MM: Yeah, the youthful exuberance kind of thing.
Al: Yeah, so many bands come to mind. R.E.M. comes to mind. The Clash comes to mind. The Dead. Where so many of those phases, those youthful phases, are great to go back and revisit. And a lot of it-again, this comes back to the fan ownership thing, it's just a point of reference-that point where any particular fan discovers a band and then gets it and then really gets into the band, I think has a life of its own. And then that subjective experience also sort of has something to do with their perception of how the band is doing. It's not to say, yeah, we may very well have peaked in '98, and we're just milking this thing for all it's worth. (laughter) However, maybe their tastes have changed, too. Or they didn't change with ours. Just because things have changed, does that mean that they're better or worse? Not necessarily. I'd like to think that our change has been for the better, and we've become better players, better listeners. One of the things about moe. is, and this has always been just been a cardinal rule for us for years, is that the segues between songs, the true improvisation from one song to the next, is never discussed. The only thing we discuss before we get onstage is at what point we're going to jump off and where we're supposed to land. And everything that happens in between we don't discuss. And we never ever onstage direct anybody other than musically. I wouldn't turn to Vinnie and tell him to start doing something. I would never tell the entire band, "Follow my lead; here we go." We need to communicate musically with one another. And it's something that we've really strived to achieve. The real challenge is pulling that stuff off smoothly without having the train wrecks. Moving together as a five-headed beast, trying to get to from point A to point B by way of a new and interesting path and still having it sound cohesive, as if we had planned it. That's always been the biggest challenge for us. And it's going to be a lot different than, say, a band like Umphrey's McGee who takes the complete opposite approach to that, in that they not only script out those things, but they also have a variety of signals and things where they do tell each other, "OK, on the next beat we're going to do this" or whatever. And everything is completely planned out. And it's great, it works for them, but it's the antithesis of what we're trying to accomplish with improvisation. What we're going for is more like the Coltrane modalities or even like Bitches Brew. Somewhere in there. Not that we've consciously sat down and said we need to do this here, but it's just the direction that we've gone. And it seems to work for us. The drawback of that is you have to be very wary of the endless noodling. The great debate of jam bands. You don't want anything to become too excessive. You don't want anything to sound like it suddenly changed gears. Nothing should sound forced; it should all be natural and organic. Sometimes it takes time, and it requires a little bit of patience. If you're changing keys or tempos or the feel, the time signature or whatever, making that stuff a seamless blend…I don't know-a lot of it is just chance.
MM: I think that's a really important part of the game. As a listener, you're going to realize that if the band is going to take risk and take chances, they might fall flat on their faces, and you're going to get the noodle. Actually, at moe.down-kind of going back to the beginning of the conversation, where the music industry goes through these different periods, and it kind of goes through that with jamming as well-a lot of these jambands I see, it seems like they've got the formula down to make it interesting. And so to me it's lost a lot of the essence of what it's about. And so I remember at moe.down being like, "They're noodling. Great! I miss noodling." It was this funny thing where they're back and moe.'s taking chances. And something may not be working right now…
Al: And that's the thing: that's always what we've done. And you know what? We could script it out. We could rehearse our transitions. I remember doing a tour with String Cheese, and they were rehearsing a segue between two songs. And I just thought it was a really interesting way to approach it. Again, it's just a different approach. Every band does it differently. Like I said, Umphrey's has their method, and it works great for them. The cool thing is that while the approach is almost 180 degrees between moe. and Umphrey's, there are so many similarities between the bands. We tend to share a lot of the same fans. It's just that we have a more organic approach and theirs is a much more controlled approach to the same thing. Kind of like the control and chaos. Just interesting. And then you've got a guy like Keller Williams who can kind of do both, because he doesn't need to communicate with anyone other than the audience. So it's interesting. Or you take a band like the Disco Biscuits. I think they have a great approach, where they're constantly taking pieces of their songs and they sort of plan out this whole sequence for the night where the bits and pieces of songs are going to come and go. And sometimes in a whole night you don't even hear a whole song and you have to see them three days later to catch the rest. You really have to be well-versed in Bisco to get what's going on. There's a lot to appreciate, but to get all of that, the fact that you only heard the end of a song that they are going to finish with the beginning two days later. You have to be really into it. Great band. Again, a different method.