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INTERVIEW: Kyle Hollingsworth talks new album, beer, Lauryn Hill Incident and more


Yesterday I had the opportunity to chat with Kyle Hollingsworth from the String Cheese Incident at Electric Forest. We talked about his upcoming solo album Speed of Life, beer, The Lauryn Hill Incident, and much more.

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So you have a new album coming out with some incredible special guests, including The Motet, Dominic Lalli (Big Gigantic), and more. What can you tell me about the album?

Kyle: So it’s called Speed of Life. It has Dominic, Bonnie from Elephant Revival and many other special guests. So the album is a lot of my songs – all my songs – but it has a little bit of a twist as far as having lots of special guests. The album is a little fuller than my last few albums, I’ve had two solo albums out. So it goes from like a funk world to the dance world, like from a Billy Preston to LCD Soundsystem.

Kind of like how Nile Rogers does, especially now with Chic playing out and doing the Daft Punk album recently?

I’d say mines a little more organic. So fans of String Cheese and fans of my work will know half of the material as far as being very similar to something that I would be doing. But also, I’m breaking out a little bit outside of that and there’s some live disco on there. Of course playing with the guys from The Motet, you can’t go wrong.

No, not at all.

So I just kind of wrote these tunes and I went in to the studio and just said, “Here’s the basic form…rage!” And they raged it and I cut it up at home and so it’s a really nice mixture of funk meets dance music.

That’s awesome. So you said “live disco” earlier. We’ve been coming here the past few years and this year seems to have a lot of the live disco, and it seems like the jam and electronic worlds, at Electric Forest, are starting to want the same thing.

It’s funny you should say that. I was reading the David Byrne book, How Music Works and he was talking about collaboration and he was talking a little bit about the electronica scene. For me, how live musicians relate to a DJ is I feel like you get a little bit more spontaneity (with a live band). To me, you get a little more visual and physical energy off the stage when you get to see Garrett Sayers (he’s the bass player from The Motet) or Kang or Billy dig in to a solo and go to places that, perhaps, a DJ may not go, for example, if he’s already pre-programmed something that’s going to be the height of the jam.

I think live musicians can take it to the next level. Something that relates to all music, specifically around “live disco” for me, its about bringing the dance vibe but also keeping it super organic.

Are there any acts that would fall under that category that you’re excited to see here?

I’m excited to see Cut Copy of course. Honestly, you can quote me, I’m not quite sure who’s here [laughs]. But I’m excited to see a little bit more and I’m excited to kind of have my mind blown at Electric Forest.

That’s refreshing to hear from such a seasoned musician that you’re still looking forward to getting your mind blown.

Dude it’s all about continuing to grow musically, collaborating with as many musicians as you can and becoming a better person and a better musician.

So I’m at a big fan of the String Cheese Incident, and you guys just had some awesome shows at DelFest and Huck Finn, doing some great bluegrass stuff. Now you’re here and the vibe and crowd are completely different, how does it feel to be a part of the one band that can do that?

Let’s talk about that. I did a little thing this morning. I walked around the crowd early this morning and I think for me where I see the connection between lets say a bluegrass festival and Electric Forest is that the family and the sense of community is very similar. Granted that the bluegrass crowd might be a little older by a generation or two. But I think the consciousness is the same. I think people are very much about sharing the music and getting out there and being a part of the scene.

I talked to many people and one group was so psyched to be here and be a part of the whole thing. And there’s people who may not be in to bluegrass but are in to what this scene brings. Especially as you look around…

You guys are doing the Lauryn Hill Incident this weekend, which seemed a little out of left field when it was announced. I have to ask: how did that come together?

To be honest, management brought us the idea. We were fans of Lauryn Hill to some degree, but we had never thought about putting us together.

