Interview: Jimmy “Cobra” Carbonetti of Caveman
Most musicians are just getting their careers off the ground at age 25, but Caveman guitarist Jimmy “Cobra” Carbonetti has already been at it for seven years.
His first band, The Subjects, went on the road the summer of his high school graduation, and after sleeping on couches across the Midwest and working in three New York City guitar shops, his journey through the music world has led him to CoCo Beware, the debut release from his new chamber pop outfit.
The New York City-based indie supergroup — rounded out by vocalist Matthew Iwanusa (also of The Subjects), bassist Jeff Berrall (Elefant), synthesist Sam Hopkins (White Clam) and drummer Stefan Marolachakis (The End of the World) — is made up of friends whose previous bands had fizzled out.
“All of our bands had broken up or didn’t end up working, so we were free. It just seemed really natural to start playing music together,” Carbonetti says.
After forming in January 2010, Caveman played its first proper concert to a capacity crowd at New York’s Bowery Ballroom the following autumn. The band was also a hit at this spring’s South by Southwest festival in Austin and is readying the harmony-laden CoCo Beware for a September 13 digital release and November 15 physical release.
GUITAR WORLD: What attracted you to the guitar in the first place?
My brother Joe, he always had a really big music collection in the apartment when I was growing up. I got really into Guns N’ Roses. Slash was always a really big influence for me — not now, but growing up. My brother’s roommate played guitar, so he always let me mess around with it. Then my dad got me an acoustic when I was maybe 13. I kept playing in high school, met Matt in ninth grade and we just became best friends and started playing music together.
Caveman got together early last year. Was it an easy transition going from the personal chemistry you guys shared to musical chemistry?
It was oddly easy. We’ve all known each other for at least four years, so going into music seemed really easy. All of our bands had broken up or didn’t end up working, so we were free. It just seemed really natural to start playing music together, and there was no hesitation. The other bands had a structure song-wise and it was way more controlled, but from the beginning this has been really free and open. It’s more about capturing a sound and moment than the individual parts of the songs.
So you guys more or less evolved out of those initial sessions instead of saying, “Here’s the sound we’re going to go for.”
Yeah, exactly. It’s been cool trusting each other, too — musically knowing, “Alright, I know Jeff is going to play an awesome bass line.” Once you hear it, you’re kind of ready. Just finding a sound that really feels good to us and letting it take us where it wants to go is exciting.
And you started your shop around the same time Caveman began?
I opened my shop about a year and half ago. It was in the beginning of Caveman — I had just quit the shop I was working at and everything was changing. After a while, everything just started really clicking with both the shop and Caveman. I’m now building guitar number 21, so it’s been going really well. Each guitar has been getting better and better, and it’s great having a shop where friends can hang out and I can sell guitars. I can’t believe I’m at 21!
So what’s the plan with the new album?
The plan is to tour around it a lot, have a lot of fun and get to work on number two. We’re putting it out ourselves — we got offered a few deals, but it just didn’t feel right.
Do you see yourself doing the whole self-release thing in the future?
I don’t know, I guess it’s a test. We have such a great team of people that we trust so much working with us. All of these people have our backs and are really down for the project. It seems like we actually can put it out ourselves, but if someone wants to come on board with a better plan, we’re definitely not opposed to that.
It seems more feasible to do these days, with the Internet so wide-reaching.
Yeah! You sell 10,000 records and you’re actually making a bit of money rather than, “You didn’t sell 50,000, so you owe us money.” The whole thing with labels is that they’re kind of jamming you right now. You need to be such a big act to even think about making money with a label — you have so many people working for you that you pretty much have to pay, you’re going to be in debt until you sell 100,000 records. We’re keeping the costs down and trying to get as much coverage as we can, while we can. We really only have one chance.