By Brian Heisler
Some songwriters tap into a universal vein. Their melodies and turn-of-phrase redeem the notion of mass appeal by sheer force of talent, execution, and general vibe. Smokey Robinson had it. Paul McCartney and Paul Simon, too. A few minutes with Assembly of Dust and one comes away with the same abiding sense of grand design, which, incidentally, is the name of the opening track on AOD's spankin' new long-player, Recollection. Instantly likeable, this studio debut by the permanent line-up is also what the Brits call a grower. Put a little time into it, let it water your roots, and it continually returns your efforts with new pleasures and fresh shorthand for putting our lives into words. It's a skill singer-songwriter Reid Genauer and his primary creative partner in AOD, keyboardist-singer Nate Wilson, excel at. If the quality of one's work were the true measure of radio success, then Assembly would be a staple from coast-to-coast.
Assembly of Dust
Genauer, the former shining star of proto-jam band Strangefolk, took time out to talk with us about where he's been, where he's going, and how an Assembly of Dust can be a lot more than just loose particles in the air.
JamBase: Beginning with the past, it must have been difficult to leave your old band, Strangefolk, especially as popular as the band was. What was the turning point where you decided to leave the band?
Reid Genauer: I'm not really sure. There was just a time when it stopped being fun. There are some things in life that are worth doing even if it's not fun, like, I dunno, push-ups. But, [there are] others that are not, and music is one of them. So, that was really it for me. That was the beginning of the end, when it stopped being fun.
Reid Genauer by Greg Kessler
JamBase: What made you decide that the next point of order was to go to business school as opposed to another project?
Reid Genauer: Truthfully I was just totally lost and didn't know what to do. I didn't really have a resume. I'd never had a job and I was just looking for a "get out of jail free card." I honestly thought I was done with music just because I was so disgruntled. First of all, business school was just a trip. I was intellectually and culturally getting my ass kicked every day, a rough two years. Six months into it I was starting to write songs again and my second year there I made a record, I spent more time in the studio than I did in the classroom [laughs]. I was like the mascot. I was like the mule. As far as backgrounds were concerned, I was so out of the norm. I went from the van and bouncers and bong hits to a pretty intense course of study [at Cornell University].
Did you plan to leave the world of music for the business world when you jumped into Cornell?
The truth is I really didn't know what I was doing. I had totally lost my bearings without the band and the music had been my life for so long, I was just reeling really. I didn't have a solid course of action and it all just sort of unfolded.
Reid Genauer - AOD by T. Voggesser
Almost a shotgun approach?
Yeah, it was. To that point, the funny thing is I only applied to one school. And it was literally a shotgun. I was like, "If I don't get in, I'm obviously not going." I got in and I was like, "Oh, I guess I gotta do it."
After graduating and playing with AOD, you landed the high profile job of Director of Creative Marketing with the up-and-coming, and now huge, emusic.com. How do you convince the company that while still traveling as a rock star you could be the man for the job?
I didn't even have to convince them, they're just totally into it. Most of the folks there, my boss included, are fans of music and they just get it. It's a music company that promotes independent music and it's great. It's not like some guys who are working selling insurance and then at night strapping on their guitar. It's not like that at all. My life is just one seamless pursuit of music. I live a life of passion, both in the day and in the night.
Do you work with emusic while you are on the road?
I try to. I try and basically just scan my emails and look for either fire drills or messages from my boss. Those are pretty much the only ones that get answered. Anything with an exclamation point or my boss' name, otherwise it waits. I let everybody know when I'm gone and it works great.
AOD by Warren Churgin
In creating AOD, what was the process of pulling together a new band?
Again it wasn't all that intentional. I had booked solo gigs that I intended to play by myself. There were five of them, from DC up to Burlington or something. During that time a few things happened. The primary one was that I went and sat in with Percy Hill, Nate and [AOD bassist] John [Leccese]'s old band. Backstage, I was talking to John and he said, "When you do your solo things, I can play standup bass." And I was like, "Alright, cool." Then I was in the audience and I looked to my left and I saw [AOD guitarist] Adam Terrell, who I knew from other bands. I [told him about the] solo gigs and we actually wound up doing the first [one with] just he and I. So then we had bass, guitar, and guitar in me, and we said, "Well, we really oughta find a drummer." We went through the list of guys we knew who played drums and everybody was really good friends with Andy [Herrick], especially those guys knew him really well. So, we just gave him a shout. Everybody knew Nate. He's such a great player. So, it wasn't like we were starting a band, we were just going to do five days. It evolved from there.