The listener sometimes has the feeling when listening to Caethua, the moniker of Clare Hubbard, of listening in. Her albums weave plaintive, emotionally resonant songs together with field recordings and ambient soundscapes to create vignettes of an alternate and deeply personal universe. But it is not Clare Hubbard on whom the listener is listening in. She seems to inhabit her narrative albums as a witness herself, or they her as a sibyl. Which is not to say that her songs are the otherworldly sounds of a possessed medium -- the opposite is, in fact, the case. Her music is brought to life by the evocative realism of her lyrics and the emotional clarity that carries through her adopted voices. I spoke with Clare via email in the early Winter of 2008.
It does seem as if my songs are becoming more complicated and thoughtful. That's not to say things will keep going in that direction, but I think my more recent songs are a result of lots of time alone, and learning about and trying to understand my deep, dark family roots.
I think my sound experimentation has gotten more full and free-standing from being around and playing music with really challenging people, friends who let loose while performing, who don't talk about what they're doing and just freak out. Touring transforms my process as well. I feel the most alive and challenged when touring because I don't know where I'm going to sleep, who I'll meet, or what type of sounds I'll make. For a live performance, the only constraints are the songs themselves and the field recordings. Within those boundaries I can play as subtle or as wild as possible. I can do whatever feels right at the moment. The idea of playing anything the same way twice seems gross and too unnecessarily hard for me to do.
I've always felt hard-pressed to tell stories that are easy to misunderstand. I suppose I'm trying to make murky feelings more specific with sound, and when a lyric or a tune can't help, I turn to very personal sound recordings I've made through my travels, or sounds that represent a moment in my life, like hissing insects in Florida swamps and the groan of rain and wind against a hull, sounds which are more free and raw that speak for themselves. Sometimes the ambient pieces act as beginnings or ends for songs, and sometimes they are free standing or in between songs. They are just as important as the songs themselves.
My stepfather, Robley Wilson, is an amazing poet, and a wonderful man. I wanted him to understand how important his words are to me, but also to collaborate with him, so I rearranged/adapted one of his poems to music. But there's also this deep cavern within me that is constantly trying to figure out manhood, my own and everyone else's. And so I thought I'd try to articulate that cave with "The Pleasures of Manhood."
I collect stained, gross sci-fi paperbacks and old novels about the sea, the dark fantastic, or women losing their minds/being brought up by jungle snakes, and often find inspiration from these for titles of albums. A couple titles I'm working with right now are "Green Mansions," "We Die Alone" and "The Long Afternoon of Earth." But the basis of my songs come from family stories and my own experiences, or a vicarious feeling I get from stories overheard at the soup kitchen, bus station, or liquor store.
Someone told me recently that they wanted to record me, and that they thought it would be my best album yet. I said, "Yeah, right, we'll see about that." This would be the first time I let someone really record me, not just a couple songs for fun here and there, or live recordings (which I value above all else lately). I am very particular about how I want things to sound, but I'm also a relaxed, friendly, slow person, so my feeling was if someone wanted to record me I'd have all of these repressed desires for particular sounds, unachievable in a foreign room full of equipment I'm not allowed to control (but could if given the chance), but that I'd let it slide. And I guess that's what happened with the last album I recorded, just a couple months ago, in Portland, OR. The recordings are a stark contrast to my own recordings, which are full of creeping sounds and aches and groans, noises, hisses, layers upon layers of reverb-soaked whatever. These recordings are pure sounding, all analog, very simple, just me, the guitar, some tapes of rain and wind, saxophone, and a viola. I'm glad that things sound just as right in my ears as when I record things myself, and that I allowed myself to explore a different sound for such a different process. That made it a real event.
For an entire year, from Nov. 2007 - Nov. 2008 I was unemployed, living off monies made from a corrupt computer programming enterprise, holed up in my Indiana home, recording and writing and playing as much as possible. It was a very solitary time for me, and I experimented as much as I could. That was my process then. Trying to make noise in a subtle, lonely way.
I just moved into an old schoolroom in Maine, with a big piano downstairs and echo-y hallways, high ceilings and sea ghosts roaming the empty icy streets outside, so I'm sure my process will change. My first song I've written here is a quiet reaction to the last 2 months I've spent on the road and the overwhelming feeling that I have come home, to this new place in Maine. I plan to record with more people now, and make it a less solitary event. I have so many wonderfully musical friends, and I want them to be part of the process.
I really like the idea of playing as Caethua but with a lot of other people freaking out around me, with me, making music together in a big sludge pile but with tender moments, quiet dark emotional outpourings interwoven. My best friend Justin and I just toured for 2 months solid, from Indiana to Seattle down the coast and then to Maine to live for the winter. My main dude Logan showed up in Seattle miraculously and came on tour with us. He played a glass cutting board with a metal paint scraper while Justin scraped a cracked metal cymbal with a stick while I played field recordings and soundscapes. The resultant sound was amazing in my mind, moaning groaning rural sadness with thin, sour screeching from the underworld. But totally unplanned, just a hot moment with my wild friends. And then in Indiana on our way to winter in Maine the Crystal Ship played with me, who I play with every chance I get, my ultimate companion-back up band. Sometimes they play the trees outside, jump around in them and rustle the leaves in the dark while I play songs, sometimes they moan and shuffle their feet and scrape their nails against wood, again, it's different every time. But the energy of having these beautiful, uninhibited, friendly, sometimes intoxicated friends with me, surrounding me, helping me share my music with the world, that's what gets me going. I could sit in a room day in day out and write sorrowful ballads of the long-dead women in my family and never know anything else, but the music would get tired, despite how sorrowful or honest or dark. It takes crawling around in a filthy basement while your comrades play their instruments like they were foreign objects to give the songs life. So what I'm working on is writing more music all the time and finding people to play it with. Taking those live magical moments and making a record of them. A Caethua and the Crystal Ship LP.
Here in Belfast, Maine, Justin and I got a space in an old school house where we plan to have events and shows. Art exhibitions, installations, poetry readings, noise shows, anything and everything. This is a small town, the winters are brutal, and it's right by the sea. I can't imagine a better place for me to be.
Also, included here is the somewhat confusing Caethua discography put into proper order by Clare herself:
November 2007-- Village of the Damned on Saxwand and reissued on Blue Sanct Records
January 2008-- I May be Gone for a Long Long Time LP on Saxwand and Friends and Relatives Records
March 2008-- Queenly Women Crowned and Uncrowned cassette on Abandon Ship Records
April 2008-- The Pleasures of Manhood on Night People records
April 2008-- Wrecks and Rescues split tape with Shep and Me
August 2008-- Caethua and Yoni Mudder
August 2008-- split reissue of the Pleasures of Manhood and Queenly Women
2009-- LP of Wrecks and Rescues, split tape on Night People Records with Dan Beckman of Uke of Spaces Corners, CD on Preservation Records, all live recordings Caethua and the Crystal Ship LP
-- Raf Spielman (17 December, 2008)