Interview | Steve Molitz Reboots Particle

Written By: Chad Berndtson

:: Interview - Steve Molitz ::

It’s been the better part of a decade since Particle could be considered a full- time band, but as keyboardist and scene mainstay Steve Molitz first revealed to JamBase back in December, the jamtronica powerhouse is back in business, albeit with a revamped lineup.

Molitz is the remaining founding member, and joining him for Particle’s first national tour since more or less 2007 are later-era guitarist/singer Ben Combe and two new Particle members, drummer Brandon Draper and bassist Clay Parnell. Both Darren Pujalet and Eric Gould remain connected to the band but are focusing on family and careers – and give the new lineup their full blessing, Molitz says.

The foursome has a whole lot planned – they’ve been writing new songs with an album planned and lots of multimedia on the way. And as they head out on tour – which began this week in the Northeast – they’re taking along a full lighting rig, complete with 24 lasers and lights manned by LD and Atmosphere veteran Wil Simon. Molitz also tells us that every show will be available for download via the day after the performance.

Molitz took a break from band rehearsals in Connecticut last week to talk to JamBase about the past, present and future of the band and also other projects he’s working on.

JAMBASE: So how’s it going with the new lineup?

STEVE MOLITZ: Rehearsals have been incredible so far. I came into this with a really open mind and no expectations, because I wanted to give Clay and Brandon a chance to get comfortable. But they came out of the gate swinging, man. It’s just such a cool and exciting thing we’ve got going, and even within the first few days we’ve been here, we’ve written 3 or 4 new tunes on top of the dozen we’d written toward the end of last year. On top of that, we’re going through the old material and revitalizing it to match the strengths of this lineup.

I think we have a good combination of staying true to the past while making it fit where we are now. The band is a collective again – really, it’s the platform of Particle material and the Particle style with new and amazingly talented musicians. I’m having a blast and we’re laughing like every minute.

[Particle Rehearses Untitled New Song]

JAMBASE: It sounds like you’ve got a foundation again. Do you think it’s accurate to say it’s been a while since Particle could be considered active, even though you have played handfuls of shows in the last few years?

SM: I think so. We never quite said we were taking a break, but we went from playing 150 shows a year to playing 50 shows a year to playing 20 shows a year, and less. We never quite went away, but obviously that’s a big drop-off, and if we still played festivals and regional weekends over the last five years or so, we never got together for big tours because we had hit a phase in our lives where we were interested in pursuing other things: starting families or other musical projects.

I’ve had some amazing adventures, everything from working with Phil [Lesh] and Rich Robinson to this ongoing work scoring video games. I learned a lot and spent a lot of time doing some discovery. I don’t know, why this year to come back with a big tour? Sometimes things just need to blossom.

JAMBASE: So no particular reason why 2014 was the year for Particle to really come back?

SM: Well, this seed was planted two or three years ago. We started talking about getting out and touring again and that just wasn’t possible at the time. Darren and Eric were both getting married at the time. Both are still playing a lot of music regionally but neither is at a point where he can commit to a full- time tour, so the 20 shows a year we’ve been doing are all we can each make time for.

In the past year, though, I just really started to miss this music and the fans – I felt it in my heart and in my bones. The band has so much history and I think I just wanted to reconnect with this music. So it wasn’t that 2014 was a target year. It took some time to discuss and talk with Eric and Darren and Ben about wanting to record a new album and get back out there. We tried for a while to figure out a way for the founding members to do it, but when Darren and Eric realized it’s just not possible, they gave me their blessing to form a new rhythm section that would be able to tour on a much bigger level.

It took a while to line it up, and I’m so excited and thankful that we have all the elements in place now. This? This is a really exciting time.

[Photo By: Robert Chapman]

JAMBASE: Was that decision to go forward without Eric and Darren an awkward conversation? Did they push back at all?

SM: No, really, not at all. They’re so supportive. They want to hear Particle music being played, I mean, it’s in all over our DNA. It’s a bittersweet thing, I get what you’re asking. I give them a lot of credit for having the sensitivity and maturity to make a very difficult decision. It’s like that old phrase, if you love something, set it free, right?

I think they realized the best way for Particle to shine was to me to move forward with it. They want, and need, to be at home right now. They have new families. It’s a beautiful next step in their lives and they committed to me that they want to see Particle carry on. We’re of course going to keep talking and jam together when we can. Darren’s in L.A., he’ll probably be with us there, and in Boston, Gould will play with us the first set.

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