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String Cheese Incident: True Believers

This year was the first Electric Forest in a two weekend format. How did you feel that changed the experience for bands and fans?

Well, I think it was kind of nice. Last year when it was all in one weekend it was so insanely crowded that it was kind of hard to get around. It’s kind of funny, they said last year they sold out so quickly they could have sold 70,000 tickets for it, but it’s not really set up for that kind of thing. In order to make it that kind of festival, all of a sudden you’d have to build this huge stage, which you could do, but I don’t think that would be the direction anyone wants to go with it. So I think the idea was to try to keep it intimate, or as intimate as 40,000 people can be. And so they capped the number of tickets on the first weekend and split it up. I think it worked out pretty great. The first weekend felt crowded but it wasn’t as crowded as last year, which is good because there was some weather and stuff. And the second weekend it was just more relaxed, but there was still over 30,000 people on site. But I think in some ways, I enjoyed the second weekend because it made it feel like there was a little bit of room. On the first weekend, I tried to go see Odesza’s set and I could barely get through the crowd to get to a point where I could actually watch the show. That kind of thing is almost too much.

I really enjoyed both weekends, but the second weekend was nice. And I’m sure the promoters would say differently, they would have been psyched if both weekends totally sold out. I don’t know what’s going to happen next year, but my guess is that they’ll probably do it again.

You’ve had some awesome collaborations over the years i.e. “The Lauryn Hill Incident” “The Zac Brown Incident.” What would your dream “Incidents” be? Do you have a “one that got away” in terms of these collaborations?

We had Gregg Allman happening, but then he got sick last year which was a total bummer. There’s some that are surprises. Like when we did the thing with Zac Brown it was like “Woah, we don’t really know his music,” but our managers knew each other and when we got together with them, even though they’re kind of in a different scene, it was pretty simpatico. The vibe was really, really good between everybody.

The Doobie Brothers thing was great too. We didn’t really know those guys, obviously we knew their music, but the calm energy, and vibe and the camaraderie that came out of that was great. The Kool and the Gang thing was awesome too. This list kind of goes on.

We have a short list of people that we always thought would be pretty awesome to do. We may or may not ever get around to them. I won’t name too many names because we obviously want to keep it a surprise. None that have really gotten away. Obviously, we would have loved to do something with Prince, but that’s not going to happen. That’s something that’s always cooking on the back burner.

In January SCI played the Muertos Con Queso event in Mexico. Can you share some memories from that weekend?

Yeah, those trips are great to just be able to go and hang with your family. Whenever my kids show up, even though daddy’s working, it’s really all about them. So my best memories from that show are just running around, being in the pool and swimming up to the bar and getting a banana milkshake [laughs].

But the shows themselves, standing on stage and watching people go in the water, that’s pretty special. The only other time I’ve seen that was at the Hangout music fest, but it’s Mexico so people can actually go in the water and do whatever they wanted. Hopefully we’ll be able to do something like that again soon.

These destination events are more popular than ever. In addition to Muertos Con Queso, Phish, Dave Matthews & Widespread Panic have all held them in the past year. Have you and the rest of the band considered doing another International Incident in the near future?

We were one of the first ones in the whole scene that started this thing. We went to Jamaica, and we went to Costa Rica and we put a lot of energy into those things. We were never really totally into the idea of doing it at an all-inclusive resort. So the idea that we have cooking is we’ve always wanted it to be a cultural immersion. As much fun as it is to sit at some resort and eat catered food all the time— as easy as that is— to me there’s something that is a little bit missing with being able to interact with a local culture and take an experience out of that. So we have some things cooking that we want to do that would allow us to really immerse ourselves into a scene and maybe bring our fans along to really experience that with us. But that kind of stuff takes a lot more work. So yeah, we do have things we really want to do but some of these ideas would be very difficult to pull off. So it takes time, and we’re hoping it happens sooner rather than later. And we’ll probably, in the meantime, still be able to play with our friends down on the beach, and do that kind of thing. We’re open to it all, but we have plans for doing something that is a lot more experiential in that regard.

I know you can’t give me too many details, but would it be something south of the border? Or even further?

