Katie Clover and company come alive with a healthy balance of effects and intimacy
Dollars to Tokens, the new EP from Cave Clove, occupies a huge sonic space. The band’s four players – singer, songwriter and rhythm guitarist Katie Colver; lead guitarist and harmony singer Brent Curriden; bass player and harmony singer Alisa Saario and drummer Nick Moore – make Colver’s emotionally wrenching songs come alive with layers of guitar effects, swirling bass lines and crackling backbeats.
The arrangements are complex and highlight intimate vignettes that often conceal as much as they express. It’s that emotional ambivalence that Colver thrives on.
“The theme of this record is the gambling you have to do and the sacrifices you have to make to follow your dreams,” Colver says, from her home in Oakland, California. “You have to take a lot of risks and believe in something bigger than yourself to create meaning in your life. Every day is a gamble in many different ways, from the gamble of pursuing music at this time in our national history, to the gamble of creating meaning in my own life. It’s easier to assume that everything is meaningless, then you won’t get disappointed.
“Every experience can lead to emotional growth and offer the opportunity of delving into the relationship between beauty and pain,” she continued. “The songs were directly inspired by my struggles in relationships, my struggles with addictions, and my search for spiritual meaning. I’ve been studying with some shamanic teachers and learning about shamanism, which is, basically, the most ancient form of spirituality. There are commonalities in spiritual communities all over the world. Those practices have helped me to create more meaning – in my life, and my music.”
Cave Clove is a rock band, but they have a diverse palette, with elements of jazz, blues, soul and pop evident in the arrangements. Lead guitarist Brent Curriden has a background in progressive rock and creates atmospheric waves of sound that are cinematic in their scope. Alisa Saario and Nick Moore supply the intricate rhythmic backbone that supports Colver’s lyrical explorations, with everything mixed down to produce a subtle, intimate sound that fits well with the confessional lyrics.
Dub effects and jazzy comped chords highlight “Edge of Emergency,” a despondent ballad that likens the end of a relationship to the global warming crisis. “Velvet Coat” is a mellow rocker that investigates a relationship gone wrong, without placing blame on either party. “Rocked” is another slow burner with a strong melody and lush backing vocals that explores the intricate struggles that can take place in even the best relationships.
“All relationships come with challenges, that’s a big part of what makes them valuable. There’s always a lot of second guessing and tension,” Colver says. “We constantly have to make choices and there’s never a guarantee that the choice you make is going to be the right one, but again there’s always that opportunity to find the beauty in the direction you decided to go, the beauty in what’s happening.”
On many tunes, Colver’s vocals sound anguished, hesitant, as if holding back as much emotion as she’s conveying, while the backing harmonies drift in and out to accent the grief she’s expressing. “Singing is my favorite thing in the world,” she states. “It’s how I feel most connected, where I feel like I am my true self. My approach is to be soulful and that’s about it. I’m grateful that I’m able to connect so quickly to passion and soul when I’m singing. There is a lot of angst around the themes on the album, a lot of second-guessing and struggling, but even in the angst there’s a sense of grounding. I’ve decided it’s important to me to follow my heart and my dreams, even when it makes no sense to do so. It continues to be worth any risks or sacrifices I’ve had to make to keep moving in the direction of music and spiritual growth.”
VIDEO: Cave Clove – Edge of Emergency
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