two cabins
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two cabins

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"Interview with Ian from The Aural Kinetic"

The AK Interview with Erika and Scott from Two Cabins
Interviews September 27th, 2009

The most important thing to know about the Vancouver music scene is that it doesn’t just cover one genre of music like a lot of other scenes from the past. Detroit in it’s heyday was predominantly rock ‘n roll. New York cornered the market on North American punk and new wave. Seattle, of course, had grunge. The current independent music renaissance that’s been taking place in Vancouver over the last couple of years, however, has shown a bit of everything. Case in point: Two Cabins. We first saw their name on the bill for the last-ever show at the Cobalt, looked up their MySpace, and were once again astounded that a Vancouver band could so completely tap into a genre of music that we didn’t even know existed in the city. Wanting to know more about the band, we contacted the two bandmates, and they were gracious enough to answer a bunch of questions. Here we go!

The Aural Kinetic: Erika and Scott, when did you first meet and how did the idea come about to start a band together? Had you played in any other bands previously? And what, if any, goals did you set out after the first couple of sit-downs? Basically, because there doesn’t seem to be any information about you guys out there, please tell us a little history of the band and of yourselves.

Two Cabins: We first met last December, just before those bitter snowstorms. We decided to start a band together the day we met. When the snow hit a few days later it became too cold to do anything but stay inside and make music. Under siege we started writing songs. ‘Slither’ was our first. A few months later as the snow began to melt we thought about playing shows and recording an album. We decided to embark upon a “world tour” and played our first show in Berlin at Raum 18, a fundraiser for a group attempting to squat the abandoned Tempelhof Airport.

Erika played in Fetal Pig Fuck You but they broke up shortly after being disqualified in the high school talent show for lewd gestures involving the microphone…the vice-principal still owes her a trophy and an apology.

Most recently she was playing in a band called Erdbeere Ganau which was a two piece experimental drum band.

In Vancouver, I (Scott) was playing in — for lack of a better word — a noise band called cock,fang. It wasn’t without musical sensibilities but really it was more about the personalities and performance. cock,fang broke-up due to personal differences…er… and I sort of kicked myself out of the band.

We also make art. Erika does performance/video work and I make videos which I’ve exhibited here and internationally… and in case the Canada council for the arts is reading this, I’m almost finished my final project and will have it to you shortly…I think we both view our music as an extension of our respective practices.

TAK: What would you say are the benefits / limitations of being in a band of two, as opposed to say a more traditional three or four piece like is generally seen in the Vancouver music community at this time?

TC: Ummm…it’s easier to travel, and all of our gear fits in our 87 Saab.

With fewer bodies occupying space on stage, maybe there’s more space for the mood to mingle.

The sparseness of sound is a result of a minimalist aesthetic…this is to say that it is directly related to the fact that there are only two of us, but we’ve chosen not to embellish our sound on our recordings. I think the space between notes and beats is heard and has a presence. The silence in our songs is probably akin to a strange silence between friends…but one that is not exactly awkward or uncomfortable.

TAK: How would you classify your own sound? Listening through the rough-cut tracks posted online, I immediately thought you’d make a great soundtrack for some dark, Eastern European 70’s spy movie or something! Was this the final product you had in mind when you envisioned the structure of your songs? To create music that was much more ambient than traditionally formulaic?

TC: We would classify our sound as “70’s eastern european spy movie music” (hehe), although Erika’s sister has labeled us ghost-gaze. We had hopes for the music to be based more on mood than on formula…but maybe that too is a formula.

We agree with you that we are ‘filmic’ and think that characterization is very perceptive.

There is a sort of movement of feeling that is not determined by a lyric-based narrative. Maybe in the way that setting or camera frame (as surplus) have the potential to construct a story more than dialogue or action. Maybe we’re trying to reclaim some form of lost expressionistic appreciation rather than reiterate a comfortable rigid structure…maybe we’re just moody.

TAK: Along the same lines, how much of an influence would you say darker, moodier bands have on your sound? We’re not saying that you sound exactly like Portishead of course, but there are certain similarities in style that are present in your sound as well. After my first run-through of all six tracks, my first thought was “This is probably what people were hoping for when Portishead released that last album.”

