There’s less than one month left until The String Cheese Incident embarks on their summer tour, which kicks off at Electric Forest in late June before hitting longtime missed East Coast venues, including two nights in both Asheville and Atlanta for July Fourth weekend’s Independence Incidents as well as Merriweather and Portsmouth pavilions.
Need something to feed your excitement while you wait? We’ve got you covered! We were lucky enough to catch SCI keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth over the phone for a few words on The String Cheese Incident, craft beer, and his wardrobe.
The Poke Around: Warm up question – if you were stuck on an island and could only bring one type of beer to drink and one album to listen to, what would they be?
Kyle Hollingsworth: Nice! That’s a good question. It’s actually a harder question. You should put that at the end! It’d have to be an album that spans the test of time, but also is really intriguing sonically so you wouldn’t get bored of it because, you know how it is. Your albums kind of change. You have favorites. I’d probably bring an IPA. Is it a really hot deserted island, or is it colder?
TPA: Perfect weather all the time!
Hollingsworth: Okay, it would be some sort of IPA. That would be the style of the beer. And the music would have to go with the beer, which is very important. So IPAs are very complex. It would need to have complexity, so probably Remain in Light by the Talking Heads.
TPA: Let’s talk about String Cheese’s summer tour. It’s been a few years since SCI played in Asheville and Merriweather, and this is a first for Portsmouth as far as I know. Needless to say, everyone over here is super excited. What are you most looking forward to? And specifically, what can we expect at the Fourth of July weekend Independence Incidents?
Hollingsworth: The first thing is that I grew up in Baltimore. I’m a Baltimore native. So, I’ve seen many shows – Jerry Garcia Band, and the very first H.O.R.D.E tour – all at Merriweather. It was amazing, I love that venue. I’m super psyched to come back to that venue because it’s always great to come home, but also I have all those great memories. I remember sitting on that back lawn watching – who was on that first H.O.R.D.E.? Phish, Widespread, Bela Fleck, Spin Doctors – it was great. So I’m excited to get home. And then Fourth of July. Asheville is a huge beer town, so I’m trying to put on a beer festival before our event. We’re working on it right now. There are a lot of t’s to be crossed, but we’re working on it. So I’m excited about Asheville. Great town, reminds me a little bit of Boulder with the mountains there, but also with the craft beer aspect. And then working our way through to Atlanta. You know, it’s been a minute since we’ve played some of these East coast venues. I’m excited to go back and get some of that great East coast rowdy energy.
TPA: It’s been over 20 years since you started playing as The String Cheese Incident. What’s the trick for you guys as far as still being able to play so well together after all that time?
Hollingsworth: I would think space in your music and space from each other, sometimes. Letting it happen, and not just in our relationships with each other. You know, after all these years you kinda have to learn how to work together. But also, letting it happen.
TPA: Cheese has a lot of different sounds. You’ve got the bluegrass element, a little bit of funk, some jam, the dubby, EOTO-esque sound. And, what I love about you guys is that you can be totally goofy, but you can also be kind of serious and deep. How do you all decide what kind of mood you’re in for different shows?
Hollingsworth: (Laughs) That’s where you’re (like I said) letting it happen. A little bit of that, and a little bit of finding out what the band is feeling at that moment. You know, we make setlists, but also night to night as a collective we think about the arc of the whole show, and how we’re feeling that day. It’s about the atmosphere of how the band is mutating and working together. I think a lot of times your question would relate more to the jam aspect of what we do. A song can be the funk, but when the long jam happens is when you can see the mood of the band. That’s when you can see the pulse of what’s happening and how we’re all working together. Some nights it works great together, some nights it doesn’t. Certain nights we’ve had to get a little darker. Our jam might get a little heavier, and some nights are like the last day of Hulaween last year. It was sunny, and everyone was all in the same neutral spot, and the set reflected that.
TPA: What’s your favorite festival to play?
Hollingsworth: That’s a tough one. There’s so many good ones. Honestly, I love the beauty and the surroundings at Electric Forest. Musically, it’s not exactly what I’d go for all the time, but I love the community. As for venue by itself, of course it’d have to be Red Rocks.
TPA: So, it’s no secret that you’re a beer guy almost as much as you are a music guy. You’ve been spreading a message about how beer and music work together. You’ve made appearances at beer festivals, held your own beer festivals, and your beer Hoopla even has a QR code that links to one of your songs. My question is: we all know that beer can make music better, but how does music make beer better?
