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Published: 2012/11/16
by Jeff Waful

Reid Reflects (Strangefolk ’99)

JW: There’s a certain percentage of your fan-base that I think got very scared by the announcement of the record deal. I saw a lot of posts on the Strangefolk fan-to-fan discussion list concerning it. I thought it was great that Jon (Trafton, Strangefolk lead guitarist) addressed all of those concerns . Were those same worries going through your mind? Were you worried about that portion of your fan-base?

RG: Yeah, we were concerned just because it’s so hard to fully understand what the implications are. There’s this myth, or this feeling- it’s not necessarily a myth, that record company equals evil. And in many instances it does. The reason that we are where we are is because we felt like the evil that Mammoth presented was not that great at all. In fact, the positives far out-weighed any potential evils. I guess all along we felt like if we could just relay that to the people that were concerned that they’d come around.

JW: There are a lot of Strangefolk songs that could very appealing to the radio market. There’s a certain portion of your audience that goes to your shows for the psychedelic jams and then there’s other people that go to the shows to hear more of the ‘songs’. How would you feel if MTV became interested or mainstream radio stations wanted to start playing your record?

RG: MTV is definitely not in our vocabulary right now. It’s certainly a possibility, but if we were to do it, I would hope that we could do it in a way that is tasteful. You know, I saw Dave Mathews’ video and I’ve seen Phish’s video and I though both of those were (tasteful). Phish’s didn’t really get much play, but you know, they were both videos that basically depicted the live experience. I think that we would try to do something like that. But, like I said, it hasn’t even been discussed because it’s just not in our scope at this point. As far as radio goes, it would be nice to have some radio play. It’s just a fine line….

JW: (sarcastic) I heard there was some station in Boston that tended to play you guys…

RG: (laughing) There was….some shitty station. {editor’s note, Reid and Jeff are speaking about WERS’ Space Jam, the radio show that Jeff created a few years back and still thrives under the leadership of Ken Yee and company} Again, it’s kind of like, not all radio play is necessarily evil. It’s just when you’re over-exposed that it becomes a problem and sort of threatens your integrity. We definitely would like radio play. There are certain ways of managing the impact of that and to do damage-control and have it make a positive impact on the band instead of a catastrophic one. It’s also sort of out of our hands. If people want to play your songs, you can’t really stop them.

JW: How important is an event like The Garden of Eden that you guys put on? You put together everything from the ground up and you got to play as long as you wanted without set times. You basically made the rules and it was in your home state. How important is an event like that to you?

RG: Hard to say in terms of our overall success or importance to….

JW: I mean more on a spiritual level.

RG: Spiritually, for us it’s great. It’s a feeling of being centered and being surrounded by…...it’s just great to be a known commodity. For us, that’s not generally the case. There’s always a portion of the crowd that is familiar with us and that portion varies from town to town, but at The Garden of Eden, everyone who’s there knows why they’re there. And we know that and it’s a very comfortable for everyone and for us, it was certainly incredibly rewarding and I hope and I think for the audience, they left with that same satisfied feeling and had an overall good time.

JW: Let’s talk musically now. I’ve been asking you a lot about the business side of things, but obviously the most important thing is the music. I’ve noticed a big difference in your playing in the last year or two. What are your thoughts as far as the evolution of the band’s sound?

RG: You know, it’s hard to say. What differences have you noticed?

JW: Well, I’ve noticed that you’ve gotten a lot tighter. I thought at the Garden of Eden you sounded like a different band – in a good way. I thought that the new equipment that you have made you sound a lot better technically. I mean, you have a fairly new guitar, Jon’s got some new effects, Luke’s got the new drum kit, and there are new microphones. I thought technically, you sounded a lot better, which in turn made the band play better because when it sounds good to you, you’re gonna play better. You were all listening to each other and interacting a lot better.