TC: Wow, thanks!

Yeah, you know, if the whole album had been as good as the song “Hunter,” it would’ve been a great album.

We listen to stuff that is heavy in mood and perhaps less pop glitz. As a French friend commented in his very thick accent, regarding the hostile take-over of his stereo, “Your music is very dark. Perhaps you should be wearing your black t-shirt”. It’s not easy being dark. That said, erika has a particular taste for Wu-Tang and all their related projects.

Even though we acknowledge the climate that we make in is inescapable, it was a very organic development of this sound; it seemed to come from somewhere in the room, somewhere between us.

TAK: Vancouver is a city with a lot of bands playing a lot of different genres, however the music that you play is unlike anything else on the scene right now. Did you feel there was an absence of this unique type of sound?

TC: We would like to answer yes, but really it is the only sound we know how to make.

TAK: There is a fine distinction between brooding music and depressing music. Yours, I would argue, falls into the former category. How do you control the gloom without veering off into something that just makes people feel bad when they listen to it? For instance, “Broken Bones…” is a heavy and downbeat track, but it doesn’t fall off the rails into embarrassing misery-core.

TC: If they were my songs the music would be depressing, but Erika keeps us from wrist-cutting. The lyrics to me seem to come from a really good understanding of imagery and language rather than self-reflexive personal moaning; although the songs have some personal content, they are not autobiography.

TAK: I immediately loved “Tripcatcher” as soon as I heard it and the more I listen to it, the more I like it. What can be conveyed through the use of slower, more sparse arrangement that can’t be conveyed through a faster, more full sound? What are your plans – if any – for expansion in future recordings? You’ve obviously done a bit of recording (six tracks on MySpace, so far). What are your plans for future recordings? Will you be releasing anything in the near future? And where could a person buy your music, if they were so inclined?

TC: Thanks, we feel the same way about Tripcatcher…it’s the second song we wrote.

We’ve toyed with the idea of playing with some other musicians/friends and so we hope to start on a new side project. Honestly, we are pretty protective of our little band and feel that our sound is manageable with just us two. We are still recording and plan to release an album soon, once our mixes are done.

TAK: You’re playing an upcoming show at the doomed Cobalt on September 29th. What can you tell us about how you came to be on the bill with B-Lines and Nu Sensae. And what does it mean to you to be playing one of the final shows at a Vancouver indie music landmark?

TC: We played with The Bloggers at Hokos in June, and Bruce also of the B-Lines asked us to open for them at the Cobalt…of course we said yes.

Scott started going to fake jazz Wednesdays pretty much when it started. That event really gave the Cobalt a sense of place for him.

We feel lucky to have this last chance to play what we think is the best stage in the city. Vancouver has lost so many great venues over the past few years, but this is probably the most tragic. One can argue that ‘alternative’ venues/speak-easies aren’t meant to last forever or else they’d just be bars like any other. Unfortunately the current municipal policies and real estate trends are making it impossible for new venues to open. Scenes need regeneration, but they also need history. I think the Cobalt balanced history with regeneration quite nicely. So sad to see it go.

TAK: What’s next for Two Cabins?

TC: Next month we hope to play a show on the East Coast (New Brunswick) where Erika has plans to eat her first lobster from head to tail.

Band photo courtesy of Twin Cabins from their first show in Berlin, Germany.

Ian Explosivo




two cabins is a Vancouver-based duo consisting of Erika Petro and Scott Russell. Our songs are moods, our sound is minimal and our words are spells. Our music is a haunting that lingers in the furniture long after it's been played.
We say that we are ritualistic ghost-gaze, but really we have a unique sound that is hard to define. our minimalist, mood-based compositions are punk in structure, but erika's ephemeral vocals are more akin to minimalist electronica comme Nico. My guitar is a mix of Americana-strange and at times Jesus & Mary Chain-esque. Erika learned to drum from her dad, Peter Petro, who was the songwriter and drummer for 60's Slovakian band The Beatmen.