Q&A: Cave Bears' Nick Williams On New Orleans, Rabid Fans, And The Fine Art of Building A Live Mystery
Massachusetts/Baltimore conceptual-rock unit Cave BearsNick Williams and Carrie Bren, with occasional gueststear into sound with an almost childlike avidity and intensity, challenging preconceived notions about how music can or should sound. YouTube examples of their uncompromising insanity aboundwe've embedded a few herebut for a taste of what the group is capable of, Sound of the City recommends sampling the free-for-download records available on the band's website. Two especially twisted offerings stand out. On Horrible & Useless (Yod Tapes, 2008), the Bears' dirge-y abnormal-normal encompasses the gutting of live guitars, electro-shock noise, and sci-fi monster sounds. Meanwhile, on Geen Teets (Serf Released, 2008), mental-patient stage banter and aimless tune-up feedback give way to what might best be described as "maniacal hillbilly grindcore," tape-speed shenanigans, demonic voices cutting in and out of caterwauling distortion, and nightmare funhouse Big Band blare that suggests pachyderms storming an orchestra pit. For our feature on the band running today, we emailed with Williams about audio extremism, terrorizing audiences, and mellowing with age.
Who's in the band, and what roles does each member play?
My name is Nick, and I've played every Cave Bears show. The only other regular member of the band is Carrie, who is somewhat of a mad genius. She's played about 70 percent of our live shows, and has appeared on every release with me.
The band initially started as a collective exercise in excess. Both Carrie and I lived in what could only be deemed a "punk house" in Hadley, Massachusetts with about seven other guys and gals, circa 2005. We somewhat ironically called the place "Chaos Inc." Nobody else really entered our little world, and it became a fertile ground for sharing inspirations and whatnot. The band and the house were pretty much the same trip in those days, and we played some of our first gigs, opening for members of the Sun City Girls and for Jackie-O Motherfucker, as a huge ensemble.
In 2006, Carrie and I moved to New Orleans, where we met Mary Collins, the only other semi-permanent member of the band. It was there, using instruments that we'd salvaged from the post-Katrina wreckage, that we recorded the material that would comprise our first couple of real releases. The three of us eventually moved back to Western Massachusetts, released a few more recordings and even did one tour of the Northeast with artist Eugenia Semjonova before we all went our separate ways in the summer of 2008. These years culminated in the release of our GERMICIDE 12" split with Id M Theft Able. The live lineup during this period was Carrie on drums and vocals, Mary on bass, and myself on guitar.
Since 2009, the band has pretty much consisted of Carrie and I as a duo that focuses on spoken-word performances with minimal musical accompaniment or as a solo project of mine that sometimes includes pick-up bands and could loosely fall into the genre of "conceptual punk rock." I think we've done our best work, both public and private, as a duo. But who am I to judge? I always keep the project semi-active, regardless of the interest and availability of the other members.