F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously said, "There are no second acts in American lives." He obviously never met The String Cheese Incident.
For most bands, a run of five or 10 years is a gift—to have the experience of making music with your friends for any length of time is something to savor. But The String Cheese Incident kept it going for nearly 15, building a massive, devoted fan base eager to follow the band throughout an entire tour and collect recordings of each of the band's concerts, or "Incidents," as they called them. Breaking away from the path taken by the vast majority of artists, SCI drew upon their pioneering spirit to construct their own business model, effectively rethinking the manner in which artists interact with their fans and redefining the live music experience by absorbing multiple artistic concepts into their total presentation.
In 2007, after a decade and a half of constant creativity, The String Cheese Incident decided they needed to reassess and refuel: They said their goodbyes, took a couple of years off to recharge their creative batteries, and then picked up where they left off—seamlessly injecting new energy and artistic elements into the mix. Today's SCI—Bill Nershi, guitars and vocals; Michael Kang, mandolin, violin, guitar and vocals; Keith Moseley, bass; Michael Travis, drums and percussion; Kyle Hollingsworth, keyboards and accordion; and Jason Hann, percussion—fuses together the most durable and inviting aspects of the jam band world with cutting edge electronics and the multi-sourced Americana on which they were founded. "Keeping the circular energy going" is how co-founder Nershi puts it, and as it turns out, that circle is not yet complete.
But then, in 2009, they gravitated back toward the mothership, primed and ready to give it a new go. A few gigs to test the water, and not only were they feeling it again, they were delighted by the freshness of it. All of that time apart had allowed them to reimagine The String Cheese Incident not only as a well established entity with a history but as something that could still be built upon. Taking it at a slower pace, String Cheese was back, and by late 2011 they were ready for the road again, hitting a number of East Coast venues for the first time since they'd said their farewells four years earlier.
"I'm really excited," says Moseley. "A big part of what we used to be was a touring band and getting out there and trying to get our mojo working night after night. I'm really looking forward to the consistency of playing a bunch of shows in a row and hanging out together and just being completely focused on being a great working band."
SCI has been working on new material since regrouping, and has launched a new series of archival recordings, the Rhythm of the Road series: The first entry, the three-disc Vol. 1: Incident in Atlanta, 11.17.00, was released in 2010. There are also tentative plans to return to the studio, although no one is quite sure yet what form it will take or how it will find its way to fans. "We've been a live band," says Moseley, "but that's not to say that it wouldn't be a fun experience to be in the studio again. To me that appeal is getting greater and greater, the idea of crafting a well-scripted, beautiful piece of work as an album."
In some ways, even while they head into the uncharted waters of the future, the musicians of The String Cheese Incident take comfort in the familiarity. Says Moseley, "We're bringing to it now experience, knowledge and the swagger of how to go out there and fuckin' rock. I know we can raise the energy and the vibe with the music to a level that still hits people in the gut and makes them want to move. We're opening the book to the next chapter. I'm excited by the renewed interest and commitment to the band by everybody and making some music together and stringing some shows together. I think it's gonna be really good for us and really powerful."
"We feel like we want to go out and play and get into a nightly flow and be creative again and re-immerse ourselves," says Kang. "It feels like we've got our creative juices lit again, and part of it is because everybody's had a chance to go in their own creative direction and do whatever they wanted to do. So coming back together and having this kind of group-melded, not single-minded, mentality is actually doable. We're still playing true to the kind of music that excites us."
Adds Nershi, "When we started as a band we were all avid skiers and mountain bikers and looking for adrenaline rushes is what we got off on back then. Now it's different but it's still all about getting that adrenaline rush. Now when we walk out on stage and it's a packed house and everybody's screaming, it's the same result, that adrenaline rush. That's what gets us off. We want to just continue with that."