String Cheese Incident’s Michael Kang, Keith Moseley and Michael Travis were still wrapping their heads around the weekend of July 14-16 when they caught up with Pollstar. The jam band was hot on the heels of its (49th), 50th (and 51st) performance at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado.
During the conversation, the musicians reflected upon 30 years as a band and looked ahead, with their first studio album in six years, Lend Me A Hand, due out Sept. 8.
SCI’s upcoming itinerary includes select dates on Willie Nelson’s “Outlaw Music Festival” tour in September and three nights at Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater in Austin, Texas, Nov. 2-4.
Along with Kang (guitar, mandolin, violin, vocals), Moseley (bass, vocals) and Travis (drums, vocals), the group features Jason Hann (percussion, programming), Kyle Hollingsworth (keys, vocals) and Bill Nershi (guitar, vocals). Based on reports submitted to Pollstar Boxoffice since 1999, the band has sold an average of 4,575 tickets per show with an average gross of $178,163.
Pollstar: How does it feel to hit two major milestones with 30 years as a band and 50 shows at Red Rocks?
Keith Moseley:We’re super proud of that. It’s been a long, amazing ride. In some ways, the best part is I feel like we’re at the top of our game right now. We’re writing the best tunes we’ve ever written and are playing really well together, putting out the best product we’ve ever done.
The sum of the parts is greater than any individual’s input. This String Cheese Incident thing we’ve created is a really powerful movement. It’s all about the community that we create. The weekend here in Colorado really emphasized that again for me. We host these events that bring an amazing collective of people together to celebrate life and each other. It’s become bigger than us.
How has the band evolved over the years?
Michael Travis: We started as a kinda bluegrass band with some calypso songs. Then we started changing that, getting a drum kit and playing rock ’n’ roll, then funk, then jazz. Trying to just reach as far as we could. … Since we all came from such different backgrounds, it always ended up rich and challenging to learn stuff the other band members were throwing out.
Throughout the years, SCI has formed a partnership with festivals like Electric Forest and Suwannee Hulaween, and you’ve had your own ticketing platform.
Travis: We started with a go-getter, adventurous spirit which helped influence everything. We’re all very independent that way. We picked a really smart management team that we knew could fulfill visions and we always thought to do it in the rugged individualistic way that’s kinda like the Colorado ski bum thing in a lot of ways.
What can you share about the new album?
Travis: It’s probably the highlight of our songwriting prowess as far as straight quality of songs. So, in that way, it will be a breath of fresh air for anybody who thought we were led astray by being too weird or electronic, ’cause we did go into an era where we had a lot of fun programming. … This is the total opposite of that. It’s a folk-rock album.
Moseley: [Producer Brad Cook] did a fantastic job in bringing out a real emotive quality. It feels like a living room experience with the band, and we couldn’t be more proud of it.
Experimenting with a multitude of different genres, how do you tailor those sets to your audience?
Moseley: For Electric Forest, we lean into the electronic side more, as the festival is booked that way. Then, on the Willie tour coming up, we’ll be playing a shorter time slot to a different segment of the fanbase. So we’ll lean harder into our bluegrass and Americana roots; a lot of the tunes from the new album.
What are you looking forward to about Willie’s tour?
Michael Kang: The reason why we’re doing this kind of tour, which we generally don’t do, is we ultimately wanted to hang out with him and be a part of his 90th birthday. It’s going to be totally different for us. We’ll play a 60-minute set and then hang out, watch Willie, watch the other bands who we’ve crossed paths with, but never had the chance to do multiple dates with.