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When Vetiver released their first album in 2004, they were commonly lumped into the nascent "freak folk" movement alongside the likes of Joanna Newsom and Six Organs of Admittance, thanks to leader Andy Cabic's friendship with scene founder Devendra Banhart. (In addition to Banhart's musical contributions to Vetiver's first two albums, Cabic co-wrote Banhart's breakout song "At the Hop," which appeared on 2004's Rejoicing in the Hands; on the same album, Banhart paid tribute to his friend's band in the song "When the Sun Shone on Vetiver.")
However, the band's roots go deeper than Syd Barrett and Linda Perhacs, encompassing the U.K. shoegazer scene and the mid-'90s D.I.Y. indie rock scene. Cabic was part of the latter, forming the Raymond Brake in his native Greensboro, North Carolina, during the early '90s. The Raymond Brake's noisy, Sonic Youth-influenced take on indie rock was a natural fit with both the Chapel Hill art-punk scene and the influential Washington D.C.-based indie label Simple Machines, which released the band's debut album, Piles of Dirty Winters, in 1995. After a handful of EPs and one more album, 1996's Never Work Ever, the Raymond Brake broke up and Cabic migrated westward, eventually settling in San Francisco.
While studying at the San Francisco Art Institute, Cabic met fellow student Banhart and instantly established a close working relationship with the bearded sprite. Playing shows with Banhart, Newsom, and others, Cabic started writing songs for his new project, Vetiver, named for an Asian relative of lemongrass that's used in perfume making. He added Banhart on guitar and backing vocals, Jim Gaylord on violin, and Alissa Anderson on cello, and the band — with Cabic's vocals, banjo, and acoustic guitar — released its self-titled debut on the DiCristina label in 2004. (The album, produced by Thom Monahan of the Pernice Brothers, also included guest spots by Newsom, Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval, and former My Bloody Valentine drummer Colm O'Ciosoig.)
Vetiver was followed in 2005 by an odds-and-sods collection called Between, which included two live tracks, a new version of a song from Vetiver, and a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Save Me a Place." For Vetiver's second full-length album, 2006's To Find Me Gone, Cabic finally added a drummer, Otto Hauser, and bassist Kevin Barker to the core trio of himself, Banhart, and Anderson. After the album was released, Cabic introduced a stable, full-time recording and touring lineup of himself, Anderson, Hauser, new guitarist Sanders Trippe, and new bassist Brent Dunn. In 2008, the band released A Thing of the Past, a collection of covers of songs by artists who had influenced the group's music, including Michael Hurley, Ronnie Lane, and Townes Van Zandt.
Released in 2009, Tight Knit, the band's next album, was released by Sub Pop, and Vetiver remained with that label for 2011's The Errant Charm, whose breezy, casual sound was inspired by Cabic's frequent walks around San Francisco's Richmond District. He returned in 2015 with sixth album Complete Strangers, again produced by sole Vetiver producer Thom Monahan. The album found Cabic integrating more electronic sounds into his laid-back folksy songwriting.