Cavetown has returned with a pensive tune called “Grocery Store.”
The 23 year old songwriter never fails to keep sweet jams of tender feelings up in their sleeves. It comes as no surprise that “Grocery Store” contains a comforting recipe for self-validation and healing. With a balance of electric guitar and cozy lo-fi beats, Cavetown skillfully highlights both the quieter moments of an introspective outburst and the almost mesmerizing, overwhelming moments all the same. “Grocery Store” is fun but nonetheless vulnerable, just like the lines that introduce the track: “Can you hear / All of my open wounds? / I’m whispering / As loud as the flowers bloom…”
As usual, every musical element feels balanced and at peace with each other in a Cavetown track. Whether it is his own harmonies in the second chorus, or the way electric guitar sneaks up alongside the rawer, organic notes of drums, this very sense of balance offsets the emotional rollercoaster he describes. Whatever the subject matter details, Cavetown never fails to transform his songs into immersive experience, one that doesn’t absorb the listeners, but transcend.
We caught up with Cavetown, also known as Robbie Skinner, on the new single, writing process, and everything else they’ve got going on.
How are you doing? And what is a general day-to-day obsession you currently have?
Hello, I am doing ok! I’m still cooling off after coming back from LA fairly recently. I was just in LA to play a one off show which I opened for Bleachers, which was pretty crazy. It was my first arena show so I’m taking a bit longer to come down from that just because it was a big deal. Day to day, I’m just chilling, trying to wake up at a normal time and not sleep forever. But yeah, just hanging out with my cat and my girlfriend and building some Lego sets.
I do want to talk about the Forum show (where you opened for Bleachers). I saw you in 2018 at Bottom of the Hill at San Francisco, which is this pretty small bar/club tucked away in the city; but the Forum is the one venue every artist dreams to play in LA, and you just opened for Bleachers. How was that? And if you look back at the earlier days when you were playing smaller shows, how do you feel about your progression?
It was very cool and I felt very different. Also, I haven’t done very many opening acts for other artists, I’ve predominantly just done my own headline stuff, so that always comes with its own kind of weird, like a different feeling of not knowing what to expect from the audience and how excited they’re going to be or if they’re just gonna be like, Alright, when’s the main act coming. So that comes with its own kind of anxieties. The venue itself was enormous, I was saying that it kind of felt like playing a big school auditorium. It felt very different than any other venue I’d played before. I was mostly just curious to see what it would feel like to play to that quantity of people. And I don’t know, I expected that after surpassing a certain amount of people, it all just feels like a massive being, it doesn’t feel as connected to [the audience] in the same way as with the smaller rooms. I guess that can be a good thing (since) sometimes it can be overwhelming to feel all these eyes on you, and you feel that more the smaller the venue is, so I liked that in a sense. It’s definitely an experience that I’m glad that me and my band had, and I was very proud of my boys for being with me. After performing with them for so long, it’s very cool to be able to do that with them.
I did find that there is technically a lo-fi version of “Grocery Store,” which is “Trying Not To Cry” on Spotify, but then “Grocery Store” has more guitar and a more rock-out moment to it. It’s a little bit more grungier. What is the actual connection between those two tracks?
Well, the lo-fi one that you’re referring to, I was approached by this artist Kina wanting to work on something together. At the time I was halfway through writing “Grocery Store” and I wasn’t stoked on it. So I was like, “Cool, I’ll let this guy do his thing with it and see if it can add life to it.” It ended up sounding really cool and I loved it. And I made a music video with him for that version and just listened to the song a bunch. Because of that, I was like, “Wait, I do like the song. Actually, I want to see what I can make out of it [with] a new different version.” I made an acoustic version that I put on my YouTube channel, which I feel more inspired by it now. That’s pretty much how they’re linked. I just lost the steam for it then I regained it.
When do you decide a song can be a little bit more produced, in contrast to it being a little bit more mellow/vulnerable? Is there a generalization that you apply to your songwriting?
I usually produce as I write because I produce all my stuff myself. I don’t [finish writing] the whole song first and then go recording it. I’d say usually I’ll just be like, “what do I hear coming in mind,” and I’ll add that as I go through writing it. And sometimes I listen to my drafts a lot when I’m traveling, like if I’m on a train or something, that’s a really good space for me to just try and inspire myself. Sometimes I’ll feel like this song needs this guitar to come in here, or I can hear cool melody that happens here, or whatever. So yeah, I really just play it by ear. I often end up feeling like I put too much into the production sometimes, so occasionally, I try to make a conscious effort to [say] I don’t want to have more than five tracks in this project, because it’s enough as it is.
How long does it take for you to compile a cohesive full length project?
It really depends because I’m just constantly writing. I am very fortunate that I have my little studio space, so I can pretty much just go and work whenever an idea happens. Once I reached the amount of songs that is an album length, they can go. I can’t really stick to a theme for very long, my mind doesn’t really work like that. The theme will kind of create itself, depending on where I am in my life at the time. And as I start to make music videos for songs, there’ll a visual that comes together for it. When I reach [around] twelve songs, here’s an album, there you go, and I’ll just keep writing and it will take another year or something [to] get to that amount again. So I don’t really have a planned process. I feel like if there’s a plan, I get stressed out and I don’t do any work. It’s easier for me to just be like, Yeah, I don’t know, I’ll write at some point. Then it feels more like it used to be, when I was writing in my spare time, like I’d come home from school and write a song. That’s where I can really get in my element with it and write stuff that I’m really proud of.
I would say I would have never guessed it, because every single one of your albums seems to have such a specific theme.
That naturally just happens. I’ll write depending on what’s happening in my life during that year, and it will create a vibe on its own. I don’t really have to plan for it to create a vibe, because I feel like if I planned the vibe, that’s almost like [saying], Oh, this is it, this is the headspace I’m going to be in this year, which doesn’t make sense because my headspace is just what it is. I’ll naturally write about things that have been on my mind that year, or things that I’ve struggled with. Then that will curate its own vibe, which is cool.
In terms of your musical style, you are a pretty consistent artist; but you also collaborate with plenty of different artists from different genres. So I guess the two part questions would be 1) who are some of your dream collaborators to work with? And also, 2) what are some genres that you’d love to try out in your wildest dreams?
I definitely have artists I look up to, but I I’m far too anxious to ever ask anyone to make something with them. So I tend to feel more comfortable working with my friends, and I’m very fortunate to be able to make a lot of friends who are in the same kind of music spheres as me. But I mean if it was a case [where] we could create a friendship first and then write a song, I would love to work with people like Alex G, or Joji. I love Frank Ocean, but that’s literally impossible. That would never happen. He’s just like, I don’t even know where he is. Where’s he gone? I try and dip my toes into different genres. I find it hard to describe what my genre is, but I do want to include more interesting instruments in my music. I’ve been experimenting with strings a little bit. I’d love to have a quartet or something, or have some kind of brass. So stuff like that, I just like interesting instruments that you might not expect to show up, but ended up working.
When was the last time you had a grocery store crisis?
I kind of buy the same things every time I go. If there’s something that I wanted to get and it’s not there, it can be a source of anxiety for me. Or if I have to think on the spot like, Okay, this isn’t here, what am I doing about this? That happens often, obviously, because things aren’t always there. So pretty much most times I go to the grocery store it’s a little bit of an event for me.