I’ll admit, when the two-set format was announced, my imagination ran wild as to what you guys were going to do. It seems as if the possibilities are endless.
There used to be a time back in the early days when me and Carter [Beauford] would do some stuff together – maybe we’d just start a song – where it was just drums and violin. You have no idea how much fun that was. I had so much fun and I remember that we did it maybe once over the last couple of tours. That is so much fun and I hope that Carter and I get to come out and do that. Someone played this tape for me from a show back in the 90s which I kind of vaguely remember, and I think it was just going to be me and Carter and we were gonna do an intro to “Ants,” maybe. And I don’t think I ever had so much playing. And I listened to it and I was like, “Oh my God! This is cool as shit!” So I’m really excited about that. It brings our different parts of you. I’ve played with Fonzie [Stefan Lessard]; we’ve recorded together. And I’ve played with just Dave, back in the day when we would write songs. A couple of gigs together, Dave and I did, way back in the early 90s. So different forms of us have already played together one-on-one. So we have that experience but I think that this is really gonna be a lot of fun.
And then adding Jeff, Tim and Rashawn surely increases the various lineup possibilities.
Absolutely. I look forward to doing something with Tim. He is brilliant; he’s like this musical genius; I really respect Tim. He used to do this show every Monday night in Charlottesville at Miller’s. He’d play his electric guitar or he’d bring out tablas or a sitar and it was great. I would just watch him for hours, amazed by this man and the music that was coming out of his guitar. He’s a true inspiration for me and some of the other musicians that got to play with him and see him play in Charlottesville back in the 90s. Tim just looms large in my life and is a true inspiration. So I really look forward to doing some stuff with Tim. I’d just love to explore more, particularly in an acoustic way.
I noticed over the last few years you guys messed with some arrangements of tunes, so it feels like this was brewing for a while.
Yeah it just brings different stuff out of you; it makes you go to different places. You have to look at the music in a different way so you’re gonna play it in a different way. And for us, that’s what it’s about; exploring and growing as a band but also growing as individual musicians. And the way to do that is to keep challenging yourself and to keep trying different things. All of that makes the band stronger so I am absolutely excited about it. I think it’s gonna be a fun summer. I know on paper how it goes, but the reality of it won’t come until the summer. We’re gonna rock it; that’s just the way we look at it. I think the fans are gonna like it, too. There’s gonna be a lot of variety in the show.
Do you think some bands nowadays are reluctant to challenge themselves like that? They’ll have one good album and then fade away. Do you pay attention to stuff like that?
Honestly, I haven’t really paid a lot of attention to what’s current on Top 40. For a while, I mostly listen to XM radio and real jazz. Sometimes my kids will make me listen to the current tunes because they want to make sure dad is at least partially informed on what’s going on. But I have now started to listen to some of the new music that’s coming up. There’s some great music out there. For a period of time, expanding beyond a certain realm was not the stuff that was being put on the radio, so I’m really digging the stuff I’m hearing now and I’m starting to listen more to the current artists that are coming up. It’s a different world, man. When we started it was a completely different world; bands were making it through MTV; through videos and stuff.
Or through big record deals. That doesn’t happen anymore.
No, that isn’t how it works anymore; it’s not like that. But we had a dream beginning to this; a fairytale. People saw our music when we taped it onto cassettes and they started passing it around to their friends around the country. That’s how it got started; it was through our fans like that. From there we got noticed by record companies; RCA stepped in and said, “I really like you guys.” And then we got going and we got [Steve] Lillywhite to produce Under the Table and then we had this string of really cool videos. You know, “What Would You Say.” That’s a weird video.
That video still creeps me out.
(Laughs) It was just perfect for that time; people dug it. It really did sort of set the tone for, “Here we are. This is a different kind of band right here.” We were able to do that. We were able to be put out there through traditional forms back then; through radio, MTV, late-night TV and those kind of things. I don’t think it’s like that anymore. Getting a record deal just in itself doesn’t mean anything until it does. I honestly don’t really completely get it myself, exactly how it works. But, as always, there’s amazing music that’s out there that no one has heard yet. But I just don’t know if bands come out with slamming albums and are up in the charts and so forth. And maybe it’s not that their next album wasn’t as good, but maybe it’s just the way of the land and they aren’t given the exposure again.
