Setting the Vibe for Coco Beware
An Interview with Matthew Iwanusa of Caveman
Words by Bryan Crawford
Los Angeles, CA — Sorting out one’s musical endeavors is solidly a first-world problem, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it can be as frustrating as an argument with a meter maid. We’ve seen it in the woebegone faces of forlorn folk-singers and manifested in the mumblings of ancient blues players. It’s a timeless trouble, the pursuit and perfection of one’s passion, and Matthew Iwanusa of Caveman won’t disagree.
He’s sitting in the one place in his east coast apartment that gets cell reception, talking about everything that’s exciting about his music life. I’m similarly situated in my apartment only on the opposite coast, and I’m just taking notes.
We muse about the weather being shitty in LA today though I’m certain that somewhere there’s sunshine, and about how it’s apparently damn near perfect in Brooklyn, where Iwanusa lives (un-ironically). Sun notwithstanding, he sounds pretty damn pleased with things. “I’m excited that the record’s coming out, I mean last summer we started recording it, but I’m really excited that we’ve waited a bit to put the album out – that we thought about it, got it right.”
And as you listen to the first release from Caveman (CoCo Beware becomes available for digital download on September 13th) you get the idea that there was time taken to ‘get it right’. With the help of Producer Nick Stumpf (French Kicks), the men of Caveman made an at times haunting and equally delightful rock album that showcases their talent across diverse rhythmic and melodic arrangements.
There are entire tunes of somehow soothingly dissonant synths, and an eclectic mix of melodic guitar licks. ‘December 28th’ with its bass and drums in sync and a beautiful call and answer harmony is my favorite tune, but what do I know.
The album, like most, made me curious of Matt Iwanusa’s old influences, and we talk about him growing up in Brooklyn; meeting the guys in Caveman.
“My parents were super involved in getting me into music really young. My dad was a college professor and my mom is a music teacher – I mean, not a lot of kids are always allowed to be musicians. When I was in high school and college they would let me play these shows. I went to high school with Jimmy Carbonetti, we played in a comedy band together, then when I was in college we played in a band called the Subjects.”
I begin to think that Iwanusa hears music like I hear sirens in the city.
“Pretty much we’ve all been hanging around the Lower East Side for the last six years and gotten to know each other. Stefan Marolachakis and I played a show as a band called White Dolphin, and then we wrote three of the [Caveman] songs while we were outside waiting for cabs to go to the show.”
This affirms my earlier suspicion. But it’s still far from simple – sorting things out, that is, aka, making beautiful music, ‘synthed-out’ or otherwise.
“Getting the amazing synth sounds and these dreamy sounds happening right… when we went to record Nick [Stumpf] got us to lay down a few things and then we took some time to get those elements right. That set the mood for the rest of the album; we built a whole vibe around that.”
And a year later, Caveman is touring the East and Midwest with War on Drugs, preparing to release their album in a few weeks, and just generally enjoying things. Says Iwanusa, on pursuing his passion as it relates to the state of the union, “I love doing this. If everybody else is losing money right now I might as well do it with this.”
His tone is absent of affectations; doesn’t go into long contrived diatribes, nor does he namedrop or try to fit big words in where they don’t belong. Matt Iwanusa simply seems like he could get used to feeling the feeling that he’s feeling. Which, when I listen to tracks like ‘Decide’ and ‘Thankful’, makes me guess is something like a downtempo exhilaration, as if in a dreamworld with his non-violent Caveman motorcycle crew, just cruising.
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