The loudest band in South Florida has quietly been crisscrossing the country on tour, releasing a slew of material, collaborating with fellow underground phenoms, and buying more amps.
Although all four members of Cavity grew up in Dade, the group doesn't have much of a local following. That, however, hasn't put a dent in its productivity. On the contrary, with a new CD out this year and a touring and recording schedule that grows busier by the month, Cavity is enjoying some sweet rewards more than five years since forming.
The quartet loves hitting the road. "We'll drive 30 minutes for a show at Churchill's or 30 hours for a show up in Chicago," says singer Rene Barge. "It doesn't matter to us." Last year they logged about four months in their low-to-the-ground '78 Chevy van, cruising to both coasts and into the Midwest. So far, band members have been bankrolling these excursions themselves, with money earned on the road and in day jobs. Barge and drummer Dan Norris are delivery drivers, bassist Dan Gorostiaga is an office worker, and guitarist Ryan Weinstein -- who joined the band nine months ago, replacing fretman Juan Montoya -- works in a sandwich shop.
Whether at a local show or one on the road, reaction to Cavity is usually the same. "The first band plays and everybody moshes. The second band plays and everybody moshes. We play and everybody will either stand there," Barge says, striking a pose of dropped-jaw astonishment, "or they cover their ears, or they just walk right out of the fucking club."
Understandable reactions, given the sonically overwhelming and visually bizarre wallop of your average Cavity show. Weinstein cranks out chords that screech with feedback and Gorostiaga slams out heavy bass lines, while Norris beats his kit with dependable fury. Barge's vocal style can best be described as the screaming-bloody-murder technique. The overall effect is dark, drubbing, and raw. Not for the faint of heart or the easily disturbed.
And then there is Barge's yen for high-impact performance. "It's more of a physical thing, how far I can take my body on-stage. There have been times when I throw myself into complete dizzying frenzies and I have no control over my body. There have been times when I have these complete blackouts. It's just black and a flash of white light and I'm out for I don't know how long. I've gone home with my forehead all red, with bruises, cuts, and blood. I have scars on my back and legs and bruises on my knees."
Adds Norris: "After every show on tour he had a mesh print embedded in his forehead from banging against the amplifiers."
The band's intense approach will grow more so, says chief songwriter Gorostiaga, with the recent return of former guitarist Anthony Vialon. He adds that down the road the band would like to recruit another member to contribute samples to the sonic mix. And of course, the group is always hoping to increase amplification.
Cavity's unabashed love of high decibels and wiry feedback has given more than one sound person a headache. "If we try to explain to people the way we want our sound, they say that's not the way it works, or you don't know your own sound," Gorostiaga says, shaking his head.
Barge continues: "Sound guys usually turn down the bass, turn down the guitar, and fuck with the vocals and drums. They try to gate us, compress us, and then what they end up doing is turning us off three songs before we're done. It amazes me that all these people don't know that this sound can exist. And we're not even that far out there."
Indeed, the guys don't consider Cavity a "noise" band. Unlike the more loosely structured music produced by groups such as former Miamians Harry Pussy, Cavity's songs follow the sorts of chord progression found in more traditional rock settings -- but cranked to maximum volume and often buried in sonic effects. "The Cavity sound," Barge says, "comes from deconstruction of jazz, blues, and rock and roll. It's recontextualizing all the themes, sounds, and lines, so there really isn't a formula it fits into."
Despite the intervention of ham-handed sound guys, Cavity has made a name for itself in circles more open to experimental music. San Francisco underground artist and record-label owner Pushead sought out the band after a member of his fan club sent him one of the band's twelve-inchers. Pushead describes Cavity's sound as "snail-like chords of distorted agony, buzzing with thick excruciating power. The fast chaotic bits really came together well." He was so impressed that he released the band's first full-length CD, Drowning, on his Bacteria Sour label. He has since released several other singles and has included Cavity songs on recent label compilations.
Brad Marta, owner of Rhetoric Records based in Madison, Wisconsin, first heard of Cavity when a friend sent him a tape of the band recorded at a New York show. "I loved it," Marta says. "It was just painful; that's what hooked me. I cranked it really loud and just loved it. I knew they'd been around for a long time and nobody gave them any interest. I just said I'd take them, I'd love to work with them." The band's current CD, Somewhere Between the Train Station and the Dumping Grounds, was released by Rhetoric this year in the United States as well as in Germany and Japan.
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Away from its full-length CD projects, Cavity often works with various smaller labels that put the band on compilations. These indies also release limited editions of seven- or twelve-inch singles. Cavity's current studio ventures include a seven-inch for Arm Records of Lawrence, Kansas; a couple of tracks to go on a compilation CD for No Records of Berkeley; and a version of "Into the Void" for a Black Sabbath cover project to be released by Boston's Hydrahead Records.
Local music fans have been slower to recognize the perverse joys of the Cavity sound. But the band did receive three nominations for Slammies -- local-rock awards -- this year: Best Male Vocalist (Barge), Best Guitarist (Juan Montoya), and Best National Release (Drowning). The band didn't win anything. It did, however, perform at the ceremony. "They were one of the highlights of the show," says Slammie founder Jim Hayward. "But they're so antiestablishment that they tried very hard to stay out of the spotlight; it seemed like they were almost afraid they were going to win."
"The Slammies were a joke," Barge scoffs. "I went home with the emblem of the amp stamped in the middle of my head, and the rest of my face was all black and blue. The monitors were coming off the stage, people were running away from us. The place was full of jocks and somebody was giving the sound guy the throat-cutting motion so he would turn us off. It was chaos; we were just too much for them."
When a band produces a sound that tends to drive people out of venues, the potential for large, adoring audiences is somewhat limited. But Barge thinks the lackluster local support goes deeper than that: "In the late Seventies, with rock bands like Kiss and Black Sabbath, kids would go see them and literally stick their heads in the amplifiers. They needed that pummeling, that intensity. Now we're in an era with the most gun control ever, the most paranoia, the most control groups; the government is a mockery. It's really so strange that people just seem to be sticking their heads into computers. Does the computer provide that much amplification for them? I don't see why there aren't more people out there that are into getting annihilated by sound.