This interview with guitarist Bill Nershi was done for the State of Mind June 2005 String Cheese Incident cover story. Excerpts were used for the feature‚ and now‚ for your reading pleasure‚ we present the full transcript.
Mike McKinley: Well‚ I'm really enjoying the new album. Let's talk about the process of recording.
Bill Nershi: It's the first time in many years that we've recorded at home‚ I guess since Born on the Wrong Planet was recorded in Boulder. It just helped with creating a more relaxed feeling on the record. To be able to know that you're sleeping in your own bed at night‚ see your families. Also‚ having the house we recorded in‚ we paid a little bit for it‚ but not nearly as much as a full blown recording studio where you're spending a lot of money and the whole time you kind of watching on the clock. So that was a nice thing.
It was good working with Malcolm (Burn). He really understood that we wanted this album to be about the songs‚ not about a bunch of bells and whistles. He helped us really get the essence of each song. One thing about recording this album that was different than a lot of albums was that each song was recorded in a different way. Whereas in the past‚ a lot of the albums we've recorded have been you play the song until you get a good bass and drum track and then you build on top of them by overdubbing other instruments. It's almost like a mass production style where you get the bass and drum track‚ and then you do overdubs. You might get to keep a couple of instruments if they worked out‚ but a lot of it is done with overdubs on top of rhythm tracks. And this one we tried to get as much live stuff as we could and sometimes we'd say‚ "Well‚ the song's not working like this. Why don't we do it by going out and playing guitar and mandolin and singing the song?" And then we've even added drums after we've had other tracks done. And that allowed us some flexibility to really get the personality of the songs to come out.
MM: It has that vibe‚ too. That's another thing with this‚ it feels really stripped down and raw. The sweet spots of each song really come out.
BN: Yeah‚ well we didn't use Pro Tools when we recorded. So we didn't do a lot of tricks like looping anything or moving rhythm tracks around to get them perfect. We didn't do auto-tuning on vocals or things like that. Even though it was recorded digitally the style it was recorded in was much like recording on tape. No bells and whistles.
MM: It's really kind of the opposite of the last album‚ in terms of approach. And working with Malcolm on this one as opposed to Youth on the last one.
BN: That had a bit to do with it. But one of the reasons we chose Malcolm is because we wanted to go a different direction with this album. So in effect‚ getting Malcolm to work on this album was due to the decision of the direction that we wanted to go in‚ which was a little more acoustic and a little more and a little more…you know‚ Malcolm and I talked about Music from Big Pink by The Band. We talked about how much we liked that album and how that was recorded in their house; The Big Pink was one of their houses that they recorded in. And we wanted to do something like that‚ that felt like it came from a certain time and place.
MM: You know‚ it really has that feel to it. It has a classic feel.
BN: Oh good.
MM: I was telling Keith the other day…I was on the road and was listening to it. I thought‚ this is going to be one of those albums that's going to be on every road trip. That's how I felt about it. I feel like with this one you really nailed it. Not to say you didn't on the other albums. I think all your albums are good‚ but for some reason this one in terms of getting to this point with you guys being this incredible live band and then tapping into that other art form‚ which is putting out a killer studio album…
BN: Exactly! We have a ton of experience playing live but we don't have tons of experience in the studio. We're still trying to learn how to utilize that environment. Yeah‚ I like recording now. And I think we could get good at it. But it's not something that just happens first time or even second or third or fourth sometimes. It takes some getting used to‚ and the fact that it is a totally different medium.
MM: Talking about the growth process‚ it's interesting about you guys that there's no leader in the band. So on this new album everybody contributes songs. There's a lot of collaboration with outside writers‚ who you individually went off and worked with. I know you have that in the live setting a lot‚ too. Like this summer you're doing this tour with all these different bands. And I imagine there will be a lot of collaboration and jamming going on.
BN: Yeah‚ I think there's going to be a lot of time for jamming. There's also going to be a lot of time for hanging out when we're not playing‚ and finding other bands who are not playing at the moment and maybe having an hour or two to sit down with different musicians and just do some playing‚ picking‚ hanging out‚ kind of work-shopping together a bit. I think that's the thing that could really make this summer tour a real great‚ creative place to be.
MM: I guess it's like this with any art form but…I've heard Neil Young say this‚ and I know it's prevalent with jazz musicians‚ that the key to growing is to go out there and collaborate and do something different. With your band‚ you're bringing different people to work with. And you're doing this thing with Drew (Emmitt). And everybody seems to be doing these projects and then you regroup. And it expands the musical palette a bit.
BN: Yeah‚ right. It's a great way to learn‚ just being able to do a tour with other musicians that you're not necessarily used to playing with. It's a great way to learn how other musicians do what they do and what makes it work for them musically. I'm learning a lot out here with Drew and Matt Flinner‚ and Ross Martin's out now-who just got done playing with Kyle's tour. Kyle just finished a record. Never Odd Or Even. Which I guess is a palindrome. Are you aware of that?