Cave In are not your average major label rock band. You won’t find rappers spouting off about ‘b****es’ and ‘hos’ in their music. You won’t find cheesy holler-a-long hooks and pogo-friendly song structures. Their mission is one of musical progression, with spiralling guitar flourishes, avant garde atmospherics and soaring vocal melodies welded to a water-tight post-hardcore base. And having now signed up to RCA, they’ve finally found a suitably prominent soapbox from which to spread their word. “When we first considered signing up to a major label we were looking at the commercial market for bands and it’s nothing like what we’re doing. It sucks,” says Brodsky. “I was originally thinking I don’t want to be on a commercial radio playlist with Limp Bizkit and Saliva and s*** like that. But then I sort of reconsidered and I thought, what better time for a band like us? Maybe we can try and be one of the bands who contributes to the decline of all that s***, just as ’80s hair metal got destroyed by alternative music.”
But it wasn’t so much a musical progression as a complete, unrelenting u-turn that created the Cave In we hear today. Having formed in 1995 when they were all 15 years old and living in the small town of Methuen near Boston, they originally set out to make the noisiest, ugliest brand of hardcore metal they could, in order to fit into the local scene alongside such underground luminaries as Piebald and Converge. Two razor-gargling, ultra-angry lead vocalists came and went as they released their first few EPs, now available on the ‘Beyond Hypothermia’ compilation, leaving guitarist Brodsky to take on the role of singer for the making of their first album proper – ‘Until Your Heart Stops’. And then came the sudden realisation that no-one in the band wanted to sound like a lorryload of car parts crashing into a fireworks factory anymore. Brodsky was in physical pain through screaming his lungs out night after night, and the band felt that there were much more emotions they could reproduce in music than just anger and indignance.
“That’s the question we get from people all the time,” says guitarist Adam. “Why did you change your sound? And it’s such a simple answer – we just didn’t want to do that anymore, Steve was in pain through singing that way and the four of us were just much more comfortable writing the kinds of songs we do now.”
Now set firmly as a four piece, Cave In recorded an EP ‘Creative Eclipses’ which signposted their new melodic direction. But their fans thought it was merely a ‘blip’, assuming the band would return to their screamy roots with their next album. They didn’t. Instead they went much, much further, and the resulting record, 2000’s ‘Jupiter’ (on the Hydrahead label) was a giant leap not just for Cave In, but for the whole post-hardcore scene – a majestic, ambitious, ethereal record which reveals something new on every listen, and draws comparisons to Led Zeppelin, ‘OK Computer’-era Radiohead and even prog titans Rush thanks to drummer JR’s Neal Peart-esque stylings.
“Our songwriting gets more and more interesting as time goes on,” says bassist Caleb. “It’s getting more and more collaborative between the four of us now, rather than us just learning Stephen’s songs. And that’s cool because it means every time we write a new song we surprise ourselves. Some of the stuff we’ve been writing recently doesn’t sound like anything we’ve done before, which keeps it exciting. If we write like a straight up rock song, then the next practice we try and write something weird – we don’t like to play things too straight.”
Now, after the success of Jupiter on the underground scene, RCA have signed the band, allowing the members to finally give up their jobs back in Boston (Adam worked at a burrito restaurant, Caleb was a bike messenger, JR worked for a computer manufacturing company and Stephen served in a bagel shop). They’re currently writing and demoing songs for their third album proper, due in mid 2002. And it seems their current influences are extremely varied.
“There’s this band from New Hampshire called Scissorfight who make me proud to be from Boston,” says JR. “They’re like a mix of Clutch and Entombed. And there’s a band called Burning Brides we love and an instrumental three-piece from Vermont called The Cancer Conspiracy who sound like U2 mixed with Rush. Plus we’ve just discovered Spiritualized – they’re really good – their mixes are really weird, the sounds that they get. They put things where you wouldn’t expect them and that’s great.”
Cave In are one of those rare beasts – a band whose motivations come from their deep love of music, not through any desire to hang out at MTV parties and fly around in private jets. A band who are desperate for more and more people to hear them, but only because they think – no, they <> - their songs are in a different league to the sickly sweet teen-pop and immaculately styled fake metal bands they hear on the radio.
“If we can be a little different, give some sort of alternative to kids and be somehow important to them then that’s my ultimate goal,” says Adam. “When I was growing up Nirvana was my favourite band in the world, they were so important to me and they changed my life. It makes me sad to hear people say the same thing about groups today – most of them are horrible, horrible bands. I don’t like the music and I don’t like the way they present themselves. I’m not saying we’re the next Nirvana, but I do hope in some way we can help kids out a little and do something to change the way people perceive rock music. That would make me happy.”