The SF Chronicle gave Vetiver the full treatment with a nice two page feature including a track by track review of Thing of the Past in last Sunday's (May 4th) edition.
Let's face it: Lots of indie-rock acts have made less-than-riveting covers albums in recent years. But with "A Thing of the Past," San Francisco's Vetiver may potentially have one to eclipse the rest, combining the band's languid folk rock with a compelling cross section of source material from songwriters including Townes Van Zandt, Hawkwind, Loudon Wainwright III, Iain Matthews and Norman "Spirit in the Sky" Greenbaum.
It's probably because the band never intended to make a covers album in the first place.
"After the last record I did, I put a band together to tour," Vetiver front man Andy Cabic says. "Since we had never recorded together, and I didn't have anything ready to go, I just thought doing something like this would be a good way to get something out this year."
Many of the songs were knocked out in one take before the band spent the early part of the year on the road with former Jayhawks member Gary Louris, pulling double duty as both backing band and support act. "A Thing of the Past" also features guest appearances by Vashti Bunyan, the Chapin Sisters and Michael Hurley, who not only appears on his own song but also sticks around to play on a few others.
We asked Cabic to talk us through the track list.
"These are songs that I either felt a connection to or thought that we could do a good job with," he says. "Each song has a different history, and a lot of them are obscure, but there was something in them I felt we could bring back or let people hear for the first time."
"Houses" (written by Elyse Weinberg): "That's a deep cut. She released only one album, but there was a second album that never came out. A small label in Athens, Ga., finally reissued it about four years ago, and that's where I found this song. She was from Canada, and she was a friend of Neil Young's. He plays guitar on the original version. It's a great song, completely memorable."
"Roll on Babe" (written by Derroll Adams): "I love Ronnie Lane of the Small Faces. He's such a charismatic person. This song is from his solo album, even though he didn't write it. But that's his version that we covered."
"Sleep a Million Years" (written by Dia Joyce): "This one is an odd one. I found that record at Community Thrift on Valencia Street. It's clearly a private-press recording with a janky black-and-white cover. It's just raw Bakersfield country. All my friends copied that album from me, and somehow Vashti Bunyan heard it and loved it, so she sang on our version. I tracked down the guitar player in New Mexico and wrote him. He barely remembered it. But a friend of mine found Dia Joyce in San Jose and sent her a copy of the original recording, which she didn't have. She was thrilled and surprised."
"Hook & Ladder" (written by Norman Greenbaum): "This was from the album after 'Spirit in the Sky.' Nancy Sinatra also covered it. I love all of Norman Greenbaum's albums. He sings about having a farm and feeding chickens. This is just a simple song, really innocent and catchy."
"To Baby" (written by Biff Rose): "The original is just a piano and this Kermit the Frog-type voice. But it has a great lyric and melody. The original is its own thing, but I wanted to make it a majestic pop song."
"Road to Ronderlin" (written by Iain Matthews): "Iain Matthews was in Fairport Convention. It's simple and stark. It's a man singing from a woman's point of view, which I always find fascinating. The lyrics are really devastating."
"Lon Chaney" (written by Garland Jeffreys): "I like his early stuff. He wrote a song on John Cale's first solo album. Again, I love the lyrics. It's just about a guy in a hotel room watching a Lon Chaney movie and seeing it as a metaphor for the downfall of mankind."
"Hurry on Sundown" (written by Dave Brock, Hawkwind): "This is from the first Hawkwind album. It's the band in country-rock mode. It's a different style from what Vetiver usually does, but everyone loves Hawkwind."
"Swimming Song" (written by Loudon Wainwright III): "I could stand to have a broader listening of what he's done. This is just one of the songs we started doing live. Everyone can relate to the mood. When I'm on the road, I tend to listen to songs I like over and over rather than a whole album. This was one of them."
"Blue Driver" (written by Michael Hurley): "He's a friend of ours and was around for the recording sessions, so we asked him to join us on a few tracks. This is a trucker song. We recorded it all live."
"Standing" (written by Townes Van Zandt): "Some of these songs we never played until the day we tracked them, including this one. This was a groove we just wanted to try our hand at."
"I Must Be in a Good Place Now" (written by Bobby Charles): "We did this in the first take. He's really a great person and songwriter. It's a very special record."
VETIVER: 9 p.m. Tues. $16. Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell St., San Francisco.
Vetiver will be hitting the West Coast with Kelley Stoltz and then covering the globe this summer:
05/06 San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall
05/07 Hollywood, CA @ The Troubadour
05/08 San Diego, CA @ Casbah
05/09 Santa Cruz, CA @ Crepe Place
05/10 Visalia, CA @ Howie & sons Pizza & Beer Parlor
05/13 Berkeley, CA @ Amoeba Music (in-store 6:00 PM)
05/16 Brighton, UK @ Theatre Royal (w/ Vashti Bunyan)
05/17 Brussels, BEL @ Les Nuits Botanique
05/18 Fulda DEU @ Das Kreuz
05/20 Zurich, CH @ Rote Fabrik-Ziegel Oh Lac
05/21 Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso
05/23 Coventry, UK @ Tin Angel
05/26 Cambrige UK @ Barfly
05/27 Leeds, UK @ Faversham
05/28 Liverpool, UK @ Sound City Festival
05/29 Edinburgh, SCT - Cabaret Voltair
05/30 Glasgow, UK @ Arches
05/31 Aberdeen, @ The Tunnels
06/01 Newcastle, UK @ Cluny
06/02 Nottingham, UK @ Bodega Social
06/03 Bristol, UK @ Cube Cinema
06/04 Manchester, UK @ Road House
06/05 London, UK @ St. Giles in The Fields Church
06/06 Cardiff, UK @ Barfly
06/07 Belfast, North Ireland @ Black Box
06/08 Dublin, Ireland @ Crawdaddy
06/10 Birmingham, UK @ Barfly
06/13 Porto, PRT @ Passos Manuel
06/14 Lisbon, PRT @ ZDB Gallery
06/17 Barcelona, ESP @ Sidecar
06/18 Madrid, ESP @ Joy Eslave (w/ Akron/family)
06/19 Seville, ESP @ Teatro Central (w/ Akron/Family)
06/20 Granada, ESP @ Teatro Alhambra (w/ Akron/Family)
06/21 Malaga, ESP @Teatro Canovas (w/ Akron/Family)
06/27 Paris, FR @ Café De la Danse
06/29 Glastonbury, UK @ Glastonbury Festival