Cabic got his start in the D.I.Y. indie rock scene forming his band Raymond Brake in his native Greensboro, North Carolina, in 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 him. Playing shows with Banhart, Joanna Newsom, Six Organs of Admittance, and others, Cabic started writing songs for his new project, Vetiver, named for a 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.) As the freak folk movement gained steam and Banhart's worldwide acclaim grew, Vetiver's association with him would bring them new fans as well. In addition to Banhart's musical contributions to Vetiver's albums, Cabic co-wrote Banhart's breakout song "At the Hop," and Banhart paid tribute to his friend's band in the song "When the Sun Shone on Vetiver."