Certain bands can transport you to a totally different place. Where does Lavacave transport their listeners? A dark, smoky room, preferably with a drink in your hand.
The Lancaster trio, made up of Robin Chambers on vocals and violin, Donna Valles on bass and “one man band” Nick DiSanto on drums, keyboard, guitar and vocals, has been together for years, though they just released their first full-length album, “Rapture & Catastrophe.” We talked to Robin and Nick about influences, the moods of their album and what lead them to forming the band in the first place.
Kevin Stairiker: So you’ve been in a band together for almost six years, and you’ve just put out your first album. Were you working on it the whole length of the band, or did you spend most of that time cultivating the songs?
Robin Chambers: A lot of those songs, at least for me, have been around for a while. A few are relatively recent, from the last year or so.
K: How did you initially form as Lavacave?
Nick DiSanto: We were at a friend’s party playing songs around his firepit…
R: When I played around the fire with Nick initially, I was really drawn to the passion and where he came from in the music. There are a lot of people around who can play all kinds of notes and show off, but it really felt to me that Nick had that same kind of musical impulse that is in me. I think we work together well. I had been planning on forming a band for a while, and I was very pleased and happy when he said yes. He was the first person I asked.
K: When did you find your third piece, Donna on bass?
N: That was a few years later. Our very first rehearsal was me on some drums with Kenny Cotich on acoustic guitar. He left for the West Coast to go to grad school, which is when I started playing guitar and drums with my feet. Right after that was when we met Donna.
R: When we lost Kenny to the West Coast, we started ferociously looking for a bass player or a cellist, someone to handle that low end. And with bowed aspects, too, not just the plucking. An acoustic, stand-up bass or cello. Nothing was manifesting, and then the very first time we played a gig in this new duo formation, that’s when Donna appeared. It was wonderful.
K: You both talked about how you have a very in-sync musical sensibility, which comes through very well on the album. There’s a sense of darkness that pervades, but it’s fun at the same time. What brings that out in you?
R: Well, I was born on the Day of the Dead and Nick was born a few weeks later on a Friday the 13th, for starts. Even though I think of myself as a light and joyful person, there is a balancing darkness within me and the music is the vehicle to let that free. It’s not just dark and somber, it’s dark and passionate. It’s a release. I just really noticed that smoky, dark intensity with what Nick was doing, as well.
N: I think I’ve always enjoyed writing playful, almost silly songs about things going badly or things falling apart. The tone clash was always satisfying for me. It’s a songwriting well I go to, perhaps too often.
K: I’ve always found, in my own meager songwriting perspective, that it’s an easier process to write dark songs as opposed to happy songs.
R: When you’re happy, you’re off being happy [laughs]. When you’re dark, you’re brooding and need to get something off of your chest.
K: I guess that’s where the “Catastrophe” half of the album title comes from?
R: “Catastrophe” is probably more than half the album [laughs].
K: Well, if we’re going down that route where does the “Rapture” half come in?
R: Well, it was my choice, against the other two, to start the album off of “Could Be Kissing.” I felt strongly about that because it starts in a more innocent way, like a daydream fantasy before anything goes awry. Even in that kind of thing, there’s angst in desire. But then, even in the catastrophe, there can be a sort of rapture of watching things go awry. Nick talked about how he balances the darkness with a silly, lighter side, and for me, I allow myself gleefully to go down that dark path. It’s not a place I hang as a person, it’s just a playful way to investigate that aspect.
K: What were your respective entrances into music?
R: I started in third grade with the violin. Right away, I started playing more by ear than reading music. I picked it up quickly because I feel it. I joined my first band, Gypsy Blue, when I was 17. I started playing three or four times a week and it just sort of become my career.
N: I started playing drums a little over 20 years ago. I started slowly picking up piano and guitar a few years after. Once I joined Lavacave, I realized I had to actually figure out how to play the guitar. I’ve been working a lot on my vocals and guitar since then, though I’ve managed to sneak the drums back in as well.
R: I hadn’t even realized at the time that he didn’t consider himself a guitarist; that’s how I saw him around the campfire. It just seemed like any instrument he touched, he could play, because of the passion he has. I really liked the choices he used to make it work.
K: What do you think of the Lancaster music scene in general at the moment?
R: I for one am very excited. I’ve been in this music scene for a long time now, and there was a time when I started where most of the bands were cover bands. I’m not trying to be demeaning, but there wasn’t a sense of people experimenting much. If there was any experimentation, clubs were sort of loathe to engage with them, because they weren’t sure if they could draw. Now, I think people are really jazzed about bands that are doing something very original or unusual, and I really like seeing some of the new bands coming out with new sounds. It’s an inspiring place to be, and it’s a place that supports the musicians.
Lavacave’s new album “Rapture & Catastrophe” can be found at cdbaby.com/cd/lavacave. Lavacave will be playing at McCleary’s Public House on Oct. 22, Chiques Rock Base Camp on Oct. 29 and Spring House Brewing Company on Nov. 9.