Cave Radio:Your New Obsession
Story: Alex Bakken
Photo: Cory Weaver
Sometimes you listen to an album and know there’s just no going back.
The leaves are falling off the trees, you’re in your car driving down a familiar road, and you’ve decided
to check out a new band for the first time. The tracks continue one after another, and you’re hooked.
Like many aspirations, the band was conceptualized many years before it was realized. “I came up with the idea for Cave Radio about eight years ago,” recalls Deanna Sorenson, founder, songwriter and lead vocalist for the group. “I picked up a guitar right out of college, started writing songs that I didn’t hate after two weeks, and was like ‘Oh, this could be something…’”
The first wave of demos was written by Deanna and her then partner, but aside from the occasional open mic, the songs did not see the light of day for four years. That was until late 2019 when they met Brandon Mason, now bassist for Cave Radio. “We sent Brandon all the early, early demos of the first album, and he helped get them to a pretty good point. The next thing we know we’re planning a live show, and the next, next thing we know
Deanna and Brandon continued to pass demos back and forth throughout the pandemic, slowly but surely polishing things up to their own “presentable” standard. In early 2021, Deanna and her partner had split, and it was clear that things were changing for Cave Radio. As the world gradually returned to a new normal, the now dynamic duo of Deanna and Brandon realized that their music was ready to be performed live, which required more band members.
“So I got a message from Brandon on BandMix sending some demos that eventually became the first record,” remembers Colette J. (CJ) Beckwith, drummer and producer for Cave Radio. “When I heard the demos, I thought ‘I love this singer, I love these songs, I love this music. I need to be a part of it.’ Charlie [Brooks], Zack [Geese], and I had previously been in a band together, so when we needed a guitarist, I was like, ‘I know a guy,’ and Charlie was in. And since Brandon was already playing bass, we needed a keyboardist and I was like, ‘I know another guy…the smart one of our group, Zach.’”
Zach was—and still is—in medical school studying for his doctorate and only played keys on the side. After an “I don’t know, I’m too busy right now” response to CJ’s invitation, Zach was pulled in by a “You’ll only be a stand-in for a few shows” offer from Brandon. “We wanted Zach so badly we asked him twice,” Deanna said, laughing. Charlie continued the bit: “We were getting ready to have everyone reach out to him.” By fall of 2021, the Cave Radio quintet had been solidified.
While the members of the band were new, their music carried on Deanna’s original vision for Cave Radio’s sound.
“It mostly stuck to that [original] vision. Really the only change was that, you know, I could only play guitar and I wasn’t a very good producer by myself. So, our song ‘Deep Ressions’, for example, I would play that song on my sad acoustic guitar all the time, and it would just be very stripped and bare. But I always heard it pretty much how it sounds on our first record. It was really amazing to hear them come alive as basically what I had in my brain. I still get moments when we’re practicing where I’m like ‘There’s four other people playing this thing that came out of my head… that’s so weird!”
Cave Radio’s debut album, Deserter, is a wonderful blend of the band’s combined talents. The rich tones of Deanna’s vocals combine effortlessly with her vivid lyricism to create an irresistibly relatable, sparkling melancholy present in every track. Brandon’s sturdy baselines match Zach’s mood-laying keys to add just the right amount of atmosphere, while CJ and Charlie bring the group’s energy full front with their magnetic drums and engaging guitar.
The album’s production consistently surprises from song to song, most notably when transitioning from the quiet, still air and acoustic strumming of “Seahorse” immediately into to the propulsive energy of “Alaska.” Just when you think you have a hold on its sound, Deserter takes yet another turn into the dark, booming synths of “SAM” only to shift gears into the dance-inducing, Paramore-esque tunes “Get Out Of My Head” and “Time Is Weird.” And just before you leave, Deanna reminds you of Cave Radio’s beginnings with one more acoustic track, “Your Ghost.”
What really pulls the record together, for me, is the story of its recording.
CJ, who led production for Deserter after Brandon’s early additions, was still new to the world of audio engineering: “I was sort of flying by the seat of my pants with the whole record because I was punching above my weight class. I thought the songs were really good and I wanted to do justice to them, but it was the first thing I ever actually engineered or produced. I bought some equipment just so I could be like ‘Hey guys, if you wouldn’t mind—let me try to take a swing at this and see if I can do it justice.”
One by one, the band members met at CJ’s house and recorded their sections. The recordings themselves happened very quickly, only taking up a week’s time. “I think I recorded all my vocals in, like, an hour,” Deanna recalled.
Afterwards, CJ took the tracks to an engrossing post-production. “I was developing a lot of processes as I edited more and more,” CJ said. “That was a big exploratory phase, always telling myself, ‘Let’s see what this whole world is about and let’s see if I can tell that story properly with this massive production and engineering’ all while knowing ‘wow, that was all recorded in my basement or bedroom.’”
Throughout the interview, the members of Cave Radio continued to mention Deserter in the context of a soon-to-be-revealed second album. “It can sometimes be difficult to listen back on Deserter because we know what’s coming next. We’re really proud of our second record. But it’s nice to look back on the special nature of [Deserter], you know, especially with the story of how we recorded it,” CJ said.
After a brief inquiry into the sound of the second record, Deanna replied, “The [second album’s] songs are almost classics to us at this point; we’ve been playing them live since our first show. Some of those songs are almost five years old. I love Deserter and it will be like my child forever, but we’re really excited about album two. Come to a live show and you’ll get a sneak peek!”
With a bit of prodding, the group was able to give me a vague idea of when the new record would drop. “We’re recording the second half of it this fall (2023), and we’re hoping to have it out by next summer (2024)… maybe late next summer…okay maybe early next fall.”
In the meantime, I can at least take comfort in knowing the group will continue making new music together. “I really enjoy my bandmates as people, that’s the best part about it—and also making music that I love, of course,” Zach said. “We haven’t gotten any negative responses yet, so that’s really fulfilling.” Charlie quickly added to the conversation, “Playing with this group is very fun, and as long as I’m having fun, I’m going to keep doing it. Simple as that.”
Standing by for even more Cave Radio tunes might be a bit of a pain, but I can at least take solace in the fact that I can do so while enjoying another spectacular addition to St. Louis’ music scene. One that, although eight years in the making, was entirely worth the wait.