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Thursday, September 4

Interview: Sitdown at the Southern Brewer's Festival sharing all gut's and some glory with Vinnie Amico

moe. is one of those bands that is constantly busy, constantly planning new things for its fans. Between planning at least three festivals each year and touring across the United States and the world, it amazed me to find them on the lineup for Chattanooga’s Southern Brewers Festival just one week before their 15th annual moe.down festival. As it turns out, the band was the first jamband to ever play Southern Brewers Festival, and they agreed to come back and help celebrate the event’s 20th anniversary. After a rockin’ 90+ minute set consisting of a combination of moe. classics and tracks from their brand new album, drummer Vinnie Amico was nice enough to sit down with me for a quick chat.
moe's Vinnie and our Randy Harris
Ragin’ Randy: The new album has been released for about three months now. Has it performed as well as you guys had hoped?
Vinnie Amico: I don’t know, um, how it sells. I don’t know how albums sell at all.

RR: Well, you guys have always been more of a live band.
VA: Yeah, yeah. Well, we’ve always been able to sell a few albums, but, as far as charting, I think we charted higher than we ever did, so, like, whatever they call it, the Heatseekers 200 or whatever it is, we charted higher and it’s still floating around up in there somewhere. So, it’s actually been doing well critically and on radio stations, and they keep adding songs, so it’s going well I think.

RR: Good, I’m very glad to hear that. This was your first show since Gathering of the Vibes at the beginning of the month right?
VA: Yeah, August 3rd yep.

RR: Right, I guess my question is, do you guys approach your live shows differently when you’ve been off the road for a few weeks?
VA: No. We just show up and play [laughs].

RR: Well, I’m sure at this stage of your career, you guys just kind of get up there and do your thing.
VA: Yeah man, we just show up and play. And, you know, usually, when we’ve been off for a couple weeks after being on the road for a while, energy levels are really high, and sometimes the tightness is a little low, or lesser, which some people can or can’t tell. It’s usually just us that we can tell if it’s not like, you know, but usually in these situations, like, usually if we’re off before moe.down for a couple weeks, it’s basically right around now, it’s usually at the end of July or something. We’ll have a few weeks off before moe.down, and it just happens to be that we get this one-off in between, and it’s, like, super high energy, not necessarily the tightest show ever, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s just that we kind of laid it out, as far as, we jammed a little looser, and more free, and a lot more energy, and not quite as tight, but not always a bad thing.

RR: I know you’ve been doing your whole “If we reach 100,000 on Facebook, the fans get to pick a song” thing, but do you have any more surprises for moe.down we can expect coming’ up?
VA: If they were surprises and I told you, then they wouldn't be surprises [laughs]. We’re going to have the Conehead Buddha Horns play with us, I think a couple sets, at least one but maybe two sets that weekend, which always elevates the band as a whole to a new level. I don’t know if you’ve heard them with us before, but it’s like the whole band goes from here [gestures with hand low] to here [gestures with hand high], and the songs take on a different vibe, like a different animal, and then we add a bunch of different tunes that we wouldn't necessarily play. It’s a lot of fun. I really love it, and they’re all really good friends of mine. Shannon [Lynch (sax, flutes)] lives in my town, and we hang out together and stuff.

RR: This is a little unrelated to my previous questions, but it’s something that’s always interested me. I feel like you guys, compared to some of the other major jambands, you know Phish, Widespread Panic, Umphrey’s McGee, you guys tend to tour in Europe more than some of them do. Is there a reason behind that? Do you guys have a better following over there? Or do you guys just like touring over there?
VA: I think it’s a little bit of we like touring over there, and I think it’s a little bit of we’re trying to build a little bit bigger of a following over there. Being global is better than being national, I think, you know? The reality of the whole thing is that you see all these bands coming out of England that are huge, because they tour the world, not because they tour the States. I mean, the big bands in the States don’t really need to tour the world, but we’re not the biggest band in the States, maybe we need to tour the world, and maybe we’ll, you know, hit a note with the Europeans or the Japanese or whoever it be. So, what we've spent years building in America, we want to build, you know, all around the world.

RR: You guys announced your Jamaican throe.down recently.
VA: Yep, yep.

