“You’ll have to excuse me,” begins Wes Eisold. “I totally trashed my voice, and I think I may have a small concussion.” The Cold Cave leader—now based in Los Angeles after leaving New York City—returned from Oakland, California, where he played a show with the legendary American Nightmare, and was trying to convalesce after shearing his throat lining. At that Bay Area date, the singer collided with the headstock of Josh Holden’s bass. News of these injuries might shock some people, but anyone who has followed Eisold’s career knows whether he’s navigating the backdraft of AN’s confrontational hardcore or belting it out over a wall of electronics and synthesizers, he’s never going to phone a performance in.
But Eisold is a fan of change (this is a guy who pulls up roots every year on his own volition) and has hit the reset button on Cold Cave in a big way. Two months ago, he put together a new version of the band, enlisting longtime friends guitarist Cody Votolato (the Blood Brothers, Jaguar Love), bassist Hunter Burgan (AFI), synth op Dave Stone (LCD Soundsystem, Melvins,) and drummer London May (Samhain, Tiger Army). The band are going on tour in October, headlining shows as well as opening for Divine Fits, the “supergroup” comprised of members from Spoon, Wolf Parade and New Bomb Turks. While the s-word designation could certainly be used to describe his new lineup, Eisold says he was more concerned with touring with people whose company he enjoyed. And as Jason Pettigrew learned, if they’re kickass players, all the better.
This is certainly an A-list team of players you’ve put together. How did this happen?
Hunter, London and I had started doing a side project when I moved here last December. We couldn’t find the right people to fill out the lineup and the project fizzled away, but we were all still interested in playing with each other. With Cold Cave having so many directions—and me not being entirely sure which way it should go—I decided I needed to try playing the existing songs as a full band, just to see the songs through. I had a full band once for a week in Europe and it didn’t work out for different reasons. Even with different lineups, it still relied heavily on Ableton [software]. I wanted a band who could just get up and play the songs.
What kind of guidelines did you give yourself? I’m sure there is no shortage of people who would want to play with you, and this lineup is full-on music-nerd fantasy football.
Totally. But it really wasn’t like [I had specific plans]; they were just people I was around at the time. It’s really been exciting to hear their interpretations of recorded Cold Cave songs live. We’re going to be playing songs from Cherish The Light Years, as well as some new stuff I’ve been writing with Cody. We’re going through all the songs now and seeing what translates to a full band setting. There are songs I really wanted to play live, but they never felt right. Playing electronic music to tracks is a no-brainer—it makes sense. Playing them with live drums, bass and guitar and some tracks never felt like it worked. Playing the American Nightmare shows made me realize how much I enjoy playing in a band. I like the energy of playing with a live band, and for a while I got used to not having that. But it never felt completely whole to me.
Have you written new songs for this band?
I’ve written some, and Cody and I have written a few. I’m kind of taken aback as to how easy it is working with him. I always wanted to have that dynamic of a singer paired with a guitarist to write songs. It’s really been a dream situation. I want to record this December; I’d like to have a record out before next spring if possible. I’m really into the idea of the band recording live in the studio and stripping it down, as opposed to adding layers upon layers of synth lines.
Are you envisioning the band in a specific way? You’ve cultivated a personality in the hardcore scene that’s seemingly unhinged, but then you’re doing more melodic but no less passionate ideas in Cold Cave. Are you looking for a hybrid?
It’s going to be different. It’s hard to keep changing: In the past, I would’ve broken up a band or changed the name. I’ve been doing Cold Cave for five years now, and it’s never sounded the same; there’s always been some kind of evolution in it. I think in some ways, it’s a little more punk-sounding—and that was before these people were involved. I want to do way more raw-sounding stuff, and the songs are lending themselves toward that.
More “The Great Pan Is Dead” or “Burning Sage”?
Neither, really. I think it will be more urgent. On the upcoming tour, we’ll be playing “Pan,” but not “Burning Sage.” I would never play “Burning Sage” without Dom. I feel a lot of that song is him.
Which goes into the next question: Dominick Fernow of Prurient has been a constant in Cold Cave for a while. What’s your current relationship with him?
He’s my best friend. He’s touring Europe in October as Vatican Shadow, running two labels and is concentrating on his visual art. He’s more interested in a concentrated environment, while I’m more interested in going out and playing shows every day. He’s an incredible person.
What do you think these October dates are going to be like? Do you think people who came to see [Spoon/Divine Fits frontman] Britt Daniel are going to be frightened by Cold Cave? Or will the fans of your bandmates’ various lineages coming by for the curiosity factor plague you?
[Laughs.] I have no idea. I can’t let my brain go there! It seemed like a good tour for us to do, and those guys from Divine Fits are really sweet people. It’s going to be a good way to break the band in.
Now that you have a full-on band, you’re obligated to play a cover.
It’s possible. What do you think?
New Order’s “Everything’s Gone Green.”
No. Too obvious. I’d be more inclined to do a Gun Club song. alt