The success of Cabin's debut album, Govern the Good Life, in 2005 was sudden and somewhat unexpected, according to the band's frontman, Noah Hewett-Ball. Locally, at least, they were suddenly a big deal, gaining fans and even having their CD picked as one of the year's best by WFPK's Laura Shine.
But with only a little touring under their belt, Cabin then began to disassemble, as one by one, members peeled away and were replaced, leaving only the central organizing figure of Hewett-Ball, who found himself drilling each iteration of the new band with the old songs, over and over. He described it in a recent interview as a huge morale killer that kept him spinning his wheels as he constantly renewed the band but was unable to concentrate on new material. His patience was rewarded, however, as the turn-over finally came to an end.
Through a family connection, Noah found Billy Lease, who joined up as the new bassist, and a stroke of luck – or perhaps, fate – supplied him with the other missing pieces.
“I actually wanted to find somebody who could play violin or could be a multi-instrumentalist and just did a Google search for 'Louisville / violinist,' and Sarah's MySpace profile came up.” As it happened, Sarah Welder, a native of New Albany, was a little burnt out on school at Indiana University and looking for a band to join when she received Noah's message. “She came down and auditioned and ended up joining the band, and through her we met Dave [Chale]... who became our drummer.” Chale was a fellow student at IU in the audio engineering program, and very conveniently, also operates DeadBird recording studio in south Louisville.
At last, Noah had a full band again, and they happened to be classically trained musicians, balancing out his self-taught style. He picked up guitar as kid from his father, then used the practice rooms at Murray State to teach himself piano as he completed his Fine Art degree in painting. Music was something that he could make his own and feel free to ignore the rules and structure that he had to follow in other areas. “Every discovery I made, I felt like I was the first one. I wasn't shown where the water is, I had to find it myself.
As a songwriter, Noah was finally free to move ahead as well and take advantage of the talent and the disparate influences that came with a group of new players. The mini-generation gap that it opened up (on average, they are about six years younger than the original Cabin members) proved to be fruitful. The new release, Among the Rectangles and Changeable Parts, was built one song at a time, with lyrics sometimes being fitted to music that sprang to life as they experimented in the studio. “For instance one song on the album, we pretty much laid out the bones and the entire flesh of the song before I even had lyrics. I was just singing nonsense into the mike all the time. So when it came time to record the album, I had to fit lyrics to the music, where usually, I would do both at the same time and the music would evolve from the lyrics.”
Aside from the layered sound and melodic sweep of Cabin's music, the thing that sets them apart from other bands is the more thoughtful, perhaps more sophisticated, lyrical content. There is definitely a theme running through the new album, which gives it the heft of a cohesive piece of art, rather than just a random collection of songs.
“I'll try and acclimate myself to things I've been haunted by / Ignore the fault lines and try to act surprised when it goes wrong.” A couple of lines from the song, “Blanket the Bonfire,” sum up a lot of the underlying questioning and dissection of modern culture that is apparent on the new album, whether it's a nation hopped up on pharmaceuticals, a turning away from meaningful experience to the flimsier substitute of cyber-lives, or rampant consumerism and waste.
What is it now, are you ever satisfied?Noah and Sarah agreed that they've spent a lot of time discussing the confusion that results from a media fragmented across the Internet and the overlapping of news, entertainment, and corporate greed. And as far as the current state of the music business, Noah believes the major record labels are reaping what they sowed. “It was self-destruct. Once they really started putting their hand in, creating 'product' rather than signing good bands... they turned it into a machine with a pretty face and the autotune.”
Is something wrong, we'll supply the chemicals
Just move along like a pack of animals...
(From “Among the Rectangles”)
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