Caveman's first Outside Lands set -- Sunday, 2:50 p.m. at the Panhandle stage -- has arguably been inevitable. Sure, maybe it hasn't always felt that way for the band. Last year, the members of Caveman sweated out festival favorite status at CMJ 2011. They put the time and effort in to self-release their debut LP, CoCo Beware. But even if they didn't always realize it, Caveman was built for opportunities like this.
The band's sound -- a familiar brand of atmospheric, layered rock -- is just too perfect for being outdoors on a Sunday afternoon. Caveman has won over lots of listeners: NPR took kindly to it; New York State tourism loved it, too. Comparisons keep being made to acts like My Morning Jacket or Band of Horses, names seemingly synonymous with the type of set Caveman is likely to put on. Outside Lands may not have met an easier booking decision in its five years.
As the band prepares for its largest festival to date, the members of Caveman keep doing what they always have. They're touring (about to make their first trip to Sweden) and writing new material, according to singer and songwriter Matt Iwanusa. He took a quick break from the grind to catch us up before the band's pair of shows this weekend, telling us about the band's year since its debut LP, finally getting to playing large outdoor festivals, and Matt's history with San Francisco. In addition to its Outside Lands set, Caveman performs Sunday, Aug. 12, at the Independent with Grandaddy.
So the official release of CoCo Beware was last November, but you signed with a label in the spring and re-released it in March. Do you miss doing your own thing?
I'm enjoying the situation now, but in no way is it easier. The best part is that if you come up with an idea that seems crazy, you can present it to people who might actually be into it. Then they can tell you if it's attainable, if we can make this crazy video or whatever. That's the only area where it's been easier, but we're still scheming on our own everyday.
Speaking of videos, "My Time" ended up scoring an I <3 NY campaign. What was that like?
Growing up in NY, the guitarist, drummer and I were all here. And you'd see all these I <3 NY ad campaigns back in the day. So when they asked us about that, we knew we always put it out there how much we like NYC. When that got offered to us, it was pretty cool. I still get so many texts about it, it's crazy.
Back east, I know you played my alma mater (Syracuse) and continue to play smaller clubs and campuses. What keeps you motivated to play these smaller shows while you're finally getting festival gigs?
It's just exciting still that people come to see us play. Recently, we were in Buffalo for our first time ever, and 150 people came out even though we've never played there before. It's cool that even in these small places, even on our first tour, we'd meet people who cared about the record and cared about the band.
I've invested equally as much time in a band before, but our other bands didn't really do much. Now we have this window to totally obsess about music. It allows us to do what we really want to do. It's great.
I know you've played a couple festivals, but those seem to be the indoor, loosely organized club venues-type. Is this the largest festival you've played so far?
It's definitely the largest festival we played, and I'm excited about it. We did a really cool show when we first started; it wasn't even the full band yet. We got asked the day before to play with Blue Oyster Cult in Brooklyn, and were like "Yeah, let's do that." We got to play outside and there was only like 100 people there when we played. But it was just that idea, anytime we play an outside show, it feels really cool and it's just fun. I've always wanted to play big festivals like this, though, so we'll see how it goes.
Will you be indulging in some percussion during these shows? I know you were filling in when your drummer was out last fall.
I always have one drum that I usually play, but I've been thinking about adding a second. Drums were my first instrument when I was growing up; my parents got me drum sets and my uncle was a drummer. It was my main thing. I couldn't play in a band and not play drums, just couldn't happen.
Next: Iwanusa on being pals with the Walkmen