.Cave Clove: Katie Colver’s search for inner light in a time of darkness

The Muscle and the Meaning, the new album by Oakland’s Cave Clove, took shape during the COVID lockdown. Like much of the art created over the past two years, the songs were shaped by the political and personal turmoil created by the pandemic. Katie Colver, the band’s songwriter, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, described the ways the album was influenced by the events going on around her. 

“Things were looking grim. I had to do something to deal with the situation, besides getting scared and angry,” Colver said. “How well we cope is based on our resources, personalities and skills. I deal with things by writing, so the songs are personal, but can refer to any pattern that needs to be broken. For me, it’s a journey of recovery from addiction and an eating disorder, but the same themes can apply to other situations that feel like they’re out of control.”

Colver said the album title addresses the push and pull between living in integrity and the addictive cycles that often draw us in. “The muscle refers to the daily grind of navigating choice points. We have opportunities every day to dissociate, escape and numb out, or choose to stay present and connect with our experience. It’s a hard choice to make, so I’m advocating for making those hard choices. Doing the work day after day leads to an increased connection to a sense of meaning. 

“When the pandemic hit, it gave me space to work on myself. I got sober and, since we couldn’t get together in our rehearsal space to work on songs, we had time to write, arrange and plan the record. Usually, I play a new song on my guitar and sing. Then we jam on it. We did that a few times, all masked, but then took a long break. I sent parts to [guitarist] Brent [Curriden] and the rhythm section [drummer Harrison Murphy and bass player Alisa Saario]. I used my iPhone and voice memos. I don’t make official demos. Brent wrote his lead lines and the guitar hooks and Harrison and Alisa laid down the groove and the feel. As things calmed down, we went in, masked again, and made demos to send to Chris Daddio, our producer.” 

The band joined Daddio (Everyone Is Dirty) in his studio, with everyone masked. “It was risky,” Colver said. “We played the basic tracks live, with Chris safe in his control booth. I went in alone to do the vocals and backing harmonies. Harrison added some keyboard parts. I mixed it with Chris, both of us masked. We got a sound that gives every instrument its own voice.” 

The songs on the album maintain a fine balance between introspection and delight. The overlapping guitar effects, smooth bass lines and complex backbeats highlight Colver’s understated singing and lyrics that often conceal as much as they express.

There’s a hint of ’60s soul in the R&B intro to “In Motion Now.” Curriden’s guitar drifts between Memphis and Detroit, with chiming tones and warm bass notes. Colver sings about a couple pretending that everything’s alright, as the relationship slowly fades out. “Obsidian” is the darkest track on the album, a somber ballad that explores the despair associated with addiction. “It was written in a dark time. Many of my songs are about finding hope in the idea that there are opportunities for growth and healing in everything, even when the world around you seems challenging and awful. This song was written in a moment of feeling stuck, doubting whether I’d ever escape this destructive cycle.” 

The band put the album out on their own label, with no particular goal in mind. “We’re pleased with the reaction, but things have changed for everyone in the band. Brent moved to Berlin, I’m pregnant and going to grad school. It’s not the best time to be touring. We worked on the songs before and during COVID, since there was so much going on that needed to be documented, personally and politically.” 

Colver soon met Davyd Nereo, another guitarist and songwriter. She joined his band, Winnie Byrd. “He inspired me to start writing songs again. When his band became less active, I decided to give it a shot and started performing. At first, I went by Katie Clover, a variation of my own name. I went through many incarnations and personnel shifts, slowly evolving into a more collaborative project. Cave Clove came out of a psychedelic experience I had in Puerto Rico. I was swimming in the ocean, on acid, and found myself inside a cave. The words ‘Cave Clove’ began resonating for me. I remember thinking it would make a good name for a band, and it did.”  

You can find the album on Cave Clove’s Bandcamp page: caveclove.bandcamp.com/album/the-muscle-and-the-meaning

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