Nothing to Lose: a Conversation with God Street Wine’s Lo Faber and Aaron Maxwell
In 1988 a new quintet burst onto the New York City music realm, invigorating and ultimately helping to define what became known as the jamband scene. God Street Wine was known for breathtaking shows at Nightingales and the newly opened Wetlands. Affiliating with other fledgling talent like Spin Doctors and Blues Traveler, GSW seemed destined to take the high road to success. Fate had other things in mind and after a decade—GSW called it quits. Now, after a recent string of extraordinarily successful reunion shows benefiting the National MS Society—GSW returns musically mature and ready to rock for a new crowd on the upcoming Jam Cruise 9. Front men Lo Faber and Aaron Maxwell speak candidly about their past and look eagerly to some special acoustic duo shows just on the horizon.
The pair will performing at Mexicali Live in Teaneck, NJ on November 5 and again at New York City’s Sullivan Hall, on December 3 supporting George Porter Jr. & Runnin’ Pardners.
What led to God Street Wine reuniting this summer at the Gramercy and Irving Plaza?
Aaron: Basically, we did a couple of shows after we broke up in 2001 at the Wetlands or something. We really didn’t have any plans to do anything. Our drummer Tomo (Tom Osander) was playing with Damien Rice and lived in Ireland—everyone was doing their own thing. Then I had a good friend who I grew up with in my town pass away—Paul Ducharme. It was such a shocking and sad event.
Lo: Dave DeWitt asked us to play the memorial.
Aaron: I don’t think we even hesitated. As it turned out we all decided we could do it. I rehearsed with Dan (Pifer) and Jon (Bevo) in Brooklyn one day, but the overall thought was not to worry about it and just gather and play in tribute. For me it was a cathartic process of dealing with the bad circumstance. It was amazing to me how good it felt to play—the baggage wasn’t there that had gathered near the end of us playing together as God Street Wine. With that experience being so good, when Mike Weiss, our road manager, asked us to do the benefit shows for MS it felt like, “Yeah, as long as we’re doing it for the right reasons we can approach it in a way that is an enjoyable experience for all of us—then it makes sense to do it.” Every step of the way the benefit shows seemed to retain that element of purity. There was no fear about what the next step of our lives was going to be. Was there going to be food on our table if we play these gigs? That wasn’t there.
Was that one of the lynchpins behind the bands original break-up? Did you feel as if you had come to the end of the road and everyone had a separate agenda?
Lo: I think we were having a very difficult time of our lives career-wise. We were in a horrible situation with our record label—Mercury. They got bought by Seagram’s and so everyone that we knew at Mercury got fired—we had no support. They had us make a record they had no intention of putting out. We were under contract for one more, so we were like, “what the hell, let’s go make a record.” And it still has not been put out to this day. I think that nobody in the band wanted to move forward because we didn’t know which direction we were going.
Now you two are going to be performing as a duo—will you be playing GSW songs differently when it’s just the two of you?
Lo: It won’t be as loud.
Aaron: And I’m using a capo on some of it—which is fucking me up left and right, but that’s OK. The answer is we don’t know. It’s unfolding before us as we do it.
Lo: And we’re also connecting with our career before God Street Wine.
Aaron: That’s right, it’s coming full circle. We had a duo in Provincetown, Massachusetts for a couple of summers called Dos Heteros. We would play jazz standards and stuff and we’re doing some of that in this incarnation—throwing in different standards and types of songs that we wouldn’t do in GSW but is fun for us.
The Gramercy and Irving Plaza reunion shows must have been gemstones in your crown of achievements. How was it to be back onstage as a band?
Aaron: I felt more present at those shows than I did in the whole 11 years of GSW. There was nothing to lose. I felt like I could focus on the music—completely enjoyable from the beginning to the end.
Lo: I would agree.