IT STARTED WITH nothing at all,” says Cold Cave’s Wesley Eisold, of the origins of his dark synth-pop group. It sounds simple enough, but the former American Nightmare and Some Girls vocalist/screamer has since piled on thick layers of dreamy melodies, crushing noise and lyrics about death and dying.
Only when delving further into Eisold’s outlook on life does Cold Cave really start to make any sense, especially when considering that the electro band, considering current members and frequent collaborations, includes a former Boston hardcore vocalist, an ex-Xiu Xiu keyboardist and seminal noise musician Dominick Fernow of Prurient.
“People are dying on every corner, there is death everywhere,” explains Eisold, very matter-of-factly. “There are trees dying in front of me right now. It’s impossible to ignore.”
Just when Cold Cave seems to be focused on the macabre, though, Eisold throws me a curveball. “The positive version of [this outlook on death] is it is a reminder to continue to experience life and to try to be productive.”
Ah. So that’s where the brutal and dark meet the catchy melodies and dance-inducing drum machines in Cold Cave’s music: through the fusion of the bad (being dead, experiencing the death of a loved one) with the good (having fun, dancing).
While it’s not completely shocking that the former Ten Yard Fight roadie created Cold Cave, it is pleasantly surprising that Eisold quit being in punk bands, taught himself to play keyboards in his Philadelphia apartment and somehow came up with some of the most interesting and unique pop music being played right now.
“A lot of the early material wasn’t songs, they were just nude pieces [of music],” explains Eisold of his foray into instrumentation. “It’s kind of interesting to me after playing an instrument for six months to stumble upon a pop song.”
These unexpected gems wound up on a number of early recordings, including a self-released 12” on Eisold’s own Heartworm Press, a single on Brooklyn’s Dais Records and a 7” on Fernow’s Hospital Productions.The Hospital 7” led to an aborted collaboration between Prurient and Cold Cave, but Fernow still remains as a contributor to the band.
Despite Prurient’s knack for harsh electronic noise, Fernow has aided Cold Cave through songwriting and in their live show.
Eisold is brief explaining why Fernow makes sense as a collaborator. “[It comes] from music and friendship,” he says. “It just works.”
He is equally candid in his reasoning of how Cold Cave ended up on Matador
Records, quite the jump from self-releases and small indies. Following the excellent Love Comes Close LP on Heartworm, Matador released a 12”, the aptly titled Death Comes Close, and made plans to reissue the full album.
“They [Matador] are all people who are into music and buy records and I guess they liked our band,” a reserved Eisold discloses.
Maybe Eisold seems so detached from the business end of his band because he expends so much energy staying relevant and sincere in his songwriting. It also could be because he doesn’t seem to be as focused on who releases his records, as long as he is on the same page with a prospective label; otherwise, he’d be just as happy to release it himself.
Don’t forget, this is a man who has released records on labels as diverse as What’s Your Rupture? and Epitaph. In fact, Love Comes Close was supposed to have been released on a few different labels (Eisold doesn’t say which) before coming out on Heartworm in its initial run.
“There was a label or two that was going to release it,” Eisold clarifies. “I wasn’t comfortable with it at the last minute.”
Eisold seems to be comfortable enough with his band’s new home at Matador, which also seems to be a necessity as Cold Cave continues to get bigger. His intention wasn’t to start a record label—Heartworm Press is mainly an independent book publisher—but to just self-release the music he made with Cold Cave that sounded like it fit there.
This brings us back to Cold Cave’s humble beginnings in a Philadelphia apartment where there is a relative newbie banging away on a thrift store keyboard given to him by a friend. He swears that he started this project because he wanted to write music that didn’t get lost in translation from one musician to the other. It seems his plan has worked.
> Cold Cave
Nov. 21, Terminal 5, 610 W. 56th St. (betw. 11th & 12th Aves.), 212-665-3832; 7, $35