Four years ago, Boston's Cave In became one of the first hardcore acts to hop the indie fence — defecting from Hydra Head Records, the label that had released all its material up to that point — to the greener pastures of the corporate-music biz, known for letting balding, superannuated men sporting aerosol tans and tailored suits make all the decisions. It was a move frontman Stephen Brodsky says he doesn't regret, but one that, over time, came close to ruining the band.
You see, wading through the muck of the majors didn't play out quite the way Brodsky had anticipated. It was a tumultuous trip, and he's got the scars to prove it. Cave In recorded a single full-length album for RCA, 2003's Antenna, and afterward cruised across the U.S. with no less than the Foo Fighters, setting the proverbial table for Dave Grohl and the gang's main course. But Cave In's brief liaison with RCA ended around a year ago because of the hardcore innovators' forthcoming LP, Perfect Pitch Black, which hit stores September 13 — via Hydra Head.
All 10 tracks that shape Perfect, Cave In's fifth full-length, started as demos for what was to be their second RCA outing. The label funded the initial recording of the material, which consumed the first few months of 2004. Brodsky says when his band started slowly presenting the label with what they had come up with in the studio, the response was not even lukewarm.
"There was clearly a feeling of defeat that we all had," the singer and guitarist said. "In our minds, it was really hard to grasp the idea of putting 100 percent of yourself into something [and] not knowing whether that something would ever see the light of day. We didn't feel like we had any strong connection to this place we were supposed to call home."
That's largely because between the time the band first inked its deal with RCA in 2001 and the release of Antenna two years later, many familiar faces had jumped ship. Essentially the team of dedicated music-industry lackeys who'd worked so hard to get Cave In to take the major-label plunge had moved on — and the people replacing them lacked the same dedication to the band.
One acrimonious but mutual divorce later, Cave In were without a label but with a bunch of experimental songs that melded the best of the band's earliest work — like 1999's Until Your Heart Stops, a twitching, brutal hardcore LP — with its most recent, more amenable compositions. There was talk of throwing in the towel altogether, to safeguard long-standing friendships. Instead, the band took some time off, and Brodsky's side project, New Idea Society, worked on its debut, You Are Awake or Asleep, which was released eight months ago. He also wrote several songs that he'll be releasing in early 2006 in solo-album form; Brodsky calls it "some of the most elaborate songwriting" he's ever done.
The time apart helped "in creative ways and also in ways that have allowed us to regain a love for what we want to continue doing as a band," Brodsky said. "We all feel fairly lucky to have come out of the situation without fist-fighting and brawling and screaming. If anything, it's made us a little bit closer and more compassionate towards each other, and it will help us create better music."
He says for Perfect Pitch Black, which captures Cave In's post-RCA mood (pissed-off on "Trepanning" and morose on "Tension in the Ranks"), the band took the basic demo tracks and expanded upon them. "We had to brush ourselves off and go back at it," he said. "We have our bruises and our cracks, but that's all right."
Brodsky says he feels a renewed vigor in the band. "We feel open to experimenting with music again, without that feeling of people pointing fingers and saying, 'No, it's not going to sell records. No, it's not going to radio,' " he said. "We sort of own our band again, which is nice."
The addition of Converge's Ben Koller on drums has also energized the band. Cave In have recorded a couple of new tracks since Koller entered the mix, and, according to Brodsky, those songs will be on "a limited-edition cassingle" available on Cave In's tour with the Doomriders, which kicks off on November 27 in New York and runs through December 23 in Boston.
"[The new tracks are] called 'Shapeshifter' and 'Dead Already,' " Brodsky said. "Hydra Head doesn't think its manufacturing plant still makes cassingles or cassettes. I think the more special a piece of music is and the harder it is to get, it's like testing the love of your fans a little bit. You'll know whoever is purchasing it will find the means to play it, and really, CDs are just regarded as being so cheap. This will be nicer to stick on your shelf as a trophy figure."