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"I’ve Never Stopped Writing Songs": A Conversation with Lo Faber of God Street Wine

Lo Faber’s schedule is filled to the brim. In addition to his responsibilities as a professor, author and father, he will spend part of his summer performing with his longtime band God Street Wine. “My wife is always saying, ‘You need to do less!’” he laughs over the phone.

A mainstay in the ‘90s New York City jam scene, God Street Wine made a name for themselves with their intertwining guitar riffs and their lively, hours-long concerts. Currently, the band has three east coast dates scheduled for this month, two new singles and, as Faber revealed in our conversation, there’s even a 9-track album on the way.

It’s been a few years since the band reunited, but you have these shows coming up and you just released a new single. So what’s the current status of God Street Wine?

The current status is that we just love to play. We all do other things nowadays, so when we do get together and play it’s special and rare and it’s really great. Back in the day when it was our full time job, there used to be undercurrents of anxiety, like I think a lot of artists have. “Are we doing the right things? Are we gonna make this work?” But now, it’s honestly for the love of music and being together as friends, and that’s so great.

Would you guys ever consider working on another album?

Yeah, we have an album. I don’t know if I’m supposed to even… So that track we just released [“Firelight Flickers”] was one of nine new tracks that we have. I don’t know if I’m supposed to even tell you that.

Okay. Do you guys have a name for it?

No…I’m trying to think if maybe I’m not supposed to…Who cares, really? I’ve never stopped writing songs, and Jon [Bevo], our keyboard player, also has a lot of songs. So it’s really taken shape very slowly over the last year and a half, since we’re all over the world, we’re not in one place. I’m down in New Orleans, I record a demo, I send it to our drummer who lives in Berlin, and he records the drum track along with my demo, and basically we scrap the demo and treat the drum track as the beginning and recut all the other instruments to the drum track, so that it has an organic feel.

So what inspired you guys to finally those songs down on wax?

I love that phrase, “wax.” It hasn’t been wax for a long time. I think what inspired it was me just wanting to do it. The only outlet I had for the songs was to play them as a solo acoustic, me and my acoustic guitar, and that wasn’t really enough for me. Solo acoustic is fine, but I like to think more in terms of orchestration and instruments and grooves and colors and so…I really wanted to hear these songs come alive with the band and get them out into the world. I’m not gonna get any money off of them, so it’s just wanting them to be heard.

I wanted to touch on the shows you guys are about to play. I’m curious if there are certain periods in the group’s catalogue that you haven’t revisited since your reunion that you were hoping to dig into when you have this live forum?

We’ve tried to be very balanced in our post-reunion incarnation because, I don’t know if you know the whole story, but we broke up at the end of 1999, and then we didn’t play at all for a full decade, and we were all doing other things. We ended up getting together in 2009 because of the sudden death of an old friend of ours. We played at his memorial service and since then, in the eight years since then, we’ve played maybe 20 shows. So two and a half shows a year on average. Not very much.

So in that decade we didn’t play, everybody forgot all our songs, I forgot that we were ever even a band. We had to go back and relearn songs, and I always say that we became a God Street Wine tribute band [Laughs.] We listened to ourselves and tried to learn all the songs, and that was a really cool process. It allowed us to be very objective, like, “This song is kind of cool…” When we were out there playing five shows a week, we never really heard it the same way. When we’ve done all these shows, we’ve tried to do the greatest hits of the original God Street Wine. We really try to spread it out. We did have very definite phases and periods that we went through in our 11 years together, and we’ve tried to mix it up and do justice to all of it.

But one thing I really do like is playing new stuff. We do play some new stuff, and we play some covers, we play songs of ours that are old but were never really released or never played that much. The most rare and unusual stuff is the most fun for me live, it just has more novelty.

You used the word “balance,” so I’m curious how you guys are crafting setlists for these shows. Are you going in with them set in stone? Are you striking a balance like, “Alright, these fans favorites with these deep cuts and these new songs?”

I start off by asking all the guys if there’s anything that’s a little bit unusual that they’d like to play, and then once I have that input from them I write a list—a draft setlist for the three shows. But it’s understood that it’s gonna change, that it’s just a starting place.

Do you think after this new record you guys will tour more and announce more shows?

Not me personally, but I think some of the guys in the band, when you say the word “tour,” they start to shiver. I don’t know. I’d love to do that, but I don’t know if it’s in the cards. We’ve played in New York and we’ve played in California, and those are places that everybody kind of likes to go. When you start talking about getting an actual vehicle to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Ann Arbor, Springfield, then it starts to become a whole different thing. That’s how the real people do it. Bands like the Allman Brothers that tour nonstop for 40 years, I just can’t say enough about how much respect I have for that. It was too difficult for us, I admit. It was too much for me. I couldn’t handle it. You have to be really built for it. We were built for it for a little while, but that’s just not where I want to be, especially after I had kids. I like the quiet life.

It’s funny that you bring up the Allman Brothers, because I was actually about to pivot towards them. What was that experience like, to share a stage with them, opening for them and seeing that whole machine?

It was amazing. Like I was saying, I have so much respect for their longevity and their ability to jam. The music was just very alive, which you don’t always necessarily hear with artists who are older and have gone out for 30, 40, 50 years doing the same thing. How they kept it that way-I know it wasn’t easy. Shortly after we toured with them, Dickey Betts was out of the band. I know there were some troubles there. I can’t speak to him as a human being, but as a musician, he was just unbelievable. The band with him and Warren Haynes on guitars was when we mainly toured with them and that was just terrific guitar interplay. And God Street does that too, we have two guitarists, and we have a lot of written stuff. We’re solving the same problems. What can you do with two electric guitars in an improvisational band? The classic Allmans orchestration is to have these written lines, usually in thirds or sixths between the two guitars, and that’s what you hear on stuff like “Jessica” and “Come and Go Blues.” Maybe it’s getting too technical, but I just loved watching them. Every night I loved watching the shows.

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