God Street Wine Coast to Coast with Aaron Maxwell and Lo Faber
On Thursday night God Street Wine will perform a free live webcast from TRI Studios in San Rafael, CA. The group will follow this up with two nights at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, CA and then return to their native Northeast for a three night stand at the Gramercy Theatre from August 16-18. Here in separate conversations the band’s Lo Faber and Aaron Maxwell discuss their return and what the future may hold . These shows represent something of a breather for Lo before he begins a full-time position teaching history at New Orleans’ Loyola University in the fall.
Isaac: God Street has some shows in the books for August, which is pretty exciting.
Aaron: Yeah! I’ve been immersing myself in our catalogue for the last few weeks. I’m trying to get it back into the memory box. It’s amazing how the stuff kind of comes back. Ill be trying to work it out and it will be like not quite right and all of a sudden I’ll remember how the fingering went on the guitar, then it all comes back. I’m like, “Ah! That’s how it was!” What’s cool for me is that the stuff still stands up. It’s still interesting to me to work on and appreciate after having some time away.
Isaac: I know when you guys got back together in 2010, there was a death of a dear friend and I’m curious as to how the conversations about these shows started and what the rehearsal process has been like.
Aaron: Yeah I guess it was after we did the Jam Cruise, back in 2010, we had Bob Weir sit in with us, which was quite an interesting experience. Just for me personally, I can’t speak for the other guys in the band, I had been a fan of the Dead when I was growing up and learning the guitar and so having that opportunity to play with him was special to me. And then afterwards, I emailed him to thank him and he actually emailed me back and said, “You should come out to San Francisco or to TRI Studios and we’ll have some fun.” So that was always kind of in my mind after that experience like, “Man, that would be a great thing to do!” We all know what God Street Wine is but let’s just do things that are fun for us or whatever. I guess there was some talk about like, we weren’t sure if we wanted to do shows or how we were feeling about it but then I guess we talked about the idea of what if we went out and did that and maybe we should play another show out in New York for the fun of it. We had a Skype session with each other, just talking about would it be fun to do it, and we all decided that it would be. And then we had to figure out if it was actually feasible and it turns out that it was.
Isaac: Is there any new material that you guys have been working on or anything that you’ve been working on personally?
Aaron: Yeah my focus in the last years has been on playing gypsy jazz like the music of Django Reinhardt and the Hot Club of France so that’s like old jazz from the 30s and stuff so I’ve been really immersing in that and writing stuff with this band I have called Metropolitan Hot Club. I have written a few things, Lo has written a few things. For these shows we decided, we had a tendency always to bite off more than we could chew in a sense and we decided we just wanted to have fun with these shows. I think we have about 60 or 70 songs that we’re working from and it’s all the material we’ve done over the years. Some things that we didn’t do in 2010 that we will be doing these shows but as far as new material, I don’t know that we’re going to debut anything new just yet. That is something that we’ve talked about that maybe would be interesting to record some time, some new material, but it hasn’t really gone further than that.
Isaac: Can you talk a little more about TRI Studios gig coming up?
Aaron: Yeah! I mean when we did the Jam Cruise, I was hearing about this new studio that Bob put together that was like state of the art, really incredible HD quality. It just sounded so intriguing. It’s such a crazy time for musicians to get out there and to get their stuff heard; I just appreciate the fact that Bob has put this money and energy into creating that. It’s just a really exciting experience to be able to go and see it and hang out and play.
Isaac: You mentioned that you’ve been working with these other bands. Is it weird to think of playing these God Street gigs or are you in a musician’s head all the time and it’s not a problem?
Aaron: It’s funny, I have four-year-old twins that keep me very busy these days and I play a fair amount with that gypsy jazz group but I don’t, as far as the rock and roll thing, it’s a different kind of head space. I’m sure the neighbors have been hearing me sing loudly lately, getting myself back in shape. That’s the hardest part for me you know? The type of singing and we play long shows, I have to build back my stamina. But it’s not weird! I’m always thinking about music, I’m playing a lot in other capacities. The exciting thing for me, I feel like the five of us, there’s always a nice synergy that we have with each other that is almost telepathic because we’ve shared so many experiences and so many years together so it’s fun to come together and see what happens. And those shows in 2010, I was just very, it was almost like I was witnessing them along with everybody else, how it unfolded. I kind of like that I don’t exactly know what to expect.
In the time you’ve been away from the jamband spotlight, have you been going to shows or sitting in with people? Have you stayed connected?
Aaron: To be honest, in the last years, like I said, I have four-year-old twins and that has kept me really busy. I live upstate near New Paltz and I’ll go check out stuff here and there but I haven’t really immersed in the scene so to speak. I’ve been amazed to see, it seems like there is a much more solidified scene and ability to be recognized now than there used to be like with satellite radio and social networking. I wish we had those tools when we were doing our thing intensively. I’m trying to think of some shows. I’ve definitely gone to see some shows here and there. After those Gramercy shows in 2010, Lo and I started playing some acoustic duo stuff and so we got a chance to play at Gathering of the Vibes and we did a bunch of shows here and there so that was a fun experience. Those were fun.
Isaac: You kind of answered it but have you seen the music scene really change over that time in the hiatus?
Aaron: Yeah. Some for the better, some not. First of all, the major record labels are a dying breed and that may be for the better. When we were really pursuing and playing in the late nineties, that was our goal, to get on a major record label for distribution. But now, I would never recommend that. There are many more avenues to get your music heard to a larger amount of people than there used to be. The ability to make very good recordings for cheap is more available. But now the industry, you know like I look back on people like Frank Zappa, his first record was a double album and you had record companies that were really supporting artists and developing them and nowadays there’s no such thing as that. You have to be a Justin Bieber or rely on one person to sell tons of records. It’s a different kind of scene. And also, there’s so much available to anybody at any time that I’ve noticed, people have less attention span. I teach middle school kids and they don’t have to latch on to anything. They just download a song here, download a song there and so they don’t have an allegiance to any one thing. They’re not fans of one band. A lot of them are just into songs here and there. Back when I was growing up, the only way I knew of a band was to be in their fan club or to see them live or buy their record and so that’s changed a lot.
Isaac: You mentioned the Grateful Dead earlier. We’ve been asking people to share their favorite moment of Jerry Garcia or in some way how they’ve been influenced by him…
Aaron: He was one of the reasons I got into playing guitar. One memory stands out for some reason. I was in San Francisco in the late 80s and I saw him play at this place called The Stone in San Francisco, which was a little club. It was a very intimate setting and I had only ever seen the Grateful Dead in Madison Square Garden or big places and to see him in that small place, and then afterwards, I saw him outside the club just like standing there and it was one of those experiences in my life where this larger than life figure was real to me. It was inspiring in that moment. So much of his music just came from a real soulful, truthful place and I really appreciate that whenever I think about him or if I’m trying to think about my inspiration, that’s where I want it to come from, a truthful place. I can look to him for that.