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Published: 2014/02/01
by Mike Greenhaus

Dave Schools Is a Hard Working American

And would you say that, will there be more original material or Todd songs rather than the covers that kind of dominated the first record?

Absolutely, and not necessarily Todd’s songs. I mean, the whole idea is collaboration. That’s something that, you know, songwriters like Todd don’t get much of. Sometimes they have songwriting partners. But we came up with a unique formula that works for us in the way that we would deconstruct and rebuild other people’s songs. You know, Todd is a great melody guy, Neal is an amazing songwriter and a great melody guy, Chad is in the same boat, and as Duane and I have developed, we’ve become real simpatico with like sort of pockets we really enjoy playing.

It really was one of those rare occasions where five elements came together and worked out really well. It didn’t nullify the formula; it didn’t over-catalyze it into an explosion of weird emotions. It just worked, so we’re banking on continuing that.

Your relationship with Todd is unique: he was a Widespread Panic fan who followed you on tour, he achieved success in the hipster-folk world and then, you formed a band with him. Do you remember the first time you met?

I don’t remember meeting him too often in situations I could describe in print. I do remember the first time I saw him and his band, The Nervous Wreck. They were opening for Panic at Cuthbert, which is an outdoor place in Eugene, OR in a park with a creek flowing behind the stage.

It’s sort of an expansive area with lots of places to have picnics, and it’s very beautiful, like most of Eugene is. And, you know, it was a very bucolic setting. There are geese and ducks on the lake and hippies and everything. I remember just standing there watching them play. He was doing that Seattle Talking Grunge Rock Blues song that he had a hit with, and it just, those guys had such a gutbucket sensibility, you know? And he was just really poking fun at the predominant, you know, the alternative, flannel-wearing grunge scene at the time, and there we are just slightly south of where it emanated, in the time where radio was buried up to its neck in that music and a host of imitators of the sound.

And here’s this bunch of long-haired guys that are very rockabilly, gutbucket, garage-y, just sort of poking holes in not only the bucolic setting, but also the predominate fashion at the time, talking about, you know, “I didn’t make it in Seattle, I guess I’ll just take my guitar and move back to Athens.” And it hit me when he uttered that line as I looked around, that, you know, this is a guy that not only had a gift, but, you know, he was a lot like me in that he didn’t mind using that gift to poke holes in things that have gotten maybe too big and too established. And then as I got to know Todd, the gift turned from envy into downright jealousy when I realized that he can poke holes in stuff and the people he’s poking holes in still love him even more. If I tried to do that, there’d be, you know, an entire blog dedicated to railroading me. So I keep my mouth shut and let him do that because he’s really cuddly, and he can tell you how wrong you are and you just want to love him even more.

Yeah, it’s amazing how he can, as you said, poke holes in people, and people still respect him from his kind of jokey attitude.

Yeah, well, it’s real, you know? He’s not putting on airs. He never claims to know more than anybody. He just states the way he feels. And, you know, if it happens to be the opposite of how you feel, you don’t feel accused of anything when he tells you he doesn’t feel the same way. You know, I’ve watched it work with radio people, I’ve seen it work with reporters, you know, who try to pin you down immediately and put you in a box before you’ve even really started the interview. And he lets them know that, you know, that ain’t gonna happen. And the guy doesn’t, like, wind up writing a hatchet piece, you know? So he has a quality that is real, and it’s endearing.

He really does fulfill the role of what songwriters and artists should be doing, which is holding mirrors up.

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