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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
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
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
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
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
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!