Cold Cave
Only Human
by Kevin J. Elliott

If you’ve followed Wes Eisold’s wildly disparate projects through the years (Some Girls, Give Up the Ghost, Ye Olde Maids), you are likely to think Cold Cave as this chameleon’s latest vanity and the “band’s” sophomore record, Cherish the Light Years, a fleeting endeavor. This record, though, is a man coming out of his shell. The album confirms that Eisold’s love and dedication towards crafting obvious electronic pop sounds is less a dalliance and closer to a marriage—a whole-hearted, warm-blooded acceptance and commitment to producing blaring, neon nostalgia. The blatant influences on Cherish the Light Years range from ’80s radio staples like Duran Duran and New Order to goth heroes like the Sisters of Mercy and Dead Can Dance. It reveals a modern fetishism with the New Romantics, slaved to technology but riddled with the emotional scars that were only imagined by the moping Brits back then. From the thematic anthem, “Underworld USA,” to the candy-coated maximalist synths of first single “The Great Pan Is Dead,” this is Eisold wallowing with a raised fist, injecting a sinister, sing-a-long punk attitude to otherwise sappy love songs.

In another shift for Eisold, songs as bold and kinetic as “Villains on the Moon” and “Alchemy Around You” demanded Eisold construct a live band to take his dark, club-ready nuggets on the road. Now with longtime collaborator Dominic Fernow (of Prurient) and new member Jennifer Clavin (former Mika Miko singer) in tow, Cold Cave is touring more than ever before. I recently caught up with Eisold while the band was playing extensively in Europe in anticipation of the record’s release this week.

I don’t know much about your older bands, but I’ve been following Cold Cave from the beginning and Cherish the Light Years is dramatically different from the earlier Cold Cave recordings, and it’s even fairly removed from Love Comes Close. What was the biggest factor in initiating this huge shift?

Wes Eisold: There were a couple major factors, one being that I didn’t want to make the same record again. We had a longer gap in releases this time; all the other releases prior to this were written, recorded and released in about two years time. This record, I had almost two years to make and I could work on it gradually. It was also recorded in a studio, with a producer, as opposed to at home on the computer by me.

There are songs on Cherish the Light Years that I would call aggressively pop. When you wrote the songs for the album, was it your conscious motive to be more blunt and melodic than you were previously?

WE: I think so too—that’s just the way the music has been heading. There was part of me that wanted to appear as a full band, even if it wasn’t made that way. What I was trying to accomplish, with the title and the theme of the record, was a nostalgic, cathartic reminiscent look at all the places I lived and people I’ve lost and loved up to the present and where I am now. The lyrics pertain to that and the sounds of specific songs serve as a tribute to certain things I was listening to at those times in my life.

I read where you said that now you are “no longer ashamed of my emotions.” How did that filter into Cherish the Light Years and how did it, perhaps, inhibit music that you’ve done in the past?

WE: With Cold Cave, the vocals were always pretty shielded and drenched in effects on past records. Whenever I’d read something about the band, the information was always wrong. I think back then it was important to strive for that lack of communication and information about the band. This is the first record with credits, where in the past I would put different people on the cover and no information. Here I put everything on the proverbial sleeve. I put myself on the cover and made an effort to show that this was me making this record. I wanted it to sound stronger and more confident. I think you can hear that in the vocals.

In explaining the record, you also said that “contradiction” was a defining element in the overall mood. That was in reference to the contradiction in “partaking in the temptations of the city.” Now that you live in New York, is the nightlife the real inspiration or is it more nostalgia for a better time in electronic music?

WE: Temptation is such a driving force behind so much that I do. Even if I’m not going out, it’s the surroundings that make me feel like going out and doing terrible things. Always being surrounded by that is tough. New York was a big inspiration because that was where I was living at the time. I don’t think if I lived somewhere remote it would turn out the same. One of my methods for writing was just walking around the city listening to demos on headphones, figuring out if the songs were working with my environment at the time. As far as contradiction, I wanted to make candy-ish pop songs, but contradict that with the sounds. I think “Confetti” is a perfect encapsulation of that contradiction.

Speaking of nostalgia, I can hear so many disparate influences seeping through the songs. The recent mixtape you made reveals an even deeper, more obscure love of dark electronic music. So between the Human League and New Order or the Sisters of Mercy and the Clan of Xymox, which side of the spectrum do you relate to more?

WE: I don’t know. I’m torn all over the place. I’m drawn to all sorts of things. That’s a hard one to answer definitively.

“Underworld USA” is really intriguing in that you’ve claimed that Cherish the Light Years is an extremely American album. So when you were writing, what attributes made the music American?

WE: Environmentally, I wanted to paint this picture of the world I created for myself. That’s what I’m drawn to in music. The artwork, the aesthetic, and the way a band holds itself together is more important to me than the music itself. It wouldn’t even matter if the world portrayed in the record was real or not. It’s the fantasy that I’m drawn to.

How much did having a more fully equipped live band influence the record? Or was that after the completion of Cherish the Light Years?

WE: At the start, I was making the record as I would normally, by building parts on top or parts. But then I was giving into playing more traditional instruments and that seemed to work. When it was done, I was really surprised by how it turned out and I was scrambling to find people to play it live. I never intended to have a guitar player and a bass player, but the album came out so big sounding that it was necessary if I wanted to play it in the live setting. I get really nervous playing with other musicians because I’m constantly worrying about other people relying on me.

It’s apparent that you are never comfortable in the same skin for too long. Is electronic pop something you see yourself doing for much longer, or do you see yourself doing something completely different soon?

WE: I can’t say other than I know it will be different. I never want to feel married to a particular sound. If anything, I will probably shy away from pop songs for whatever I’m writing next. I’ve already been down with oscillators and synths that I haven’t used in a while, and if I wasn’t touring so much, I would probably start making another record as soon as I could.