Matt, what was it like to go from being in the military to being in a jam band?
Matt: I was always a bit of a- for lack of a better word- Phishhead up through high school. I was tuned in to the scene. I was a jazz guy through college, so I was tuned in to the improv thing. When I went into the military it was more, “What’s it like for the guy that goes to a bunch of shows to go into the military?”
Brock: Both he and Albert, when I met them, were not militant types. I don’t think, given the person you might imagine is an army dude- I don’t think we would have gotten to a point of discussing traveling together as musicians. There had to be more of the common element that has led to our friendship and success as friends and bandmates.
Matt: I will say that I was surprised how many intelligent, sharp fellows are actually in the military. The guy that turned me on to Medeski Martin and Wood was an Explosive Ordinance Disposal guy. He goes out like Hurt Locker, and he’s a big, giant Head. I was surprised by the caliber of normal people in the military. There’s that stereotype for the grunts, for lack of a better word, but I was pleasantly surprised how normal military people are.
It’s worth it for that.
Matt: Breaking down the walls is always good.
Matt, How did taking a break affect the band?
Matt: The four of us got closer than when we were out touring because the element of the band had been removed.
Brock: The quality of the friendship was much easier to see, because sometimes you get confused or bogged down by a person’s quality because of outside odds, making a business decision with your buddies. And there’s that ultimate irony that if you get to a certain level of success you have to become a business if you want to continue to get to the goals you set. You have to file your taxes quarterly. If you read about it, that’s ultimately what breaks up groups: how to structure a business. The Beatles are the prime example. Or The Beach Boys. Now Michael Love wants to make sure he has songs on there because that’s where the money is, and it’s not for the best arrangement of songs, but rather people’s motivations for getting their song there, as a means for finances. We always avoided that pitfall.
Matt: One person, and I won’t mention his name because the band he’s in, said this: “Always share your publishing. Once you share your publishing, everyone’s happy. Everyone’s contributing.” True, this might be an Adam song or a Brock song, but we’ve been good about sharing the publishing; the idea that it’s a group effort.
That shines through. Sometimes you watch a band and it’s clear this guy’s running the show.
Matt: The music speaks to it too. It’s not a whole lot of us trading solos.
Brock: I like where you’re at. just because of my position- I handled a lot of the main singing, so people identify the singer/guitarist as the de facto frontman, but many people will call me the Reluctant Frontman. I don’t like being the Jim James. The centerpiece. I love music that comes out of arrangements like that, but I don’t personally think that would work for me in whatever project I’m in.
Matt: Having that mentality is part of the reason we got closer. We were guys that enjoy each other’s company. Having that outside perspective, not being in the public but having the same friends, there’s so many couples, especially down south, that were strangers and met through the band, and now they’re starting families. We’re in the fortunate position to not only have that around you, but to recognize it. It humbled all of us as we get older.
How was that first moment you realized you were in that position to move people?
Brock: Early on in the Savannah sense of things, even solo acoustic shows, to be the guy that plays at the pizza place every Thursday, playing only covers, and then a few originals and people want to hear these originals. A buddy of mine came up one time and said, “I really like how in ‘Walking in Place’ you took it around three times instead of twice.” That’s something. He noticed that. That’s a possible folly that musicians can make if they can’t at least express gratitude to people giving that help, whether it’s help you find useful or not. Your actions show you are thankful for people wanting to help in the first place.
Matt: I think it’s good to have plans, have goals, but as far as what we do and the moment where things are happening, both Brock and I, and the other guys, connected with In- The-Moment, and there are moments when we’re playing that are worth making a life out of it.
Brock: For me, it wasn’t like a decision. It seemed, like a lot of things in life, where I don’t say, “Okay, this is the choice I make,” rather, “This is the life that chose me.”
Keeping that up and showing people. It keeps fans invested.
Brock: I can see how the more successful a band gets- this happens with movie directors- you’re surrounded by too many Yes Men and fluff. You need people around you to challenge you and not let you slide, to nail it in.
Matt: Now we’ve reached that with each other, which is the hardest part. You can be surrounded by people, fans, like an incident the other night where someone wasn’t thrilled with what they did; it went across stage, took the wind out of all of our sails, and whereas a few years ago we would not have known how to address that, we went backstage before the encore and said, “No, it’s fine.” We can speak to each other in ways we couldn’t before because we’ve been through all the bullshit, the egos, the frailty.
Brock: It was more the frailty than it ever being someone thinking they were hot shit. And with the constructive critique we’ve also given compliments and positivity. It wasn’t that we were ever reserved, but it was that you didn’t want to seem too cheesy. Someone used to say, “I really liked what you did,” and we’d laugh it off. The earlier version of ourselves said, “Okay, okay.”
Matt: Now we say thank you, or, “I thought I killed that too.” [Laughs]