Hollingsworth: I like that! First thing that comes to mind is Grateful Dead parking lots in 1986 (laughs). I do think there’s something to be said about community around music that you love, being in a great zone and in a happy state. Drinking a beverage enhances that. I think that music can add to the drinking experience and the community itself.
TPA: Are there any East Coast breweries that have caught your eye?
Hollingsworth: Yes, there are some great ones. DC Brau, right now. But I’m always open to free samples (laughs). I’m always open to expanding my taste buds.
TPA: I’ve heard that the birth of your daughter inspired the song “Can’t Wait Another Day” a few years back. As your kids have grown a little bit older, do they continue to influence your music?
Hollingsworth: Yes, on different levels. My youngest daughter named the song “Rosie”. We used to go to the Butterfly Pavilion [an insect zoo in Westminster, Colorado], and there was a tarantula named Rosie. So it was funny, I was playing it in my basement and she said ‘that sounds like the spider, Rosie!’ So, lyrically, for sure. But also, I hate to say it, but I’m getting bashed with pop music because of my oldest daughter. So the other day I did a Taylor Swift song in the middle of “Rosie”(laughs), and I’m thinking to myself, really? I definitely get influenced by the music she’s listening to, and sometimes it’s good, but sometimes it’s a little bit bubble gum-y.
TPA: So, this question I’ve got to ask, and hopefully it doesn’t offend you because it’s one of my favorite parts about seeing you perform. Where do you get your sense of style?
Hollingsworth: (Laughs) So, I don’t have any style. I throw things on that are pretty silly and funny. I’m a pretty silly and funny dad and person, generally. Sometimes it works. Sometimes I’m like, wow, these five pieces go well together! I have no idea. Most of the time I just look for silly shirts and weird hats. I guess I just try to be a show man to some degree. I’m stuck behind all those keyboards, you know, and Michael Kang and Billy and Keith are all looking great up there, so I’ve got to stick out a little bit more.
TPA: Last question for you. What music have you been listening to lately?
Hollingsworth: I’ve been listening to Ben Folds Five. He’s a keyboard player. I was never really a huge Elton John fan or Billy Joel fan, but Ben Folds has got a little more grit, and I’m enjoying that. I came to the table late on that one. Dan Deacon is a DJ, and he’s got some interesting stuff. Iron & Wine, their newer album is pretty good. Not too much pop other than the stuff that’s been shoved down my throat by my daughter (laughs). I’m always more into music that’s sonically interesting. Vampire Weekend’s most recent album is so well produced, so well done. It’s like, I can survive through pop if it’s well done.
For more information on The String Cheese Incident, click here.
The String Cheese Incident Tour Dates Summer 2016:
Friday, June 24, 2016 – Rothbury, MI @ Electric Forest
Saturday, June 25, 2016 – Rothbury, MI @ Electric Forest
Sunday, June 26, 2016 – Rothbury, MI @ Electric Forest
Friday, July 1, 2016 – Asheville, NC @ US Cellular Center Exploreasheville.com Arena
Saturday, July 2, 2016 – Asheville, NC @ US Cellular Center Exploreasheville.com Arena
Sunday, July 3, 2016 – Atlanta, GA @ Chastain Park
Monday, July 4, 2016 – Atlanta, GA @ Chastain Park
Friday, July 8, 2016 – Cooperstown, NY @ Brewery Ommegang w/ Twiddle
Saturday, July 9, 2016 – Columbia, MD @ Merriweather Post Pavilion
Sunday, July 10, 2016 – Portsmouth, VA @ Portsmouth Pavilion w/ Yonder Mountain String Band
Friday, July 15, 2016 – Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre w/ TAUK
Saturday, July 16, 2016 – Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre w/ Kamasi Washington
Sunday, July 17, 2016 – Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre w/ Hot Rize
Wednesday, July 20, 2016 – Missoula, MT @ Big Sky Brewing Company
Thursday, July 21, 2016– Missoula, MT @ Big Sky Brewing Company
Friday, July 22, 2016 – Redmond, WA @ Marymoor Amphitheater
Saturday, July 23, 2016 – Eugene, OR @ Cuthbert Amphitheatre
Sunday, July 24, 2016 – Eugene, OR @ Cuthbert Amphitheatre
Friday, August 12, 2016 – Scranton, PA @ The Peach Music Festival Montage Mountain
Saturday, August 13, 2016 – Brooklyn, NY @ Kings Theatre
Sunday, August 14, 2016 – Brooklyn, NY @ Kings Theatre
Interview by Meredith Warfield