Local rockers Howlin’ Rain and Vetiver are celebrating New Year’s in San Francisco with a three-night stand at Café du Nord this week, ending with a gig on Monday that will ring in the New Year.

Ethan Milller of Howlin' Rain

We spoke with friends Ethan Miller of Howlin’ Rain and Andy Cabic of Vetiver to get some of their thoughts about their experiences in 2012, highlights of the past year, and what they are looking forward to with these shows and the months ahead in 2013.

You guys are playing a trio of shows together at Café du Nord, including New Year’s Eve—was this something that has been in the works for some time?

Ethan Miller: I’ve been trying to get something together with Vetiver and Howlin’ Rain for a while—we’d touch base whenever we’d see each other out at gigs. It’s the culmination of something we’ve been trying to make happen over the course of the past year or so. This is Howlin’ Rain’s first New Year’s gig, I think it’s going to be fun, I’m really looking forward to it.

Andy Cabic: We haven’t played at du Nord in quite some time, so we’re really looking forward to it—I don’t think this lineup of the band has played there before, so it will be sort of a homecoming and sort of a new thing all at once. It should be fun!

Can fans expect any surprises or special sets?

Ethan Miller: Yeah, we’re going to be doing different sets each night, we’ve got some friends who are going to sit in with us on some tunes, and we’ve got some well chosen cover tunes that we have planned, and I think we’ll leave a lot of doors open for other stuff to come up.

Andy Cabic: Given the fact that my band doesn’t live here, and we’ve got a guest who is filling in for someone, it’s fairly tricky to get a new person up to speed on 20 plus songs—but that’s what we’re doing, so we’ll have a different set each night!


Looking back over the past year, what have been some of the highlights for each of you?

Ethan Miller: We’d been working on “The Russian Wilds” record for an interminable amount of time, I started writing for it four years ago, and we’d been working pretty solid on it for three years up until its release in February. It was a highlight in a lot of ways—I think I feel a little more celebratory about it now that we made it through a whole year of touring on it, and a lot of fun things happened, and the album was successful, at least to the extent that we’re happy with.

Andy Cabic: Seeing the film I helped compose the score for—“Smashed”—with a bunch of good friends around me was a thrill, as was performing with Kelley Stoltz, Sonny Smith and Eric D. Johnson at the Castro Theatre—it was very special, a place I’ve always wanted to play in.

Was there a particular gig of your own that stood out?

Ethan Miller: We did an outdoor gig in Barcelona with Dream Syndicate and a local band, and there must have been five or ten thousand people crowded into this square, and for us that was a big crowd—and all of the energy was focused forward, right on us. It was a whole different level of trying to perform and engage with an audience, I liked that potential for harnessing that kind of crowd energy and power, it was pretty heady

Andy Cabic: I felt honored and grateful to have been involved with the presentation of the Complete Last Waltz here at the Warfield, along with a tour of Japan with Devendra Banhart.

Favorite albums that came out this year?

Ethan Miller: One record that I love is The Shrines’ album “Primitive Blast,” we toured with them a little, they’re from Venice Beach, skate punks, it’s kind of got a Black Flag, early COC thing. Their record is super over the top, skate rock with everybody chanting the chorus, big Marshall amps, you know.

Third Man Records reissued an album from this band from Sacramento called Public Nuisance, this ‘lost’ group from ’68, ‘’69, kind of delinquent rock, it’s got some Small Faces, Who sound, but also this really gritty, noisy stuff going on—I’ve been really hung up on that record as of late!

Andy Cabic: I really enjoyed include Kindness’ version of “Anyone Can Fall In Love,” Jai Paul’s “Jasmine,” and Jessie Baylin’s “Hurry, Hurry.”

Albums that I spun a bunch include all the Cleaners From Venus reissues, King Tuff’s album, Michael Kiwanuka’s “Home Again” and Beachwood Sparks’ “The Tarnished Gold.”

What are you looking forward to in the new year?

Ethan Miller: We’re working on some singles and 7 inches for the new year, maybe a live thing—we’ve had several things kind of slow burning on the side lines.

I think the band will be keeping mightily busy, this year was just well-paced enough for us, we ended on a high note, the band keeps getting better and better, and that’s an energy and power that we want to keep rolling with.

Andy Cabic: I’m looking forward to writing and recording another Vetiver album next year and hopefully doing more soundtrack work.

Howlin’ Rain and Vetiver, Friday, Saturday and Monday, December 28-29, 31; Café Du Nord, 9 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 9:30 p.m. Mon.; $16-$35. ~By Sean McCourt