I don’t really completely get it myself. It’s so different now. There’s so many different ways to listen to music now: Spotify; downloads; some people still buy CDs, I hear. It’s amazing. One thing that’s cool is it’s awesome how excited people are over vinyl these days. There’s nothing to me like the sound of a record so I think that’s a really good thing. The music business has never really quite settled in. There is no particular formula out there, so bands have just got to work it. Stay out there and play and wait for the opportunities. But I have to say, for a while I wasn’t into a lot of the music I heard on the radio, so I stopped listening to commercial radio for a while and just listened to XM. Now I’m starting to listen a little bit more to commercial radio and I am digging the music and that’s a really good sign. I think young people are starting to take music into a whole other direction and they’re starting to evolve music now and I think that’s great.
I wanted to ask you about your experience with social media. You’ve gained quite the following on Twitter. How did that come about initially?
I had never done anything on social media – Facebook or anything – until we released Faces in the Mirror. Someone suggested that Twitter would be a good way to get the word out about the movie. So originally that was what I was aiming for but then when I got on there, there was this outpouring of love from people saying how glad they were that I was on there and just saying some really nice things. It just absolutely blew me away. Their expressions of love to me and the music and the return of my love to them has been a beautiful thing. These fans have come out to the screenings of the film; a lot of them actually organize the screenings; they were a really big part of putting Faces of the Mirror out there before the public.
We had these gatherings and they just sort of happened as well. A lot of this stuff just sort of happens. We did these screenings and then eventually people would hang out maybe after the shows and we’d spend some time and talk and hug. So they were sort of tied to the film initially, but then they became gatherings just to get together. Even minus any relation to the film. The first one we did had maybe like 17 people. But as the word got out they became what they became. Some of them would go up to, like, 350 people, and we’d get there like an hour after the show and it would be like three or four hours of just expressions of love, and people coming to receive love.
I appreciate these followers and I appreciate the love that they share with me and also with each other, and also the encouragement. Just a kind, loving word can make somebody’s day and make them weak. I’ve seen it happen in things that I’ve maybe said to other people, but also in things that people have said to me. And they don’t know that it just absolutely floors my heart. It’s like, “Holy shit, that is so beautiful.” It really touches my heart, the stuff that they say. It’s beautiful and it just sort of happened. I had no idea that the gatherings would become what they have become. But we all need love and we all want love, but also we all need to share love and give love. My followers have definitely grown my heart. I’m grateful for that; it’s meant a lot to me.
And it’s fun, too. Sometimes people bring their guitars and play. We had somebody come and breathe fire; we’ve had hula-hoops; it’s really cool. I have to tell you it was one of the coolest experiences at a gathering. There was one series of gatherings we did, in the wintertime, and every single gathering was rain and freezing temperatures. But we all stayed out there anyway for hours. My thing was to always try to get in the middle so I stayed warm (Laughter). There was one time, maybe outside of Boston, and it was sort of light rain – and I’m so used to getting rained on that I didn’t even think about it – but about halfway through it just started pouring. I mean absolutely pouring out of nowhere. So all this rain is just dropping down on me and I’m getting soaking wet and I was just like, “Wow.” That happened for about 15 or 20 seconds, and then I still heard the rain just coming down pouring, but I realized I wasn’t feeling anything. And I realized that everybody had their umbrella over me.
They were shielding me from the rain; they basically made a canopy of all their umbrellas. That was one of the most touching things I’ve ever experienced in my life. It was beautiful and that’s the way it has been; purely from the heart. It’s beautiful that it’s a time and a place that we can do that; that we can get that love; that we can share love with each other. It’s a cold world. Love is something we almost have to practice; we have to make a conscious effort towards it. It’s so much easier to be bad or evil; it doesn’t take that much effort. But love just takes a little extra effort, and it’s as real to me as it is to any of my followers.