“I met Reid at High Sierra back in ’95 or ’96 and we hit it off because we were both the singer/ songwriters of our bands. I grabbed him at one point and we went to a quiet spot and hung out with our guitars and traded original songs back and forth,” said Billy Nershi in a recent interview with The Marquee.
“Yeah, we spent several hours just trading songs in the campground. It sounds almost like it was scripted but it did really happen,” Reid Genauer said a short time later in a separate interview.
These two musicians have covered a lot of ground since they first crossed paths in the mid ’90s. At the time, Genauer was with Strangefolk, and Nershi’s String Cheese Incident was just picking up momentum.
Fast forward to today and things have changed a bit. Genauer left Strangefolk in 2000 to pursue his MBA at Cornell University and since graduation has been focusing on his new project, The Assembly of Dust. On the other hand, Nershi is also about to reinvent himself, having recently made it public that he is leaving SCI in the fall to pursue his side project, Honkytonk Homeslice, full time.
What hasn’t changed over the years is that these two songsmiths are still at the top of their games and are still trading compliments. When asked about Reid’s latest album, Recollection, Nershi responded with an enthusiastic, “It’s great! I’ve got a copy in my car stereo right now and I plan on spinning it for a while.” Similarly, Genauer discussed his respect for Nershi and HTHS. “At the F.O.N.K. Festival this past summer, we went on right after Billy and his band. I had just watched their set from the grass and really enjoyed it and I asked him to sit in for a song with us. He did, and we had a blast,” said Genauer. “When we finished that song he said he was taking off and we said our goodbyes, but when we were through with our set he was still there and we hung out for a while.”
It was that conversation that sparked the idea for this winter’s tour. Their two bands share a mutual admiration and fondness for Americana that lends itself perfectly to the format of the tour. The first two sets will allow each band to showcase their own sound and the third set will be a collaboration between the two groups. “We will probably do a few of our songs and a few of theirs,” said Genauer. “But there will be a healthy number of mutually agreeable covers thrown in there too.”
Though Nershi and Genauer haven’t been in touch in several years, this tour will not be the first time they have shared the stage for a paying audience. Back in the summer of 1998, SCI was on the road with moe. for the Hoodoo Bash tour and Strangefolk joined up for several dates. While Nershi and Genauer only jammed together a few times that summer it was enough to peak their interest in a second shot at the collaboration.
While they are clearly looking forward to hitting the road together, both bands have been concentrating their efforts internally over the last year. Understanding the need to come together musically in order to produce a quality product, Nershi and Genauer sequestered their respective bands in rural environments to record last summer. The results, while very different, share the common denominator of American roots music.
Over the course of a couple of months in 2006, the five men of Assembly of Dust retreated to Maine to create their newest record Recollection. Holed up in a studio with their buddy Josh Pryor playing the role of engineer and co-producer, the band recorded a very rootsy album that conjures up images of Levon Helm, Rick Danko and the rest of The Band. “I am thrilled with the album,” said Genauer. “I am proud of the songcraft, and thrilled with the production value. It really feels like a succinct and purposeful artistic statement to me.”
In a similarly laid back situation 1,600 miles away, Nershi, his wife Jillian and multi-instrumentalist and singer Scott Law were bunkered in high up in Nederland, Colo. recording their debut studio effort in the hospitable environment of the Nershi’s home. “We just added a studio onto our house. In fact, the day that people started arriving I was breaking down the tile saw in the upstairs bathroom. We had literally just finished the addition and everybody showed up. We had one day to hang out and get reacquainted before we started recording,” Nershi remembered.
It will be a similar situation when HTHS hits the road with Genauer and his Assembly of Dust this month. They will jump right into things on the first night and hammer out the set of collaborations over the course of the seven-night tour. Nershi is confident that by the time they reach Colorado for the final three dates everything will be running smoothly. “Touring together gives us a chance to work out tunes together and create a sound that neither band could achieve individually,” he said. “We’ll do a little homework in advance but most of the music is learned in sound checks or during after-show jam sessions.” “It shouldn’t be much of a challenge,” agreed Genauer. “We are philosophically coming from the same place as musicians.”
Check Out Assembly of Dust and Honkytonk Homeslice if You Like:
- The Band
- Crosby, Stills and Nash
- Railroad Earth