Maybe. We’ve talked about south of the border. We’ve talked about Europe. We’ve talked about a lot of different places. We’ve talked about North Africa. There are things that obviously wouldn’t be the easiest thing for people to pull off. And right now is tough, because some of us have young kids as well, so we can only be gone for so long. But as our kids get older, we’ve definitely been talking about wanting to cook up some really interesting, new stuff.

You mentioned you studio, the Lab earlier. How did this Sound Lab approach change how you write tracks and play tracks live?

Yeah sometimes. We’re working on some collaborations. I’m working on something with the Beats Antique guys. They’re old friends of mine, but that’s actually happening in California where we all live. We just did a song with the guitar player from the Floozies that will get released from them and us. And I think we have a tune that we wrote with Big Gigantic. I’m sure there’s going to be some other stuff, more bluegrass-y stuff that’s coming out. On the last album we had Bonnie [Paine] from Elephant Revival come and sing on one of our tracks. Colorado is a really ripe music scene, and a lot of people there are our friends. And that’s the idea, to be able to have a lot of music coming out. And it’s not something we’re trying to maintain ownership of or anything. We’re just saying, “Hey, here’s some new music that incorporates people you may like together or not, we’re just doing it for fun.” Right now we’re fully in tour mode so it’s hard to get into recording and mixing and all that, but there’s stuff coming out for sure.

This August will be the 10 year anniversary of SCI’s “Final” Shows At Red Rocks. Tell me about those shows, how they felt, and how it feels now that the band is back, touring the US, curating festivals and promoting a new record?

It’s funny to think about it being 10 years ago because life has gone by really quickly in a lot of ways. But those shows 10 years ago were really emotional. The hard thing, I don’t know if it’s hard or easy for people to realize— the ride that we’ve been on in this band, even though it’s been 23 or 24 years it also feels like it hasn’t been that long. When we first started out, the first 10, 15 years of it were just full-on. Complete commitment to it constantly from 1993 until 2007. And by the time it got to that point we really hadn’t— everything took a backseat to the band, which I don’t think is necessarily the healthiest way to try to live a life, to have something that runs your life so intently. So when we took the break, beyond the fact that it was sad because it felt like an era ending, it also allowed us to re-incorporate and gain our individuality and get ourselves back, really. And that ultimately paved the way for us to want to play shows together again. And I think that the things that we learned from that we’re carrying to this day.

Who knows what the future holds? I don’t think we’ll ever get back to the point where we’re touring as much as we did, but we want our experience together to be as unified when we are together. We definitely want to break new ground and continue to do so. We’re figuring out different ways to do it. Our scene, it has always been about touring, and that’s something we’d like to break the mold in, to not feel like we have to constantly tour and just do it because we do it. We want to have a reason for why we’re doing it. I think we’re in a really good space right now. Everyone’s really motivated, feeling good about really wanting to make the band sound as good and vibrant as possible. Yeah, we’re in a really good space.

Your next shows are at Red Rocks as well, are there any memories that stand out from all of your performances there?

We played there a lot of times now. I think we’re in the upper 20s or 30s in the amount of times we’ve played there now. There’s a couple things that really stick out. I remember one time— we’ve been lucky, extremely lucky, with the weather there. We’ve not really been poured on except for this one time. So I remember the one time we did get poured on, that was really intense. That was two or three years ago. Yeah, just different memories. One that’s sticking out right now is one time we did “Back in Black” with John Cowan from New Grass Revival. A lot of those sit-ins over the years.

And of course there’s the first time you play Red Rocks where you’re just like, “Holy shit.” You sit on the stage and everyone’s looking down on you, and it’s this pretty intense sensation. But now it’s almost like we’ve done it so much, that we’ve gotten used to it and it feels like home. It’s totally the home crowd and it just feels really natural. And being home, it can be not necessarily the most relaxing environment because there’s tons of friends and people you want to hang out with. We try to keep it mellow backstage, but at Red Rocks everybody comes ready to rage and wanting to go and so it’s a lot of energy. I’m glad we’re not doing anything this week to get ready for it [laughs].

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