“My other band, Soft Black, was on tour with our friends, Werewolves, both bands in a nine passenger van driving across America”, recalls Vincent Cacchione. “We were hot, AC-less, and running out of money. I had already begun experimenting with this weird brand of home-recorded pop, but it lacked an identity. The name, Caged Animals, crept into my head whilst driving in this over-stuffed tin can.”
As it turns out, Caged Animals is, not just in this case, a spontaneous and honest reaction to a sticky situation, both emotionally direct and refreshingly liberating in its communication.
Borne mostly out of playful, late-night improvisation on home recording equipment, and experimentation with tones and beats, Cacchione has created a highly personal, wistfully nostalgic world that basks in the golden glow of love both new (“Lips That Turn the Light to Fire”), and old (“Teflon Heart”), in the haze of regret (“This Summer I’ll Make It Up To You”) and the blur of days gone by (“The NJ Turnpike”). Taken collectively, these are songs which gather poignancy with every play, and resonance with every repeat, lending increasing profundity towards the fleeting moments in life which we only wish could linger a little longer.
To hear Cacchione tell it, Caged Animals emerged almost as a happy accident, but it was inevitably so. Music was introduced into his life from the start, when his jewellery engraver turned stand up comedian father Gino Cacchione used to take Vin on tour with him, blasting Lou Reed, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits on road trips, and turned into an escape when he died shortly after Vin’s 20th birthday. This drama affected Vin’s artistic qualities in the way of focusing him on avoiding any of his dad’s perceived missed opportunities and he started his first proper musical project, Soft Black, “It was sort of a forum for my lyric-based musical ideas. My father had just passed away, and I was feeling a bit lost”, he says. “I moved back home to look after my mom, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, and began to write obsessively, trying to work though the situation I was living and the loss of my dad.” The resulting Soft Black album, “Blue Gold”, was a highly acclaimed but harrowing record, with the follow-up, “The Earth is Black (And Other Apocalyptic Lullabies For Children)” not much more light-hearted either, consisting, as it did, of a ten-song chronicle of a series of nightmares Cacchione had been having.
Caged Animals, therefore, arose as a reaction to the darkness: the soft-focus yin to Soft Black’s unrelenting yang. “I found myself more drawn to my home recording equipment as a means of expression than the pen and paper. The most important thing was allowing myself way more freedom in the realm of lyric. Many of my favourite Caged Animals’ tracks are first takes of pure feeling with no pre-conceived lyric attached, just off the top of the head. I feel like the two projects (when taken together) are an accurate description of my personality. I can be kind of a heavy and philosophical dude but Caged Animals reflects my lighter-hearted optimism, a cathartic expression, not indulgent of any myopic melancholy. For me, it feels like the most natural expression of myself, and I value emotional honesty in music more than anything else.”
This “emotional honesty” comes through with startling clarity on his vocals – even on the sweetest melodies, they are open, unvarnished, affecting in their rawness, like nerve endings exposed and dangling. “I’m really into the storytelling, unmasked and upfront side of singing. My favourite singers are able to do that effortlessly, so I take a lot of influence from voices like Diane Cluck, Jeff Mangum, Arthur Russell, and the aforementioned Bob Dylan.” These Cacchione vocals come combined with richly textured arrangements – shimmering guitar lines, and layered gossamer-like synths and beats – that call to mind the intoxicating psychedelia of The Elephant 6 Collective, Broadcast, and Spiritualized; no surprise, seeing as Cacchione says one of his aims with Caged Animals is “to massage the senses in the way that bands like Spacemen 3 did, albeit in a different mood.”
The album, “Eat Their Own”, a concept that has developed stronger and more succinct from Cacchione’s original self-titled cassette release in 2010, is a set of songs which are tender even as they are painful, beautiful yet often emotional, all of which belie their humble origins, being recorded at Cacchione’s home in Bushwick, Brooklyn, at “all hours of the day and night”.
“We live in a noisy, Hispanic neighbourhood; it’s very hard to record acoustic instruments here, so I tended to shy away from microphones as much as possible.” Expanding further on the acutely intimate, insular nature of the record, he explains, “While I was writing most of this music, I had no idea that it was going to be made available commercially or publicly, so it tends to be a pretty personal communication between man and computer. One exception to this rule is the song “Teflon Heart”, which I set out to make the mega-jam of the summer. I’d never written with that intent in mind but it was fun and rewarding.”
Even more enticing is the prospect of some forthcoming live shows. Having already performed at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom the live set shows a further expansion of the Caged Animals mindset, and is something of a family affair (as the band consists of Cacchione’s French-Canadian partner, Magali Charron, a classically trained violinist, as well as his talented little sister, Talya, and one of his oldest friends, Pat Curry) which Cacchione promises will “create a true spectacle. I’m very confident in our abilities to incite the love-in, and leave both audience and band in a better place.” And why should we try to fight such love?