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Published: 2012/07/06
by Dean Budnick

"Can’t Wait Another Day": Back on Tour with the String Cheese Incident

Again coming out of that conversation with Kyle, he suggested that one of the goals was rather than just bringing demos or song ideas to the band was that all of you would work on developing new material from some of the improv that took place during the fall tour. Is that still the goal?

We multi-tracked the entire last tour, looking for little nuggets of stuff we haven’t released and things like that. We haven’t necessarily been working on taking songs and jams that we have and creating them into songs as much as we’ve been working on other songs. This practice period, Kyle brought in a couple of tunes and we’ve been cleaning up a lot of our stuff, but in the future there’s a lot of stuff that we want to get into in terms of taking whatever creative, improvisational space we have and actually continue it and turn it into something that’s more lasting.

I think in this day and age, there’s a fair amount of just trying to keep everything fresh for our fans. We’ve been adding a fair amount of programming to other stuff. Obviously, Jason and Travis have a lot to do with it, and bringing that influence into it just from their work with EOTO. But I’ve been listening to electronic music for a long, long time now and I love a lot of the stuff that’s out there. Some of it doesn’t totally float my boat but it’s nice to feel like we’re evolving and the sound of our band is evolving. If you look back at when we started out, we were playing mostly bluegrass. It’s nice to have a progression and I really hope that doesn’t change.

In talking to you right around the time that you guys decided to take a break, it seemed like some of the issues then had been how to move forward given that your interests were increasingly disparate. It seemed that things were a bit frayed. For instance the band seemed be heading in more in electronic direction than Billy might have preferred. Is that an ongoing dialogue?

I think the issue before, as individual artists and as a band for an ongoing 15, 16 years, is that we didn’t have any time to really do any other side projects, especially those of us who had a family. So with Billy and other people who had stuff going on at home, String Cheese was more or less the entire musical experience. Back then we used to exert more of our personal desires on the direction of the music creatively, and so when you didn’t get your way, you’d get more frustrated because that was your only outlet. Probably the best thing to come out of the break was for all of us to get an opportunity to do whatever we wanted to do without having to answer to anyone else’s creative desires. So Billy, for instance, got to go play more bluegrass with Drew [Emmitt] and those guys, and he still probably plays more shows with those guys than he does with String Cheese. And so the effect that had on us when we got together was we were able to recognize SCI as its own beast and as having its own special thing that’s the combination of all of these different interests coming together.

I don’t know if we’ll ever go back to the point where we’re all just making it our sole mission in life, because we’re comfortable with it now as the culmination of all of our different interests. So when we get back together and work on new stuff it’s always about desire, but I think it’s healthy for us to have other interests where we don’t have to compromise our own creative desires and it’s made it a lot smoother for us when we get together for shows now. There’s isn’t that tension of whether we play a ton of bluegrass one night or whatever because we figure it all washes out in the end. So it’s been a lot easier and a lot more fun.

Going back to your comments on Lorin and electronic music, the prevailing business model for EDM is built around sharing—just giving away music to build a fan base and then have people come out to the shows. Do you think some of that approach will impact the way that you deliver studio recordings to your fans?

There’s no doubt that the current model of the record industry of putting out records, for a band like us who has never sold a lot of albums, especially since we own our own label, there arguably isn’t that much of a point in putting a bunch of money in marketing and into making an album when you know it isn’t going to sell. So for us, it’s now more about just putting new music out and just getting it out there and making that be the impetus of it, kind of like an old model. We’re not necessarily looking to do big releases with a ton of albums, we just sort of want to continue to make music and just put it out even if it’s just giving it away for free. That’s been the focus. We’re going to be coming out sporadically just to keep the wheel in motion, so to speak. We don’t have any plans for going to the studio and making a 12-song album. The idea now is to put out more EPs and just get it out so people can listen to it.

You busted out a new original song at Electric Forest [“Can’t Wait Another Day”]. Will there be more to come over the course of the tour?

We’ve got a handful of new tunes that we’re working on getting on the repertoire more so than others. I think it’s always going to be like that. That’s something that we’ve always done. Every year we have a half dozen or so tunes to filter out.

At Electric Forest, the third night, you brought out a series of guests, like Keller [Williams] and the McCourys. How far in advance had you planned that out? Did you rehearse with them or just let it go on the fly?

The thing about the McCourys and Keller is that we don’t necessarily have to go back into rehearsal, it’s pretty easy to get together with them and bang out a couple of songs and that’s that. We didn’t have to go up to them and say, “Hey let’s play these songs.” We didn’t have to practice, we just walked out there.

Beyond the music, String Cheese often adds other elements to the shows in terms of spectacle and eye candy. To what extent do you know exactly what’s going on and how much do you like to play off of it?

