Jamming with the String Cheese Incident

Twenty-three years into their career, the String Cheese Incident is often categorized as a “jam band.” However, the group has touched upon a variety of styles, and as a result, are not necessarily easy to categorize. That is OK with the band’s bassist, Keith Moseley, who chatted with Pulse shortly before SCI is due to perform in Brooklyn at Kings Theatre on August 13 and 14.

The String Cheese Incident is playing two shows in Brooklyn. What can fans expect at the show and for the rest of 2016?
It’s the end of our summer run. We were in New York in the spring, but we’re hoping to continue busting out new material. We’ve got new songs up on the website that are for free download, and several more new songs that are all going to be on the new album that should be out before the end of the year.

The band is also in the process of recording a new studio album, working for a second time with producer Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads.
The tracks are all finished. We have our own homebase now, in the Boulder area—a warehouse for our gear storage and rehearsal space, and we’ve been getting it up and running for recording. All of these tracks were laid down there in our new studio with Jerry and his engineer, Eric Thorngren. We had a really good time on the A Song in My Head sessions—the last album—so we brought them back and they were just great, as far as helping with arrangement ideas and helping to groom the songs. Jerry brings a wealth of experience from all his time in Talking Heads. It’s just a lot of fun to be in a creative space with Jerry, having him offer his input.

Where does the inspiration come from?
The last two years, we’ve done retreats in the springtime. We go away for a week, rent a house and the band hangs out, cooks meals and goes on hikes—we also focus on writing tunes together. We’ve got new songs beyond this release that we’re ready to start the recording process on. We’re in a super-fertile cycle of writing and recording right now, and it’s really ignited the band. Everyone’s feeling really excited and passionate about it.

What are your thoughts on the “jam band” tag?
It’s a blessing and a curse. I think the jam band fans are a great group of music fans, in that they have really big ears and they’re really accepting of the band taking chances and exploring improv jams on stage. The downside to the jam band label is that perhaps a lot of people dismiss us without listening. Even though I think we’ve come to the place where we can write, record and play a really great five-minute pop or rock song.

What leads to a good live jam?
There’s all kinds of different things. Certain songs in the repertoire have a built-in jam section, and we may talk about it, and say, “When we get to the jam that usually starts in B flat, Kyle, why don’t you set up a chord progression and we’ll follow you?” There may be a discussion like that. Or there may be no discussion at all—it may just be we hit the spot and everyone really tunes in and tries to listen. Another thing is segueing between songs. And again, it may be talked about, like, “Travis is going to lay some rhythm there, and let’s try to find a chord change that will lead gracefully from this song that ends in A, to the next one that starts in E.” Sometimes, there’s no talk at all. It’s a matter of tuning in to each other, really listening and trying to create as a unite. That’s always the goal—to create as a single unit.

greg prato

greg prato

Greg Prato has lived almost his entire life on Long Island. He has written for Rolling Stone, and has penned many a book on either rock n’ roll or sports. See what he’s up to on Twitter @gregpratowriter.