When we did the Zac Brown Incident last year it kind of seemed like a natural mix. But we’re always about pushing the envelope! String Cheese is always about, like the whole conversation has been about, putting ourselves out of the element. I’m a little bit uncomfortable, but it’s gonna rock. So speaking to that comfort zone, we’ll see how that goes. There’s a little bit of us figuring out what’s going to happen fairly last minute with her. So we’re going to kind of just roll with it and I think that’s part of what music is and that’s a little bit about what people come to expect with String Cheese, taking that risk.

Do you think having to put so much emphasis on the Lauryn Hill Incident is going to take away from other sets?

Dude, that’s very thoughtful. We had a six-hour rehearsal today and thought about that. But put your mind at ease: no. We’ve done a lot pre-homework the past two weeks. For us, we’re here to be String Cheese and Lauryn Hill is a great part of what we’re going to do. But it’s just one of the avenues we’re going to go down.

I like to hear that. It seems like you guys have become really comfortable going down those avenues this year.

I have to give credit to Billy Nershi for what happened at Huck Finn. We did two full sets every night, first sets were all acoustic. Billy Nershi was like ‘We should do all acoustic’ and some of us were like ‘Well maybe we can do like half acoustic / half electric’ and I think making the choice to commit to trying something different, once again, is probably the best thing to do. Whenever you’re a little bit uncomfortable, you should definitely do it!

I think that’s definitely something that’s keeping the shows fun.

Right. If it’s against your soul and you’re feeling like that’s the wrong thing to do with your heart, no. But if you’re out of comfort zone: life is short. Take it!

Let’s switch to beer. The Brewru experience is happening tomorrow [today, date of publishing]. What can we expect from that?

The Brewru experience is something I’ve been doing every year and it’s a celebration of brewing and a celebration of music. Specifically I talk about the brewing process and the creativity that goes in to that and, in my opinion, the art-form that that is. And also about live jamming and improvisation and improvisation as it relates to brewing and how it relates to music.

We’re talking about balance in beer and balance on stage. Talking about how it can be the best Warren Haynes solo in the whole world, but if it’s ten times louder than the band than it isn’t the best mix. The same way as you’re enjoying your beer, you have to find the right balance. It can be hop-heavy beer, it can be “guitar”-driven beer, but it has to have a balance.

I have me, the guys from Bell’s, Joel from Umphrey’s and we’ll have a short little convo about all of that.

Don’t you have a new beer coming out?

So the way my new album was rolling and we were trying to figure out a hook. The hook we figured out is that we’re going to do three national beers. One in the west coast, one in the midwest and one on the east coast, in fact they’re national, so most of them are available everywhere. Every beer comes with a separate single. So you can scan the beer and get the free single.

So the first beer that came out was the Stone, which is a great brewery out of the west coast, and I made that with Alice Cooper’s guitar player. We got together and had a huge jam session at Stone and then we made a beer. It was awesome. So it was all about the music and the beer coming together for me.

That’s incredible. So will you talk about that experience tomorrow [at the Brewru Experience]?

Shit – shit! Thank you! I will talk about that.

Then Hoopla came out and I made another track for that and each track is specific to the beer. And then the third track is my kind of LCD pop song and it’s coming out with Cigar City out of Florida.

Dude, I’m from Florida, just 45 minutes south of the brewery. We’re really proud of them.

Yeah so it’s coming out in bottles and it’s called the Speed of Life IPA. So every beer you can get and it all culminates in this CD release party / brew festival I do every year. It’s a big brew festival in August where I will put all the beers on tap plus 30 others, and we’ll have a CD release party.

Wow. That sounds like the kind of CD release party I want to attend.

Yeah. We should a listening party and get every who’s listening those three beers. So the first beer went to 11, it was the rock beer. The first track, “Racer X,” which was a super-high-energy funk number, so I figured that’s good for the double IPA. The feel-good afro-track, the Paul Simon-y track, was for the second beer, Hoopla. And the third track is more of a dance track, which is good for the Florida, in-your-face, beer we’re making.

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