A show by Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum inspired Caged Animals' Vincent Cacchione to rethink his music.

Caged Animals photo

Vincent Cacchione probably isn't the first person to cry at a Jeff Mangum show. He probably isn't the first to be inspired by that feeling either, returning home to write a song pumped with optimism.

But that moment wasn't just a temporary high for Cacchione, founder and mastermind of Brooklyn-based project Caged Animals, who play Gasa Gasa on Sunday. It inspired a newfound perspective on songwriting and pretty much everything else. "I have a couple theories about it," Cacchione says, with traces of glee in his voice that he still can't suppress when talking about that show by the reclusive co-founder of Neutral Milk Hotel.

The moment came at a darker period of Cacchione's life, where he was debating how much he wanted to go on creating music. Before his latest record, In the Land of Giants - which begins with the Mangum-inspired "Too Much Dark" - Cacchione had written a record with his other project, Soft Black, that was written from a dark place. He wasn't sure whether he'd want to release the record, a memoir of re-entering a "heavy time." That's when Mangum came to the rescue.

"In that moment, having just seen that show, I wanna give people hope. Give something that can maybe be useful to them. The ideal mission statement was to make something uplifting."

On In the Land of Giants, Cacchione drives that home. Tracks beam with bouncy tempos and blipping electronics, making for what could easily be labeled as "feel good music." Yet it doesn't fall in to familiar gimmicks. In the Land of Giants is a confident statement from an artist who has found a voice, in partner with a family band including Cacchione's wife and sister that pristeenly complements the his vocals and lyrics. Caged Animals create simple, pleasant melodies that don't build up and explode as much as they amble along comfortably — a sure reflection of Cacchione's shifted outlook.

"I'm older now. Those [past] records have aged," Cacchione says. "On this one, I was just trying to do something that is very human." Another proponent of that hope was David Lynch, whose book Catching the Big Fish, was also a source of inspiration while Cacchione wrote In the Land of Giants. As someone who often writes dark, personal songs, it was important for Cacchione to abandon concern for how his writing might negatively affect his audience, citing Lynch as an overly positive person who can still be dark. But Lynch's wisdom also reminded him not to intentionally "drag shit" into his personal life for the sake of art.

Cacchione still struggles with the desire to write both positive and negative songs. "I'm really glad I made the record this way," he says, unsure of the direction his next record will take — though he already has a concept in mind about a kid who works with dead bodies. Whatever dark clouds may roll in for Cacchione, Caged Animals is a statement of his changed perspective, and In the Land of Giants will be a point of reference for some of Cacchione's brightest moments.