Assembly of Dust (also known as AOD) is a local rock band formed by Strangefolk frontman Reid Genauer. Genauer and Assembly of Dust are slotted to play the Granite State Music Festival occurring in Concord NH at the Everett Arena on June 23rd to 24th. We got a chance to sit down with Reid Genauer and ask him a few questions about his band, music and life.
Your Band: Thanks Reid for taking the time to chat with us. What's the origin of the Name Assembly Of Dust?
Reid Genauer: I wanted something that sounded a little scary and sort of mysterious. In some ways its a counterpoint to our music which is generally melodic and light hearted. I liked the dissonance. No deeper meaning other than a cool "assemblage" of words.
YB: *Who are your major music influences?
RG: CSN, Neil Young, The Band, Steely Dan, Doc Watson, Grateful Dead, Alman Brothers, Paul Simon, Beatles,
YB: *The band is an assemblage of great musicians from various other
bands. How did you all meet? What inspired you to make music together?
RG:We met from just gigging together over the years. In the 90s there was a really strong connection between the Sea Coast and Burlington VT. I was living in Burlington. The rest of the initial line up were all in and around the Sea Coast. I think we felt inspired to make music together in part because we shared similar musical influences and a similar vision for what a band could sound like and in part because we were friends and enjoyed hanging out.
YB:*What can you tell me about your instruments and gear?
RG: Adam Terrell is really the most gear oriented. I can't really speak for him with any authority but I know most of the decisions he makes in terms of amps. Pedals and guitars is based around the range of tones and textures he wants to use in his playing. Like most guitarists he is never 100% satisfied and continues to probe the universe for new musical spice. The good news is he is such a great guitarist he sounds good playing just about anything.
For me I had spend years trying to figure out how to get a good live acoustic sound. Its one thing to accomplish if you are playing solo. Its much harder in the context of a band - with bass, drums and a lot of competition in terms of volume and frequencies. Feedback was always a big issue. For years I used a pair of Gibson, Chet Atkins model, solid body acoustic guitars. The great thing about them is they are almost indestructible (most acoustics are more fragile) and since they are solid body you can turn them up to 11. The down side is they don't sound 100% acoustic. As in ear monitor technology got better and better I was able to start using a real acoustic guitar because I could keep the stage volume lower, avoiding feedback. So these days I use a Martin D35. Its a warm sounding rich guitar.
YB:*Could you briefly describe your music-making process?
RG: For me the first piece of the puzzle is to find a cool chord progression. I try and find one cool voicing of a chord or some interesting change and to a lesser extent time signature that I haven't used 100 times. One of the reasons I love collaborating is that I find this first aspect to be a challenge and often times the input from someone else who is more times than not more sophisticated than I am musically is a great place to start. From there I start to flesh out the parts chorus, verse, bridge and then simultaneously play around with melody, lyrics and cadence. I almost always settle on some aspect of the song - say the Chorus and then try and construct a storyline around the theme of that segment. Its almost like reverse engineering or solving a puzzle. I get a creative buzz when I feel like I've solved for X. The two other broad segments of the process are sharing it with the band and collectively working to nail down a feel, tempo and such. In almost every case each musician then writes a part that is informed by the feel of the song. Its cool to see the song morph. Sometime someone will say what if we made this chord minor or added a passing note or something. These little tweaks and details can make or break a tune. Lastly playing it live is the ultimate test. Its like putting a baby into the jungle and seeing how it evolves. In some freakish way it really is like raising a child - you intentionally and unintentionally instill in them certain values, aesthetics, physique, personality etc but those combination of variables aren't really tested until the child goes to day care or school and has to react to a ton of data flying around. A song is in some ways a similar vessel - you try and remind it to stand up straight and look people in the eye but you don't really know how its going to behave until you’re on the stage or in the studio.
YB: *What has been your biggest challenge as a musician?
RG: The balance between my personal life and my musical life. Music is a demanding mistress.
YB: *Do you have any strange or personal rituals that you do before a show?
RG: Besides sacrificing bats I would say our routine is fairly standard, try and get in a good head space, review the tunes for any particularly challenging segments. Its really about getting settled and finding the right blend of adrenaline, confidence and inner calm.
YB: *What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands or
are in bands? have any secret tips? How to get along and not kill the drummer.
RG: In terms of secret tips I don't think there are any. I would say the most crucial things are:
• Finding a vision or a voice in terms of the kind of music you want to make
• To the extent that that vision includes an ensemble , finding people who subscribe to a similar vision and have the ability to execute against it. Note: I think shared vision is more important than raw ability
• Play as often as you humanly can. Rehearse, live shows and studio.
The last thing you hit on is in some ways the most crucial in terms of having a successful band. You need to learn how to get along. Its incredibly challenging. By way of example 50% of all marriages fail. Try being married to 4 other grown men. It takes an exceptional amount of cooperation, collaboration, empathy, tolerance and maturity. Unfortunately most bands to really think about that stuff until the beast has reared its ugly head. One thing that is great about AOD is we all came out of other bands so we were all very sensitive to these things going in. It has served us well and 10 years later we still enjoy each other’s company and the music we make in that company.
YB: *Are there any local bands in New England that you are really enjoying
RG: It depends on how you define a local band. We are great friends with The Ryan Montbleau band who are from Boston, they are great. I love Ray Lomontagne - from Maine. Martin Sexton from Northampton. I love the Brew who are also "local". Grace Potter and the Nocternals are from Burlington. "The Phish". Still lots of great music coming out of New England!
YB: *You got to work with Richie Havens along with a ton of other great
musicians on the album Some Assembly Required. Was it hard going into
a studio and working with someone, that you may have not worked with
before, and make a musical connection?
RG: It was a fantastic experience. Definitely an unusual one. For one thing almost of the artists we had on the record are people I am a fan of. So there was this interesting challenge of trying to "produce" someone who you felt kind of awe inspired by. Also most of the artists did it as a favor so its hard to be demanding about how they approached it. I think the things that made it work really well is that I chose songs that I thought suited each artist. They were all very open to some direction in terms of how to approach it and then Josh Pryor who engineered the record did an amazing job of making it all feel coherent and contextually valid. He deserves a ton of credit
YB*Your band is sometimes lumped into the “Jam Band scene”. Do you take
offence to this classification or do you feel it is accurate.
RG:I don't take offense. The roots of the band are definitely planted in that scene. The music has long instrumental and improvisational segments so its not an unfair assertion. If anything I think on occasion the band and our potential audience is done a disservice if that is all that is said. Its like saying Pasta is Pasta. When in fact its the texture, the sauce and the accompanying dishes that defines pasta. So yes we are Jamband Pasta with a songwriter sauce and a side of Americana.
YB: *A large number of live shows are available for download across the
internet for free. Some bands take this approach while others allow no
taping, no video, no picture etc. Could you explain a little as to why
you have decided to allow the trading of your shows?
RG: The more the merrier. We make music to share and the more it is shared the happier we are.
Thanks Reid For taking the time to answer our questions. We look forward to seeing you at the Granite State Music festival.
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