Ten years in, The Cave Singers have become one of the rare bands that can continue experimenting record to record without losing their core sound.
"The way I make music with The Cave Singers is this thing that will be in my life forever because it serves us in such a great way," says vocalist/songwriter Peter Quirk, who formed the band in 2007 with guitarist Derek Fudesco and drummer Marty Lunda.
"The Cave Singers is something we stumbled upon and became, out of friendship and out of being in a music scene and playing with each other's bands," Quirk says. "But that was 10 years ago. A lot has changed since then. This is the longest I've ever done anything in my life."
For Banshee, The Cave Singers' fifth record, the band struck out on its own, self-releasing the album after successful stints on venerable indie labels like Matador and JagJaguar.
Out of a long list of potential titles, the band ultimately selected Banshee, intrigued, Quirk says, by the metaphoric potential of existing between two worlds.
"To me, the banshee as a mythological figure is something I've always been interested in, maybe a little scared of as a kid," he says. "I always thought of it as this negative spirit that's a tool of death. I did some more research about it and the more I read, a banshee is more like this voice of grief. They're not the harbinger of death. They're just a mourner. I thought that was really beautiful."
Knowing that, the banshee began to mean more to Quirk, serving as an analogy for other parts of his life.
"It's also still a scary image to me and between two worlds. That's how I think about music, so it seemed appropriate and evocative," he says. "It's a great metaphor for a lot of things. It could be God, could be spirituality, could be music, could be the past."
The songs for Banshee started as they typically do for the band, improvisationally as the musicians simply get together and start jamming. Having taken a year off to pursue other projects, The Cave Singers felt newly invigorated.
Quirk says the songs are "emotionally cooperative" with one another, from the same collective mind, but each one having its own identity. In terms of sound, the band aimed in the same general dark, moody and mysterious direction as 2011's No Witch record.
"We were thinking about that album in tone, not to repeat it, but to go back to that world in a way and think about what it would be like [after] some time away," Quirk says.
To record, The Cave Singers returned to working with producer Randall Dunn, who helped guide No Witch, recording live over six days last July.
"He's sort of labeled as the producer of the dark arts and has done a lot of heavy, dark bands. Because we're a minimal three piece, he definitely adds a fourth dimension to it," Quirk says.
"The idea was to try different things and to see where it went," he says. "Most of the fun is just getting to hang out with each other at this point. Making the music goes hand in hand with that, the camaraderie and fellowship about it. We just missed hanging out with each other a bit."