MODERN DAY STORYTELLER
Written by Craig Judkins
Feb 2, 2004
Unless you've been in a coma for the last few years,
you've undoubtedly seen or heard the name Reid Genauer. In the case of the former,
perhaps you've wondered how Genauer is properly pronounced.
The answer to that question is 'Jen-ow-er'.
But why do you keep hearing about him? Reid Genauer is a founding member of the
Vermont group Strangefolk, who you have probably also heard of.
As the driving force behind that band, he touched legions of fans in the northeast,
and across the country. Recently parting ways with Strangefolk, he has formed a new
outfit called the Assembly of Dust. AOD is comprised of a veritable super group of
Northeast jam ambassadors with Genauer leading the way--as AOD's web site plainly states,
this is his band.
Genauer confesses that he likes to write uplifting, triumphant songs
with a pretty melody. And as it goes, music fans across the US and even
Europe seem to agree. That's the reason I am writing about him now, and
that's the reason you will keep seeing his name in publications such as ours,
and those of our ilk.
Not long ago I had the chance to conduct an email exchange with the man himself.
We touched on a variety of subjects including the birth of the AOD sound,
contemporary influences, the Digital Dust series, and much more.
For those of you who have in fact been in a coma,
or perhaps just felt like you were, settle in and get to know a storyteller
named Reid Genauer.
JamBase: What are you focusing your energies on at the moment?
Reid: I am really into edamame lately--tasty little beans that they are.
Artistically I am focusing on writing new tunes with Nate Wilson (keys)
to really hone our AOD "sound" and craft a repertoire of brand new songs.
We have been very productive lately and we are doing our best to keep the
creative juices flowing. Other than that we are really working at
practicing as a band--also in hopes of defining and refining the AOD sound.
It's really rewarding to hear the band's sound come together, to listen
back on tapes and hear the band speak as one unified voice--it's like a
magic trick that the magician doesn't even understand. Real cool.
JamBase: How would you characterize the sound as compared to Strangefolk?
Is there a common ground?
Reid: There is definitely a common ground--
I mean we are playing a bunch of tunes that I initially wrote for,
or with, Strangefolk--so that's the obvious point of commonality.
Additionally we interpret the songs and we view music in a similar
way to Strangefolk, we exist in a similar musical space. One of the reasons
that AOD works so well is that we all have some point of commonality in
terms of our musical taste and our musical forms of expression. That said,
AOD has some noteworthy differences: Strangefolk had a unique charm and
naivety in its sound but we were sort of a one trick pony--limited in our
musical vocabulary and scope.
AOD is a lot more versatile and has a lot more
depth, there's a lot more possibility in terms of how the songs and the sets
breathe and evolve over time. Thanks to Andy Herrick (drums) and John Leccese
(bass) AOD has real deep grooves--the songs float better--and the slower tunes
translate with a lot of power. Adam Terrell is a very versatile guitar player;
he can pretty much play any style he wants--jazz, bluegrass, rawk (that's rock
with a New Hampshire accent). Finally Nate Wilson ads some really cool elements
of jazz and funk he gives AOD's music a sophistication that it would otherwise lack.
It's cool because the band can create a very rich dialogue with the audience by being
"fun" one second, "serious" the next, and so on. I think if you say too much of the
same thing (musically) over the course of a show or an album, you start to beat
people's brains into complacency whereas if you mix it up with different musical
voices, and different styles, you keep the interaction fresh.
JamBase: How did the Assembly of Dust come together with regard to the players in the band?
(It seems everyone is from the Northeast, or at least that they are from bands that played
quite a lot in that part of the country.)
Reid: I have known these guys all separately for years as friends and comrades in arm-
-fellow road warriors and musicians. My wife and I were living in Portsmouth, NH,
for the summer and I sat in with Percy Hill for a tune at one of their local gigs.
The long and short is John Leccesse and I talked about him playing stand up bass at
some of my solo gigs. At that same gig I ran into Adam Terrell and he and I talked
about him playing guitar with me at some of my solo gigs
(which he did a couple weeks later). I had spoken to Nate for years about doing some
stuff together, so add Andy Herrick and we had a band. I knew they were all great
players but I didn't fully realize what great people they were until we had spent
some greasy hours together on the road and on the stage. Looking back it was a
pretty huge musical risk as well--didn't really know how the band would evolve
or even if it would evolve.
Jambase:You mentioned that honing the sound and realizing the band's
potential can be like some magic not yet understood. So perhaps it's safe to say you find this
process fascinating. Is there anything else in your life that can give you that
kind of satisfaction or sparkle?
Reid: I do find it fascinating. It's the act of creation that is most gratifying to me.
As far as other sparkle/satisfaction, the love of my wife, and my dog is top of the list.
I find cooking really rewarding in a similar way to writing and playing music--
you create something to nourish and please other people. I also love to ski. On a
good day it can be religious, unfortunately I don't have much time for cooking or
skiing these days.
Jambase: You're often referred to as a storyteller. Could you imagine yourself as writer
outside of the musical realm, perhaps as a novelist? Have you ever tried your hand
at authoring books?
Reid: I have. I've written some children's books and I have even taken stabs at writing a novel.
I will definitely write things other than rock songs one day. I'm just not sure when or what.
There are a lot of options that interest me; children's books, novels, newspaper articles...
I've even considered writing a play.
Jambase: Do you plan on taking your show outside the US anytime soon?
Reid: It's something that I think would be fun more than anything, I don't have immediate plans
to do so but I do think about it. Need someone to help make the opportunities known.
Jambase: What's in your ear right now apart from your own stuff? I don't want to ask for five albums
or anything like that, but what might somebody hear in your car or in the home stereo?
Reid: Really hooked on Spearhead's most recent record, also checked out a couple indie artists
recently that I "dig" - not sure if you can say dig in the year 2004.
Anyway, Mary McBride is one and Mojo Nixon is another. Got a cool Max Roach disc
recently as well that blows my mind, can't remember the title though.
Jambase: Do you draw any influence from contemporary artists?
Reid: Absolutely. It's hard to separate where you draw from because so many of the contemporary
artists wind up being influence by the same things you are, so it's like,
"Am I influenced directly by the source (i.e. the Beatles) or am I influenced by
Elliott Smith who is influenced by the Beatles? It's hard to know. I think the most
powerful way that music influences me is through the covers I choose to learn.
By learning and performing a cover tune you get a glimpse of the inner workings of a
song and a songwriter's process. That insight is very valuable in going out and crafting
your own material.
Jambase:I was watching an episode of Digital Dust that
I downloaded from your web site. You said you would like to continue to be creative,
but not let the experience own you as maybe it did with Strangefolk.
Does this mean you want to make more music in the studio and spend less time on the road?
Obviously the road can be pretty grueling.
Reid: It means I want to control my own destiny. I can't answer the question directly
because I am not always sure what the future holds. For now I want to write music,
make records and tour in a way that suites my lifestyle and my needs as an
individual--both financially and emotionally/spiritually.
Jambase:Speaking of the Digital Dust series, could you tell me a bit about how it came to be
and what the ideas are behind it? It's real cool and seems to be fitting a trend where
bands are kind of waking up to the potential of their
web presence and the Internet in general.
Reid:Yeah--I guess to the point I just made--I am focusing my touring on the East coast
these days to serve my current lifestyle. I know there are people in other parts of
the country who can't make it to these shows so I figured one really cool way to bring
the music to them was to create this series that recaps some of the marquee gigs I play
in a way that tells the story of the individual performance as a subplot in the larger
AOD story. It works too, we get tons of visits and people typically watch the entire
episode when they come.