’t even discussed, and likely won’t be addressed until (if) we create something we feel we need to share for our own emotional benefit.
Check out this and other Gilead Media releases here.