New York indie pop rockers, Caveman, make a stop at the Regency Ballroom on Thursday, May 26th, before dropping their highly-anticipated record, Otero War, in June.
Formed in 2010, Caveman has a primitive sound of the eighties, combined with heavy synthesizers with choppy reverb soaked guitars. Lead singer Matthew Iwanusa resembles a combination of Bruce Springsteen and Robert Smith, exuding a lyrical confidence that probes the psychology of human nature and emotion. This creates an interesting contrast to their music as they pump out dance-heavy rhythms layered with wistful sentiments that dissect the ways in which people act.
Caveman are no strangers to the Bay Area, having played Outside Lands and headlining the Independent. They’re currently touring with Frightened Rabbit and make another appearance at Outside Lands this August. We caught up with lead singer, Matthew Iwanusa, to chat about the new record, making a music video with Julia Styles and his connection with the Bay Area.
You’re about halfway to the west coast, are you excited to get to California?
We’ve already been on the west coast once on this trip but we haven’t been to California in two years, so I’m excited. We played Outsidleands a few years ago and we headlined the Independent. San Francisco is one of our favorite places. I have a soft spot for it. I visited my senior year in high school with my ex-girlfriend and her family got us a hotel room, so I got to go and explore for a week.
You’re releasing a new record, Otero War, in June, your first record in three years. Was this tour to shake the rust off?
Yeah, and to remind people who we are and let people hear the new songs and get excited. We haven’t traveled in so long, it’s a good way for people to hear the music again. We’ve mostly been writing and recording the whole time. That’s all we really focused on. It was good to take the time to do that without really playing shows or anything.
The album seems much more focused and defined, with less ambient parts featured on your previous records…
I think we wanted everybody to have parts, instead of a wall of something. It’s more rhythmic, that way no one is really taking over anyone’s part at the same time, which I think worked out.
Your lyrics are very simple, but seem to sort of challenge human nature. Was there a particular mindset you were in?
There was a lot of thinking about stuff to write about. A few worlds popped up here and there, without realizing what the song was about. I try to write about real stuff. I think also, for me, there’s a lot of time trying to think about a specific situation and write based off that. Sweating it out but having a specific idea.
I really like the lyrical concept of the song “In the City” from your self-titled record...and Julia Styles is in the music video for it.
I think that song is a lot more like this record than the rest of the songs we’ve done. Julia’s a friend of a friend. We asked her to do the video and she did it. She’s super nice and lives in New York. I’m friends with her sister too and we’d all see each other out and just kind of hang.
You’ve toured with Weezer and the War on Drugs. How was that experience and did you learn anything from them?
We toured with War on Drugs when their second record came out. The shows were pretty small and we were just kinda hanging. With Weezer, they put on a big show. The shows with Built to Spill were the most insightful, seeing how they operate. They had those things that I took, and those things that I’m like, ‘I’ll never do that.’
You’ll be back in August for Outside Lands. Were you pumped to see the lineup?
Yeah. Radiohead, and Lionel Richie—I saw him play Bonnaroo and it was amazing. It’s gonna be a good year. And we have another headlining tour.
It seems like a busy year so far. You also played the Lagunitas “Jam in the Van” at SXSW—were you literally playing in a van?
Yeah, we were in this trailer-type van thing. We had done something with them before that was much smaller, but this was a proper-sized van and they had tacos for us. it was great. We had eaten so many tacos and then we had to do a taco video where we made them. Afterwards they were like ‘eat the taco you just made’ and we were too full. I think we might have offended them.
Who would you rather hang out with for a day, Captain Caveman or Encino Man?