I recently had the opportunity to interview Reid Genauer, lead singer of the Assembly of Dust, and formerly of Strangefolk. Here is what the performer renowned for his insightful lyrics and fantastic storytelling abilities had to say:
Vermont Cynic: What would you say your major influences are?
Reid Genauer: I would say my major influences are, all those sort of great song writers of the 70's. Like Paul Simon, Neil Young, Garcia/Hunter, Willie Nelson, and so on and so forth.
VC: What do you listen to now?
RG: You know I try to mix it up. I wind up listening to a lot of bands from the jam band scene, because that's kind of what interests me. So you name it and I've got a CD. Everywhere from Moe, Phish, Percy Hill, Drew Emit, Leftover Salmon, and on and on.
VC: Is there any mainstream stuff that you're into?
RG: I like the Norah Jones album that everyone has that I find really pleasant to listen to. I like David Gray, Coldplay, Dave Matthews, Macy Gray, Sheryl Crow. I like bluegrass a lot too.
VC: How would you say your song-writing has changed since you've left Strangefolk?
RG: My songs are a little more concise. I don't that it's changed all that juristically but one of the big changes of late, is that I've been writing with the keyboardist in the Assembly of Dust - Nate Wilson. And he and I have been writing together and so that definitly lends a whole 'nother pallet and range of color to the song writing process. You know Nate's just a really great song writer and it's kind of neat because we compliment each other's strengths.
VC: I really remember there was always a certain kind of Strangefolk magic; is it the same type of thing playing with the Assembly of Dust?
RG: Parts of it are different-like the songs are a little more complicated largely due to Nate's influence and the playing style is different than Strangefolk. But on a good night that magic is still there-we were just in Burlington for two nights and the magic was definitely there.
VC: Are there any tunes you kind of refrain from playing now?
RG: There aren't a ton, but some of Strangefolk's greatest hits just feel a little emotionally thin for me, and are a little tired. And some of them just feel like Strangefolk songs, you know. It almost feels better just to leave alone. Songs like "Alaska", "So Far Gone", and "Oxbow"... There are ones that are just uniquely Strangefolk and are a little harder to replicate.
VC: Just to change things up a bit, do you ever think that you would sign with a major record label?
RG: Yeah, I would. If it was right and felt attractive and made sense at the time. I'm definitely weary of the way of the music industry works, and I'm guarded, but I'm not overtly jaded or anything.
VC: If that ever came up and you did sign would you ever consider making a music video? Because I know that's pretty taboo.
RG: Yeah I'd consider it. I think Dave Matthews has made some cool videos, and Nirvana and Pearl Jam and those guys all made some cool videos. I remember seeing a band called Jimmy's Chicken Shack, and they were on the circuit with us for a while, and they did a video that I thought was super-cool.
VC: When you guys are playing on stage who would you say is responsible for leading the jams? Because I feel like everyone seems to be playing a pretty integral role.
RG: Usually the soloist is the person who is leading. So clearly whoever is taking the solo is driving the bus, but what's neat is the nights when we are communicating well, and the sound is good on stage, it's more of conversation than a one-way dialogue. So you'll hear somebody start to play a rhythmic pattern that suggests something, or someone throws a note in that takes it somewhere, and you can hear the band reacting, and it's sort of like this sequence of events, and on the best nights, there's a leader, but everyone is kind of contributing to steering the jam.
VC: What you would say makes the Assembly sound unique in comparison to other bands?
RG: I think that we have the unique blend of styles. Because we have a little bit of jazz, a little bit of funk, or like Motown sort of R&B, and then more folk and country, and rock. It's kind of a unique mix, in unique proportions. Because the way I think about it is if you've got all these different genres - say there's ten genres in the universe - the way it becomes interesting is the way that there is an infinite amount of combinations for ten different variables so every band sort of takes different pieces of different genres, and some bands stick to one genre or two, and so I guess what makes us unique is our particular blend. It's kind of like funky country music, or country music with an R&B groove. And what also makes us unique in the jam band scene, or in just general, and it's sort of self serving to say, I think a lot of bands in the jam band scene are so focused on jamming which is fine, I'm not knocking it, and there are some amazing bands that have made great careers out of it. We really try to strike a balance between having songs and memorable lyrics and melodies, as well as creative, exciting jams.
VC: How did the Assembly of Dust assemble?
RG: It happened organically, we all knew each other, and I had talked to Nate years ago about playing together to some capacity and never really pursued it. Pretty much to make it short-I ran into each one of the members individually and had little side-bar conversations, and turns out they all know each other, and I had a stream of gigs lined up in the summer of 2001 - gigs I was gonna play by myself. And I said to Adam and John, you guys ought to join me, and the we looked around and said well shit, if we had a drummer we'd really have a band, and then we asked Andy. We played four gigs and had a blast, and Nate was friends was all of those guys and me, and then the suggestion was made by John to invite Nate. And I'd seen him play a million times and I was a huge fan of his music and playing, and I asked him to join the band.
VC: I know you guys have been writing a lot of new tunes, is there going to be an album that will be coming out any time soon?
RG: I would imagine sooner than later. I don't know exactly when, we haven't even started to make plans. But we've got easily an albums worth of material, even two albums worth of material right now. Material is not the issue, it's just finding the time, and our other album is not even a year old. It'll happen, but not for a while.
VC: Is the Assembly of Dust a permanent thing?
RG: It started organically, like a project, and I think we all just sort of fell into it, and take a lot of enjoyment from it. It just feels too good to walk away from.
VC: And just to top it all of, would you say there has been a particular high point in your career so far?
RG: I don't know, it's hard to say. There are different high points for different reasons. I'd say on a personal note, putting this album out was a high point for me. It was just a really pleasant process, and really fun to make the record, and rewarding to have it received the way it's been received. And I'd that's the high light for me.