RG: Yeah, I agree with all the things you said. Definitely, I think the fact that we’ve been playing nicer venues, we have nicer equipment, we’re in sonically better sounding rooms, definitely helps in terms of how the music is perceived by us and by the audience. Like you said, if it does sound better, you play better and if it does sound better, it feels better. So that is certainly accurate. In terms of our interaction and our chemistry, I think it’s only natural that it would continue to evolve. The overall trend is that our interplay becomes tighter and more refined. The average is ascending, but there’s always peaks and valleys in terms of our performance and our interaction and even our song writing. Some are better than others, for various reasons and mentally, there’re always those peaks and valleys. So if the average is going up, that’s great, but you just kind of gotta grin and bear it when on a given night or a given week it’s not what you had hoped it would be.

JW: There must be a different mindset going in to certain shows. I mean, when you’re opening up for Ratdog, you must have to concentrate on shorter songs because of time constraints. When you’re headlining, you can do pretty much whatever you want. Having said that, when you are headlining, are there certain nights when you decide you’re gonna stretch out more and jam or do you just go with the vibe of the room?

RG: It’s definitely not a conscious decision. I think it just happens. When we feel freed by our environment, it just happens. Even sometimes when we’re opening, they’ll be a good thing going. It’ll happen more then it would maybe on a night when we’re headlining and there’s not a good thing going. Some nights we just go for it and some nights we’re more conservative. It’s hard to say when and why.

JW: Let’s talk about the making of the latest album, Weightless in Water. It seemed to me that you utilized the studio a lot more than on the first album. What kind of a process was that like? Was it more that you had all of these live shows under your belt and you used that experience in the studio? Did you also get experience in the studio that spilled over into your live performance?

RG: Definitely. I mean, between Lore and Weightless in Water we had played some 200 or 300 gigs. So that experience was invaluable. Also though, going into the studio, this was technically probably are second time in the studio, but more realistically our third. We had been in for our demo tape, which was like a three day process instead of a three month process. It’s like…I like using these analogies cause I think they illustrate the point well. It’ s like meeting a person. In your first meeting, you’re unsure of the dynamic and of the person’s personality and just how everything’s gonna work. Basically the chemistry is uncharted and the process of interacting is uncharted. Then the first meeting ends and then you come across the person a second time and you’re just naturally more comfortable with the individual. And it’s the same with the studio, you know? The first time was really a little nerve-racking and it was really an introduction. The second time was more comfortable and I imagine it will continue with that trend.

JW: You can’t be intimate on the first date is what you’re saying.

RG: Pretty much, yeah.

JW: How important is your core fan-base?

RG: As far as we can tell, that’s what it’s all about. I feel like a lot of what we do is with those people in mind. From our organization to our nightly performances, what we really value is having people that value you.

JW: How do you stay sane on the road?

RG: We don’t (laughs).

JW: Yeah, obviously when you’re going on an hour or two of sleep, it’s gonna effect your playing, maybe for better or maybe for worse. It must be a real challenge playing on the road all the time.

RG: It definitely is an insane process. I cannot tell a lie. It’s damage control. We try to get as much sleep as we can. I think the biggest thing is just being nice to one another and understanding our unique position. That’s what has gotten us through. It’s like, if somebody freaks out, it’s not a major event. You know, we’re not talking about it for days, we’re not even surprised. At this point, if somebody’s freaking out, you’re just kind of like, ‘well, he’s freakin’ out’. You know? I think even in your own mind, if you’re freakin’ out, it’s not like it’s inappropriate to be freakin’ out. It’s like, ‘it’s cool.’ It’s necessary to explode once in a while in one way, shape or form. So that’s a big thing, just being nice to each other and respecting each other.

JW: Where would you like to be in the future. Certainly things, in my mind, couldn’t really be going any better for the band. How would you like to see things unfold?

RG: First and foremost, I want to continue to feel the music, you know, the magic. I want us to enjoy what we’re doing and have it be a celebration and not a chore. That, I would say is our primary goal and if we can manage to do that, I think the rest will fall into place. On a more mundane level, I’d like to see us playing nicer rooms, through quality sound systems, ideally playing through the same sound system every night. I think that would be a huge step for us. I’d like us to enhance our live show, aurally and visually, keep on refining our business and our organization…and continue to entertain people; have people enjoy it.

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