We don’t get the vantage point that the crowd does so it’s kind of hard for us to know how it looks from that perspective, so oftentimes we don’t get the benefit of seeing how it looks exactly. But I think over the years after having done a bunch of theatrical things, I think we’re getting better at knowing what works and how to use it, and we’ve had ones that didn’t work out so great for various production reasons. It’s fun to do big shows, it’s just another layer of making the show unique and capturing the intention of the audience at the time. At a place like Electric Forest, there’s a lot of kids out there that have never seen us before at all. It’s a new experience for them and we’re definitely looking to get new ears onto the music and see how it stands against the test of time, so to speak.

So you don’t necessarily play off of it. Can you never see?

There’s a certain level where if you have certain props coming out there’s a timing to it. We know what generally needs to happen when for it to be most effective. But generally there’s someone calling out the cues, so it’s a two-way street.

Looking back at those orange tracksuits at Bonnaroo a year later, I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

[Laughs] We will oftentimes come up with a new idea off the cuff, on a whim. I don’t know how that idea came about but we were laughing at ourselves during that.

When String Cheese isn’t gigging it’s really easy to see what a lot of the other guys are doing but as far as I can tell, you’re relatively quiet in terms of outside gigs. Maybe you’re doing stuff out West that I don’t even hear about. Outside of String Cheese what else do you have going on?

Most people don’t realize that I bought a piece of property in 2008 and I built a house pretty much from scratch with the help of my friends. Then I had a kid. We’re about to start building our second house on the property. That’s pretty much my side project. I’m stoked to be at home and I’m not necessarily that interested in being out on the road that much right now. I’m working on the home front right now.

I did notice you’re doing a couple gigs with the Particle guys in a few weeks…

Yeah, with Steve and Eric I’ll go out and play some gigs with friends, but nothing that I’d have to commit a lot of time to just because I’m enjoying being at home. All through my 20s and 30s, I never spent time at home. So now that I have a place I want to hang out in, and Santa Cruz is pretty amazing, I want to spend as much time at home as possible.

Last question: in terms of String Cheese can you talk about tour plans for the fall or early winter?

We have nothing confirmed yet. I’m sure you guys will know as soon as we know. [Laughs]

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There are 22 comments associated with this post

Shaun July 7, 2012, 12:40:42

Now if these guys would really start TOURING again and not just mostly sticking to the Western states. How about some shows at Alpine Valley, for instance? Also, I really hope the electronica stuff doesn’t overwhelm what SCI is doing, as it threatened to before the break-up/hiatus/whatever. Hearing that electronica is growing trend in the jamband scene is NOT a positive, IMO.

Glenn July 7, 2012, 19:12:10

I really appreciate Kang’s honesty here.

Josh July 8, 2012, 11:33:56

Depends on the “electronica” to me. That’s a pretty big word that encompasses a lot of stuff. I wish they’d start touring too, but I can also totally relate to the idea that many of them are tired of being away from home and aren’t in a hurry to start doing that again.

Charles Brown July 10, 2012, 20:54:50

SCI is the worst band I have ever seen. I cant believe that people like it even a little. It just doesnt have any…integrity, artistic merit, any oomph…

Paul July 11, 2012, 04:44:17

Sorry Charlie, it has all those and then some. You must not have seen many bands if they are the worst.

PDXpeet July 11, 2012, 19:23:26

Go Kang — great interview. totally candid as always. He’s a great guy. I’ve had the pleasure of running into him a few times, and he was always cordial. Huge music nut. I would love to see some fall dates on the WC…

Charles Brown July 12, 2012, 10:36:54

A short list of the bands that I have seen Paul. The only band that was even close to as shitty as the Stringy Poop Accident was Moe.
250 Grateful Dead Shows
50+ Jerry Garcia Band Shows
The Who
The Rolling Stones
Allman Brothers Band
Little Feat
The Cure
Echo and The Bunneyman
Of Montreal
St Vincent
TV on THe Radio
100+ Phish
Talking Heads
The Church
Neville Brothers
Neil Young
David Bowie
Jefferson Airplane
The Kinks
Black Moth Super Rainbow
Anderson Bruford Wakeman and Howe
The Flaming Lips
Meat Puppets
Husker Du
the Replacements
Pat Metheny
The Police
Peter Gabriel
Phil Lesh and Friends
Jerry Garcia/ David Grisman
Booker T
Jimmy Cliff
Lou Reed
Elvis Costello

Charles Brown July 12, 2012, 10:45:34

Thats the short list off of the top of my head….And the SCI was by far the worst. If Phil and Friends hadnt been coming on I would have left…like I did when I saw Moe. Homogenized jamband shit someone forgot to phlush. If its so compelling why are all those people Phocussed on their god damned hula hoops. Puke.

Josh July 12, 2012, 18:39:54

There’s two things I may have learned today from someone who’s been to a lot of shows: 1) Going to a lot of shows apparently makes you a gigantic angry douche.. 2)Going to a lot of shows doesn’t mean you aren’t a gigantic angry douche. I just can’t figure out which lesson I was supposed to have learned. Maybe if I go to like 600 Phish shows and then go see The Cranberries (for variety), and then go have sex with some 70 year old hippie lady that went to 250 Grateful Dead shows before divorcing her gigantic angry douche husband that she met backstage at Jefferson Airplane, I could figure it out. As it stands, I’m having trouble. Can you help me Charlie?