RR: That sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun
VA: Yeah, it’s going to be a lot of fun.

RR: And you guys have done these kinds of destination stuff before.
VA: Yes, we have. We enjoy it very much, so I think that’s why we continue to do it. And as long as fans keep buying tickets and coming to these little resort parties, you know, we have a lot of fun.

RR: Great! Do you have a favorite one that you guys have done, or a favorite place that you’ve done these destination parties in the past?
VA: Um, you know, the two cruises that we did were both really fun.

RR: Those are the ones that are the Dr. Stan’s Prescription albums right?
VA: Yeah, yeah, and the one that we did in the Dominican was a lot of fun. Um, Jam Cruise, whole different animal. You know? We kind of like doing our own thing, because it’s a little less work. Well, it’s actually more work for us, but it’s a little more focused work I think, and you don’t run into the, you know, Jam Cruise is tough. You got to pace yourself.

RR: Well, yeah, and they’re doing all these sit-ins and stuff.
VA: Yeah, there’s just a lot going on, and with ours, it’s us, you know. This one’s going to be a bit different in that it’s us and then it’s our side project stuff, so we’ll be working hard, but we’ll be bringing you everything that we’re involved in.

RR: Awesome! It’s always good to bring new things.
VA: And we get to do a lot of other stuff too, so he and I [points to Al Schnier (guitar)] are going to dive with fans, and I’m a big sun guy, so I’ll be sitting out in the sun on the beach a lot.

RR: So, lots of the big jamband giants are having big anniversaries, you know, Phish had their 30th, Widespread Panic’s coming up on 30, and you guys are at 25. What is it that makes a band stay together that long? What keeps you guys going?
VA: I think there’s a lot of different things. One of them is music. We love music, and we play good music we think. You know, you listen to music on the radio right now, and you can’t even fucking listen to it. I mean, I have two teenage kids. One daughter’s into, like, decent music. My other daughter’s into pop music, and it’s the worst freakin’ thing. In all these years, you know, I’m 45. I grew up around Liquid Nights pop music, you know, I heard disco. I was freakin’ 9 or 10 when disco was around, so it wasn’t like… man the music now sucks [laughs]. Other than, like, Bruno Mars and a couple other people, the music just blows, it’s bad. So, like, we’re still making good music. I think we’re sort of a little bit, you know, anti-establishment, because pop music and the way they’re trying to make mainstream is so sucky that we’re like “fuck you, we’re just gonna stay up here and keep doin’ this” [laughs]. We enjoy playing, we enjoy playing with each other, and we’re still making good music, you know, so why the hell not? And, you know, what else are you going to do? You’ve been doing this for 25 years, like, we can’t go out and get jobs anymore, you got to make some sort of income, I guess.

RR: Great. Last question, you guys have seen and done a lot, obviously, in 25 years. Is there anything, or is there any time that you get on stage and think “Oh my gosh,” like is there anything that scares you guys or that you get nervous about at this stage?
VA: I’m not sure anymore. I mean, some of the bigger shows, you still get pretty intense, and you just have to keep your intensity in check, because otherwise you’ll play too fast or play too hard or whatever. But for the most part, I haven’t really felt that, like, [inhales] in a while, you know where it’s like “Oh shit.”

RR: Well, and it helps being part of a team I’m sure, you know, part of a group.
VA: Yeah, yeah, but I mean, it’s like, when you get those big crowds, I think you tend to play a little better, because it’s like, you have to be more focused, energy level is super high, so you just bring it. You know, there’s been times in the past when it’s like “Oh shit, we can’t fuck up.” But I figure, that gig is no different than a gig in front of 100 people. Actually, I usually play worse in a gig when there’s 100 people in a bar, just because they’re so on top of you and so close that they’re watching your every move. So, the big show you’ll have that air of distance, other than the fact that you’re blown away by that wall of sound when they clap and cheer [laughs].

RR: Well, thank you so much for the information. You guys played a great show. I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me real quick, and I will let you get on with your evening. Have fun and safe travels, and have a great time at moe.down!

VA: Thank you.
Interview: Ragin' Randy Harris
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