Lo Faber: From Gots To Rewind to God Street Wine
Jumping back, looking at the current box set, there is a remix version of Bag [the band’s 1992 debut]. How did that come about?
It was very simple. Joe Rogers who was the engineer we recorded that with 1992, who lives in Houston, TX emailed me one day and asked do you have the multitracks masters of Bag, I would like another shot of remixing that. I said that as a matter of fact I did. I had them in a loft up in upstate New York for about ten years. We had them transferred to digital and had the files sent down to him. I was like go crazy. We didn’t have any plans to do anything with them at the time. He just wanted to do it.
Do you think it’s a major improvement?
I don’t think there are any major differences. There are a few times where he selected a different vocal take or guitar solo take. I don’t think it’s better or worse. It’s just different. Sonically, it’s nice to have it amped up for the iTunes age.
What about Who’s Driving [the group’s second album]? That’s not remixed just remastered?
I just cranked up the low end of Who’s Driving. That album always drove me crazy on how thin it sounded. It was made from soundboard tapes. We had a really good engineer, Dean Mullin who made good tapes for sure, you can tell, but it was real lacking in the low end. I could never begin to listen to it. Just pumped up some bass so people can feel some thump in there.
What was the band’s approach to the box set as a whole?
It’s everything we have legal rights to (laughs). Bag and Who’s Driving were our indie albums so we always retained rights to those. $1.99 Romances we did not have the rights to the studio album, but we have the rights to the songs, so we re-recorded them at Bob Weir’s studio TRI. We have the rights to use that. We don’t have the rights to use our two Mercury albums, Red and God Street Wine, so obviously those are not in the box set. The rest is never released material that we did ourselves. The bulk of it comes from the period of 1995-1996 when we were unsigned and we had built a studio in our house and we were recording constantly.
New stuff. Old stuff. We were just recording all the time. It was a very fertile period. We never ended up doing anything with it. That always frustrated me. Great to get that stuff out there. There’s a lot more of it too. But we picked the best of it for the two disc set.
My assumption based on the fact that those discs are titled Gots To Rewind is that most of it is really early stuff.
The first few tracks are from a demo we did in October of 1988, before we had ever played a gig. Before we were even God Street Wine. The third and fourth tracks are also from very early demos, like from 1990-1991. The second half of the first disc and all of the second disc, that’s the mid-nineties stuff from our studio.
You mentioned earlier said a lot of your initial influences were in the jazz realm. What led you to you decide to form a rock band?
The plan was for it to always be a jazz infused rock band. Steely Dan was a major model. There is a big Steely Dan influence in a lot of early stuff. I still listen to Steely Dan albums all the time. We didn’t want to play straight bebop. At earlier gigs we would occasionally bust out a Miles Davis tune or some jazz standard. It didn’t feel like a big stretch.
As the years went by especially after 1992 when we moved into a house together in Westchester, we left a lot of the jazz stuff behind and became more of a straight rock band. We were influenced by a lot of bands in the scene, especially Blues Traveler, The Spin Doctors and Phish. Those were the big three. The Grateful Dead a little bit. Our fans were coming with those expectations. We kind of met them halfway. We came up with a hybrid of what we had hoped to be and what our fans were expecting to hear.
Looking back on the history of God Street Wine, was there a particular period where you’d say the band peaked?
It depends on whether you’re talking about performance or songwriting. I think that our best period as live performers was pretty early on, 1992-1993. When I listen to that period, the energy is manic, the tempos are insanely fast. There is a real intense energy about it. I can really understand the appeal now that I have some distance from it.
At the time I would think the tempos too fast and we would need to calm down. But for the people seeing us, they didn’t want it calmed down, they wanted it hyped up. As songwriters we got better during the mid to late 90s and I think I got better as a songwriter. And also Jon [Bevo] our keyboardist who never wrote in the earlier years, emerged as another songwriter in the band. I think as writers we did kind of mature later on.
You mentioned Blues Traveler, Phish and The Spin Doctors. For people who weren’t there can you talk about what things were like in the New York scene.
I won’t be good at comparing things to today, because I don’t know a lot about it today (laughs). Definitely in New York, there was a scene centered at first around The Nightingale Bar. Jono Manson and his band The Worms had been the house band at The Nightingale for years, before we all showed up. They were the elder statesmen of the scene. Blues Traveler, they got a regular Monday night gig at The Nightingale.
I’ve seen Blues Travelers hundreds of times over the years. I just saw them during Halloween at Tipitina’s, but I’ve never heard them sound so amazing as they did at the shows at The Nightingale. There was something about the small, packed bar with Bobby’s bass really cranked up and Popper’s enormous physical presence dominating that room, it was so intense. They were really an experience. They built up a huge following really fast. The Spin Doctors and a few other bands wanted to catch some of that fire and do what they did.
We copied them in a lot of ways, business ways. Postcard mailers with a mailing list and started doing what they did, which was playing 20 shows a month in Manhattan at different bars.
Which is an amazing thing and really a product of a moment in time when groups could do that. Speaking of which as you look back at the documentary that also accompanies the box set, what do you take away from that?
First of all the documentary is amazing and Lynn Kestenbaum, did an awesome job. We’re so lucky to have her to this. She approached this project as a perfectionist, far more than I am about anything.
It’s such a great thing to be able to see this progression in my life. I see that young me and I had so much energy and buzz (laughs). It’s the story of life I guess. You wish you could go back to your younger self with the wisdom you have now. Of course you can’t.
My overwhelming feeling while watching was how lucky we were to have so many great fans, supportive families, friends and supportive people in the business who helped us along. At the time we were very down on the business side of the things and some our business moves didn’t go well. We also really did have a lot people in the business who did take an interest in us when we were not the most commercial thing. I’m grateful for that.
How are you approaching the two shows this weekend that will celebrate the 25th anniversary?
We decided to do them with all five original members. Just the five of us. Since we got back together in 2009 and we’ve done 20 reunion shows in the past 5 years. They’ve all involved special guests. Most involve Jason Crosby sitting in with us. We’ve done the collaborations with Phil Lesh and Bob Weir. We thought it would be cool to do just the five of us and also all original material. We are going to be resurrecting a fair amount of earlier stuff and material from the Gots To Rewind discs that have never been played live. We are going to play some of those.
I would say that people definitely do not want to leave before the encore on the first night.
Final question: Just about every time you do an interview these days someone will ask you about future plans and whether you might record another album. So…
It’s really been a leapfrog process as we have a big event and then a period of hibernation and talk about what we’re going to do next. A year ago we weren’t sure what we’re going to do next. Out of the blue Phil Lesh asked if we wanted to play at Terrapin Crossroads. Once again, after Saturday we don’t have any plans.
I know I’d love to record more material with God Street Wine. I think we’d all like to, but the way the business is, who knows what’s going on with recording. The concept of an album, do people still make them? Is there a point to making them? Do you just record 10 tracks and put them on YouTube? What do you do? It’s an exciting time in many ways because they’re lots of option but no one’s like, “Let’s raise $150,000 spend six weeks in the studio and then put out a single.” That model is gone. That’s a long way of saying, I have no idea.