Nothing to Lose: a Conversation with God Street Wine’s Lo Faber and Aaron Maxwell
There was some comments by fans that GSW focused on the early years of their catalogue during the reunion shows. Was that your favorite era of songs?
Lo: I liked all our different eras, but we did stress the early stuff at the reunion shows for several reasons. One is that we have an affection for those songs because they were from an earlier time when we weren’t on our record label—we weren’t consumed with the business side of things. And that was the era most associated with Paul who was one of the reasons for us getting back together. I think our fans have a sentimental attachment to our earlier stuff and so do we.
Have you been more recognized since the shows?
Aaron: Yesterday I was in New Paltz, NY and I was apple picking. There was a festival going on and I ended up at the face-painting booth with two-year-old twins. My daughter wanted her face painted and my son was reluctant to do it. I told him that I would get my face painted if got his painted. I had just gotten a spider web painted on my face when this guy comes up to me and says, “Hey, are you Aaron? I love your band. I saw the Irving shows and you are so awesome.” I was standing there with a spider web on my cheek and it was kind of an embarrassing moment.
Lo: I don’t get recognized at Princeton. There is a handful of people who knew the band and we already had that conversation. But I get a handful of emails every week from God Street fans who apparently had no idea about the reunion shows.
They still want to know when you’re getting back together.
Lo: We don’t have a lot of exposure in the media. So if they didn’t see the Facebook group—they probably would not have heard. And that Facebook Bring Back God Steet Wine page deserves mention.
Aaron: It had existed for a while with a few dozen members and then it started ballooning in 2009 with a few thousand members—so we knew that if we did a couple of shows at least we would get some people showing up—not just us and a few dozen drunken guys.
GSW is as a cornerstone of the early 90’s NY scene—but there was no real jamband scene in the post-Garcia years. How did you see yourselves?
Aaron: That term didn’t exist when we first got going. Jambands became a marketing tool for the scene that was happening. I think being part of a newly formed scene was helpful for us, as our live shows were our bread and butter. It seems like we were always on our own when it came to that. History says we were a cornerstone of that scene, but at the time we didn’t lump ourselves into any category or type of band.
Lo: I know I did, and I think all us were resistant to the jamband category because we thought it was silly. All the music we listened to was improvisational. Aaron and I and Dan all came out of the jazz program at Manhattan School of Music—even the classic rock we listened to jammed. So to say jambands were some new thing somebody just thought up seemed absurd. In retrospect I shouldn’t have had such an ambivalent attitude towards that term because it turned out to be an incredibly great marketing device to describe a certain types of bands and helped us find an audience. My connections to it seem a bit pedantic.
Aaron: We struggled in writing music where the song came first, working on the melodies and crafting good songs—we thought the term jamband took away the focus on the song. I think we had a bit of a conflict with being labeled. We stretched out our songs every night, we never knew what was going to happen—but that wasn’t just the focus of what we were doing.
Lo: In my opinion, any band that plays regularly live is a jamband. Because they all put variations on the songs—unless they are incredibly more disciplined that we were—eventually they start changing around the setlist and playing with the song. You get bored doing a carbon copy of your songs every night!
Look at Dylan. He would break down the songs and rebuild them every tour.
Lo: That could be really enjoyable for the audience or really alienating. Fans want to hear a certain song and then you change it up—it’s your prerogative but it doesn’t always end up being the greatest experience for an audience. Although that shouldn’t be the total focus of a band.
Aaron: Lo and I, by doing an acoustic show we are taking a different approach to our music—so it feels really fresh for us.
Lo: It’s definitely a challenge.
Aaron: Yeah, it is a challenge to find the essence of the songs. Acoustically you can hear the words and the melody and you can actually hear the theme and it’s a different kind of delivery than when you are playing with a whole rock band behind you?
Do you feel any pressure with GSW’s upcoming performance on Jam Cruise? At your reunion shows you played to the faithful, but on the boat you will have an audience of diverse music lovers.
Lo: Sometimes the faithful can be a very demanding audience.
Aaron: Honestly, we don’t know what the hell we are going to be doing after the cruise, so again, we have nothing to lose.
Are you getting calls from management? Thoughts of more shows?
Aaron: We are really spread out. Tomo lives in Ireland/Berlin. . .I’m open, I can only speak for myself—I have no grand illusions. I’m taking it as it comes. We all know we enjoyed what we did. We enjoy working for a good cause and the right reasons.
Lo: They say time heals all wounds and it really does feel that way. We have come back together with so much time passing by we now only look at the positive.