JC July 13, 2012, 05:50:11

I agree with Charles, SCI was good a few times in the 90s when I saw them. But around 03 or so, I saw them and it was bad…REAL BAD, loose, no energy, songs that will not last very long

Love It or Hate It July 13, 2012, 20:51:08

i know some people dislike string cheese but to me, it’s more about the people and being cheesy. there’s no comparison to the dead but compared to phish, they rock them out the water! cheese keeps it fresh, giving a new spin to old songs. my favorite to date is rivertrance. if you listen to that song on 2002 and then what they played in chicago last winter, it has totally progressed in a positive way. they are doing what they can to stay somewhat relevant. i was at electric forest and my friend’s brother, a basshead, said cheese blew his mind. it’s a new scene nowadays so either embrace it or stfu because the love at shows is still there.

Charles Brown July 15, 2012, 12:03:38

I ma not angry about it Josh, but you seem to be. They are shitty homogenized jamband tripe. They havent had an original thought their entire career. Most folks I know who are into music agree….their just not good. Sorry you love em so much Josh. Your taste might evolve, but I doubt it.

David Rubin July 16, 2012, 13:01:07

SCI.... like a fart that lingers…..

David Rubin July 16, 2012, 13:02:56

To say that SCI rocks Phish outta the water is preposterous. If anything they tread water in the wake of Mike’s Bass and Trey’s guitar. The only musician capable of holding a candle to Phish’s members is Kyle.

ForbinsJellyfish July 17, 2012, 01:11:36

You’re all horrible. Accept musicians for who they are and what they do. Save this crap for you bullshit forum on pt.

Charles Brown July 18, 2012, 20:18:41

I am accepting them for what they are, homogenized jamband tripe. What they do is play crappy solos over poor vamps. Cut and dried IMO.

ForbinsJellyfish is Correct July 19, 2012, 15:33:18

Take your whining and complaining to PT Charlie Brown. Good article and great questions, I particularly seeing the ‘billy doesnt like electronic’ rumor addressed. Thanks for taking the time to write this for us, and sorry that douches like Charlie use it as a jump-off point for spewing hate.

Charles Brown July 21, 2012, 22:55:34

Its not hate to tell the truth, they suck. Sorry. And their fans are lame assed cliched jamband warriors who would not know psychedelic music if it was playing in their ears. Phish makes SCI look like what they are, a shitty bar band that rode the jamband magic carpet to where they are today. Its a shame they havent made one good record. All they do is play shows, their records are a joke.

Scott July 31, 2012, 12:48:10

Charlie…opinions are just that. Its great that you have one. However, I find SCI to be the best show out there and the best shows I have ever seen. They have a great and loyal fan following (hence the pushback when you come on here and flame them) and are all great musicians who put on a hell of a spectacle. If you dont like them…its pretty simple…dont listen. Dont go to the shows, dont download any of their music, and go about your merry way. However, that doesnt seem to be your style. I have been rockin to this band for a decade now and am a tried and true fan. No other band brings the emotions out in me like they do, and if they are “tripe”...then hell, I am a huge fan of tripe, and I am ok with that.

Dusan August 9, 2012, 12:52:50

The pictures came out awomsee! You were wonderful, professional, and just awomsee with my family! Thank you so much for everything. Eddie left Tuesday and took his pictures with him. Thank you.

Betty August 11, 2012, 17:26:24

I am so glad that you were happy with them Jenn. Your family was a degilht to work with. Thank you for the beautiful compliment. My best to you, Eddie and the girls and I will pray for a swift and safe return.

Eric Londo August 21, 2012, 12:57:15

Wow, Charlie its always funny watching “Phans” talk about other band’s fanbases…my first show was the Dead at Golden Gate Park in 1967. I’ve been to hundreds of Dead, Phil & Friends, Ratdog and plenty of other shows. I’ve been to many Panic, Phish, Umphrey’s and other jambands. The bottom line is that there are no better fanbase then the cheese fanbase, period. The love, respect, and pure joy experienced at an Incident is only comparable to the early days that the Dead toured. And the worst fanbase in all of the Jam Bands are the “Phans”. Never seen so much disrespect and hate in all my days of seeing shows. Nobody cares about your taste in music, so keep it to yourself. And the best SCI shows I’ve seen are 100,000 times better than any Phish show I’ve ever seen. Phish arn’t even half the musicians that Cheese is, the only band that actually plays EVERY type of music. And I also think its hilarious that everyone jumps on Trey’s jock when he is a complete asshole and Nershi could pick circles around him. So keep your comments where they’re wanted..on the Phish fan site with all the other egotistical and disrespectful kids who call themselves a “community”. Hah, what a joke.

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