Written By: Chad Berndtson
:: The Art Of The Sit-In - Al Schnier::
Welcome to another edition of The Art of the Sit-In, where we mix it up with the
scene’s most adventurous
players and hear some stories from the road. Be sure to check out our recent discussions
with Roosevelt Collier, Luther Dickinson, Matt Butler and Nikki Glaspie – you’ll be glad you did!
Al Schnier wears “jamming” well, whether with moe. or another of his
Floodwood to regular
appearances with the Everyone Orchestra. He’s been at it a long time – one of the jam
world’s more protean players,
and not always recognized as such in a scene with so many top-gun guitarists.
[Photo by Jay Blakesberg]
Al’s spent time focused on musical pursuits outside of moe., and given moe.’s long,
remarkable arc, you can’t blame
him or any of his bandmates for poking around elsewhere. And yet, moe. itself hasn’t much
through periods both fruitful and stagnant, and now in 2013 charging to the end of one of
its most consistently
hard-hitting tour years in ages.
Let’s hear from Al on what’s getting him going these days.
JAMBASE: You’ve played with a lot of people over the past three months,
in a lot of
AL SCHNIER: I have to think about that – it’s hard because when you play
much as we do, it’s hard
to remember back three days let alone three months. The thing that’s freshest in my mind –
one of the most recent
things I got to do – was an Everyone Orchestra gig. I’ve done a few, but this one was at
Harvest Festival in Arkansas.
It was a pretty unique one.
I’ve been doing EO for like five years now and this one brought together a lot of people
who have done it with some
people that haven’t. It was really cool. Mike Dillon was there and Carly [Meyers] from
Mike’s band, and Jeff Austin.
Jeff, it’s really funny, I brought up at some point that he and I have known each other
for like 14 years now – you
forget how much history you have sometimes when you see people like Jeff all over the
place and you all just keep
But this EO gig was really cool because I also met a few different players from Elephant
Revival. I’d played with
Bridget [Law] earlier this summer and I got to meet the rest of the group and what a
pleasure to play with them.
Super-talented and they bring a really unique voice to what they do.
I think they were nervous – you could see it on their faces – but you could also see how
excited they were and that’s
part of what makes something like EO work.
JAMBASE: What is it about EO that’s particularly appealing to you? I
Matt Butler recently and he
called out you specifically as a collaborator he knows he’ll keep inviting back and that
obviously has to go both ways
AS: You walk into it with kind of no expectations and no pressure, and
so much fun. It’s a great
creative outlet without the trappings of having to do any homework – you don’t show up
with anything arranged or
pre-configured. It’s interesting, it’s almost like the sum-total of all the work you do in
your other creative outlets,
and you just get to show up and bring that and play.
Plus, it’s always with new people. I remember we did an EO at Summer Camp and Mike and
Carly were there. I didn’t
know Carly then and had never met her before. I remember meeting before the show and I
recognized everyone there
and then I’m scanning the faces and it’s, you know, who’s the nerdy librarian girl?
Before I know it she’s out there wailing on trombone and doing her thing. By the time she
got to moe.down, we’d
already played together a bunch over the course of the summer. So that’s why EO is so cool
because you make those
JAMBASE: Let’s talk about moe. You guys have hit so many milestones as a
it’s always worth
noting that you’ve stayed together – your core is intact – and that it’s a short list of
your jam-scene peers who made
it and an even shorter list of those who didn’t have to go through major disruptions to
make it. What’s motivating
you guys to keep doing this?
AS: Survival! [laughs] No, you know, all those things you said are true.
grateful. I heard some
data on the current job market and the economy the other day about how much has changed
since our parents’
generation about holding a job. The average job tenure at this point they were saying is
like 5.3 years now, versus
before when people might change jobs every 10 to 15 years. I don’t know how much of that
is accurate but, you
know, look around, I’ve had the same job for 24 years.
We are so ridiculously lucky in moe. This is like winning the lottery when you think about
the odds of us being able to
pull that off. So when you ask what our goal is or what we’re hoping to achieve, it’s
really just that I’m happy we get
to do this and that we just get to continue to do this.
Artistically or creatively, we’ve been so lucky to play with so many of our heroes. We are
working on a new record
right now, and it’s one of the easiest records we’ve ever made. It’s interesting to me
that that would happen at this
point in our careers, because sometimes we’re all showing up at different times to record
and we can’t always see
each other like we used to.
JAMBASE: What do you think is making it so easy?
AS: Well, we’ve figured out how to work together, that’s true. We know
group dynamic is, and that
goes a long way in this organization. We’re old friends – brothers – but we also know how
to get along with each
other. We’ve been together so long that you have to be connected that way or else you
wouldn’t be doing this.