Reverb: Cass McCombs

This is the full interview that ran in our January 2014 Issue, on newsstands now.

Music can make or break a skate part. Cass McCombs makes and never breaks. Photo: MULLER

Cass McCombs is a singer/songwriter who’s music and persona is as mysterious as it is intriguing. His new album, titled, Big Wheel And Others, is a 22-song opus filled with an eclectic mix of music ranging from country tinged folk, to breezy Laurel Canyon-style classic California rock, and back to intimate acoustic cruisy jams. Cass McCombs makes music for many different moods—reflective, mellow, inflection, early morning, late night, and for all the private moments in between. Comparisons to Elliot Smith and Leonard Cohen can be drawn from Cass’ music, but with this new album, McComb’s has yet again proven he is an artist in a league of his own—a modern troubadour who has added another unforgettable album to his growing catalogue of classic work. Some of Skateboarding’s finest filmmakers and skaters caught on early to Cass McComb’s who’s music has been used in so many amazing and memorable skate parts such as Jason Dill in DVS’, Skate More, the first song in Dylan Rieder’s, eight-minute banger-filled Gravis web part, and TransWorldSKATEboarding.com’s Transmission: Spring 2013, as well as the Patrick O’Dell directed music video for the McCombs’ song, Morning Star, featuring vintage and modern skate footage of Lance Mountain, Natas Kaupas, Ray Barbee, Matt Hensley, Gonz, Pat Duffy, Guy Mariano, Jerry Hsu, and many more. We caught up with Cass just a few days before the release Big Wheel And Others.—Chris Coté

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We have to start by asking you about your relationship with skateboarding.
I skated for a long time. At some point I switched over from expressing myself on a skateboard to expressing myself on a guitar. The amazing thing about skateboarding and music, in my opinion, is that the most transcendent moments always happen when you’re just having fun. To use music as an analogy and this works for skateboarding as well, I feel like “amateurs” seem to be able to make superior music to “professionals” because their hearts’ are in the right place—they’re playing music, it’s called “playing” for a reason. There’s a lightness of heart that enables one to be great, to feel great. It’s the same as going out skating with your friends; it’s just fun, and there seems to be a certain joy and magic that comes from that aspect of skateboarding.

In looking at some of the ways your music has been used in skate videos, have you seen anything that exactly matched the vibe of your music?
I love it all, When a skateboarder puts that much effort in to filming something, then applies my music to it, It’s a huge honor. It always seems genuine—I appreciate it and I’m inspired by it.

Have you noticed more skaters at your shows since your music has been used in so many skate videos?
Usually the lights are low at our shows so I can see anything, I don’t know [laughs].

Sometimes skaters have to battle for tricks, but they get an incredible emotional release when they make it; how is that similar to songwriting? And have you ever had to battle to finish a song?
I wouldn’t say “battle,” but when I watch friends skate and do things that blow my mind, I often think about the similar challenges you can face in making music, like pushing your own personal limits, constantly learning, and trying things that are difficult to accomplish in the way you want. When you finish a song, it can feel joyful and sometimes relieving like I’m sure a lot of skaters feel when he or she lands a trick that’s been eluding them.

“The amazing thing about skateboarding and music, in my opinion, is that the most transcendent moments always happen when you’re just having fun.”

So lets talk about Big Wheel And Others, a double album, with 22 songs—that’s a huge piece of work.
The album just kind of formed in this way, I didn’t sent out to make a double album but we recorded a lot of songs and every time we tried to whittle it down, it just didn’t work, so we kept all the songs we wanted. If it’s too long for people, they can turn it off, I don’t care. If you get tired of listening to it, turn it off [laughs], I wont be offended.

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Here is the brand spanking new video Cass just dropped for Big Wheel. Pick up Big Wheel And Others on iTunes.

Big Wheel And Others