(Host) Every Saturday night, Ben Maddox, Jedd Kettler and Joshua Givens step away from their usual 9-5 lives and descend into the Cave of Legends.
The Cave is the basement of Maddox’s Enosburg Falls coffee shop. It’s been the trio’s recording studio and jam space for years. Known to fans as Farm, the band has met up nearly every Saturday night since 2005 to work on new songs and recordings.
Music contributor Matt Bushlow visited Farm at The Cave of Legends. Here is his profile.
(Bushlow) The Cave of Legends is a true man cave: There’s an old couch, a coffee table littered with empty beer bottles and an ash tray; and a wide array musical instruments: a drum kit, electric guitars, vintage keyboards, amplifiers, even a trumpet. It’s a creative clubhouse where once a week three guys get together to arrange and record their songs.
Farm is also a band without a front man: They all write songs and play several instruments. As Joshua Givens explains, when they’re working, it’s normal to just pick up whatever instrument best serves the song.
(Joshua Givens) "We just kind of do whatever’s necessary for that song to be what we want it to be. And a lot of times that, you know, one guy’s playing drums on a song, and the next song he’s singing and playing guitar, so someone else is playing drums. And everybody’s moving around and just trying to fill in the space."
(Bushlow) Though playing more than one instrument occasionally requires the guys to, as Ben Maddox puts it "man up and learn to play the drums," Givens points out that it’s exactly why they do it.
(Givens) "Farm is always pushing us out of our comfort zone … we’ve got to try something different, and we’ve got to come at this next song from a completely different angle, which means I’m going to have to try an instrument I’m not comfortable with at all, and I’m going to have to pull it off.")
Playing multiple instruments is just one way these guys keep things fresh. While writing songs for their newest album, the title of which – Sat., Cloudy, Calm, 36F, 10:44 p.m., – sounds like a weather report, they took inspiration from a collaborative form of Japanese poetry and adapted it to writing and recording music.
(Jedd Kettler) "…Everybody’s heard of haiku, but haiku came from ranku, which is, which is a Japanese form of poetry … One guy would come up with a, with a three-line haiku, the next guy would come up with a two-line thing … Each one had to be related to the other in a very specific way. It was group improvisation.
(Ben Maddox) "And that’s how we worked a lot on this album."
(Kettler) "But it was a digital recording version of that, [Ben: "Yeah."] where I’ve got this chord progression … you do something with it, next guy does something with it…")
(Bushlow) They used this approach on "Hotel Manners," which appears on their new album. One Saturday, Maddox was experimenting with a loop pedal, which lets him record little musical phrases and turn them into repeating loops. The band applied the principles of ranku, and suddenly had the bones of a new song.
(Kettler) Oh yeah, "Hotel Manners." … Ben was messing around with a loop pedal … and he just starts laying down … like four or five things, just on top of each other… And then we listened back to the loop and we said, "That’s a cool loop, man." Let me try some drums on it … "Hey, that almost sounds like a song structure! I think I have lyrics!"
(Bushlow) While Farm’s albums have received enthusiastic reviews and their rare live shows are packed with fans, their local success doesn’t entice them to take their show on the road.
(Maddox) "…We wouldn’t be able to make as much music as we do if we were trying to hustle the live scene … that’s what we we want to do is write and record music, so we do it…"
(Bushlow) And so it goes. Farm is recording another album right now, down in the Cave of Legends. In fact, if you go to Maddox’s Enosburg Falls coffee shop and buy a latte, there’s a good chance that after you walk out the door, he’ll sneak down to the Cave and overdub some Wurlitzer on a new song.
For VPR, I’m Matt Bushlow.
Note: Click on the additional audio links below to hear four songs from Farm.
3. Anticipating Snow
4. Hotel Manners