It’s pretty clear that Devendra Banhart and Vetiver’s Andy Cabic are good friends. Taking a break from a rehearsal-jam session at Cabic’s place in San Francisco, the two guitarist-songwriters switch effortlessly between detailing the practicalities of their upcoming Californian jaunt and derailing into the free-associative act that only people who know each other extremely well can easily follow. This joint solo tour is a rarity among many well-respected indie acts, but in particular for Banhart and Cabic, who have only ventured out under similar artistic circumstances once before. So, Paste caught up with the two friends and musical collaborators to learn more about their upcoming dates and future endeavors.
: Tell me about this upcoming tour you guys are starting in a few days.
Devendra Banhart: Andy and I are doing this tour we try to do once a year where we go back to how we started playing music, which is just backing each other up with each others’ songs—some we wrote together, some we wrote separate and we just support each other when we play live. Our first show together was at Adobe Books, which is just a couple blocks away. It’s just nice to kind of hang out and try to do a tour that’s more enjoyable than the machinery of touring that our lives became later on.
: What year was your first show together?
Banhart: 1968? [laughs]
Andy Cabic: I wanna say it was 2001?
: How did you guys meet in the first place?
Cabic: Umm…we met…
Banhart: At a bookstore!
Cabic: Yeah, at another bookstore that I worked at at the time. Devendra was going to school here, and his girlfriend at the time was also a friend of mine and also went to the same school. We had a lot of friends hanging around the Art Institute.
Banhart: She’s actually a really successful painter now. I love her work, so I’m going to plug her. Her work is great and her name is Sarah Cain.
Cabic: They lived nearby, so she just brought him by the bookstore and introduced us. We hung out one weekend, probably not long after, when Sarah was away and Dev just remembered that I was around the corner. He stopped by and he played me some of his songs, and we’ve been hanging out ever since.
: I noticed that you’re not playing major cities in California or major venues. They’re more like art museums, vineyards or breweries. Why is that?
Cabic: It just adds to the idea of the tour being relaxed and enjoyable for us. I’m not exactly sure why we’re not playing major cities, but we’re working with a promoter who excels at finding more interesting venues in cities that we haven’t played before. I’ve actually never played Chico, and I’ve never played Grass Valley. So that was part of the idea with the tour, being different from what we usually do, and that included playing places we don’t usually play.
: So speaking of places that most people don’t usually get to go, much less get to play, I heard that you guys first did this tour in Japan?
Banhart: Yeah, that’s what began this whole thing. It was a West Coast tour. It was the same thing as this tour except that we thought that we needed to play some of these out- of-the-way places. Like, we could play LA. We could play San Francisco. But let’s play these towns that people don’t normally play or go to in California. So naturally, Tokyo made the most sense.
: Obviously. How long were you there, and what did you think of Japan?
Cabic: We were there until we were sweet, sour, salty, cured, fermented and preserved.
: When I was in China, I had stinky tofu, which was fermented or rotten and probably one of the worst things I’ve ever consumed.
Cabic: Usually whatever is the weirdest thing on the menu, Devendra will find it first and order two of it before he’s even able to finish pronouncing it.
: Well if you don’t try it, you’ll never know!
Banhart: That’s true!
: So is it just going to be you two dudes road-tripping down the Pacific Coast Highway or what? Do you have a backing band with you?
Cabic: It’s going to be the two of us. We just get on stage, and we’re each up there the whole time. We just alternate and go back and forth between songs of mine and Devendra’s, each playing on the other’s songs.
: And you guys have a history of writing together, right?
Cabic: Yeah, but we haven’t written together in a while, though.
Banhart: But we have, actually!
Cabic: Well, yeah, every time we get together an iPhone gets pulled out and we drop down a half dozen of new snippets…
Banhart: It’s fun to pretend that we’ve been hired by an airline to write music for when you’re about to take off. That’s the architecture for the kind of song that we start off actually practicing with. So we write these songs as if we’re hired by British Airways or something.
Cabic: Hawaiian Airlines, if we’re lucky!
: Do you have favorite cover songs? Can we expect any cool covers on this tour?
Banhart: We have favorite cover songs, but they’re mildly…well, they used to be blazing hot. Now they’re mild because Andy discovered hybrid fruit that’s been really floating our boat lately. What are they called?
Cabic: A pluot?
Banhart: A pluot!
: Those things are delicious!
Banhart: Yeah, we’re on a pluot kick, so all covers have been overshadowed by the pluot.
Cabic: We’d rather cover fruit that’s been genetically modified than any song by any songwriter ever.
: Well let’s talk about your musical chemistry, which I’m sure is not unlike the chemistry that makes these hybrid fruits.
Cabic: Well I think that’s it! You just said it.
: Okay, well then what else is new in both of your worlds? I hear rumblings of new Vetiver music?
Cabic: Yeah, just finishing that up now. It should be out hopefully at the beginning of next year or something on Easy Sound. And I think Devendra is working on his artwork and maybe another record this year.
: Wait, Dev, tell me more about your art!
Banhart: I’ve always done visual work and music simultaneously. Or, it’s always been a dual narrative. I’ve dedicated more time to [art] in the last couple years. I have a solo art show in Japan next month and a show right now in Italy and a solo show in LA and three art books during the year, so I’ve been doing that as well as working on a new record.
: What medium do you work with?
Banhart: A variety, really—either ink or graphite or oil. But oil is a new thing. I actually moved back to LA because you really need room to work with oil and I couldn’t find that on the East Coast. And for a lot of other reasons!
: What do you hope fans will get out of these shows?
Banhart: It’s like the opposite of taking a shower!
Cabic: It’s something that doesn’t happen very often, you know. We’ve only done this once before in Japan, and now we’re doing it again here and in some venues that don’t even have shows all that often! So it’s an opportunity to hear songs by Devendra and myself performed in a fashion that we don’t do very often and in places we don’t play very often.
: I mean, that was concise and profound and all, but I kind of like the opposite of taking a shower…
Banhart: The shower happens every day if you’re coordinated, but this only happens once a year.
Devendra Banhart and Andy Cabic Tour Dates
17—Berkeley, Calif. @ Berkeley Art Museum
18—Sonoma, Calif. @ Gundlach Bundschu Winery
19—Grass Valley, Calif. @ Grass Valley Center for the Arts
20—Chico, Calif. @ El Rey Theatre
21—Felton, Calif. @ Bret Harte Hall
23—Big Sur, Calf. @ Loma Vista Gardens