Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Interview: New World Spirits

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 4:33 PM

NWS, back in the day, circa 1997
  • NWS, back in the day, circa 1997

On January 16, New World Spirits -- one of many St. Louis bands which earned a record deal in the '90s -- will be doing a reunion show at the Pageant. Tickets go on sale this Friday and are $20.

Judging from comments at this reunion post, the return of NWS is a welcome one. The warm feelings make sense, though: Back in the day, the band fit in easily with the feel-good roots-rockers of the '90s, and its music aligned well with Rusted Root, Black Crowes and the Tragically Hip. (One of the Amazon reviewers of the band's major label debut, Fortune Cookie, is not a fan, however: He describes them as "sort of a poor man's Dave Matthews Band minus the chops." Ouch.) Cookie, incidentally, can be had for a mere penny at Amazon.com, although the price for 1997's Spark is a bit higher: $88.45 new?!

As the quartet begins practicing again for the show, two of its members took time to answer some email questions about the reunion.

1. Who are you, and what is your role in NWS? Mike Kociela, bass J. Chambers, singer and rhythm guitar.

2. Why is 2010 the right time for a NWS reunion? Kociela: No real reason. It just finally made sense for all of us and our fans kept up the pressure for the last ten years. I just can't wait to see everyone again and to feel the sense of community we used to share. Chambers: I don't really know that there is a right time. Or that this is it, for that matter. We haven't approached it like that at all. The opportunity to do this came about very spontaneously, and the decision to play was made within minutes. There was very little thinking involved.

3. You guys haven't played together since 1999, right? What was the first rehearsal like? Kociela: It was great to be in the same room with everyone again. I didn't realize how much I missed just hanging out as a band. When it came down to actually starting practice and Steve counting it off, it was a little scary, but after two or three songs, it felt totally normal. Honestly, I felt like we had just been away for a couple of months. It was pretty freaky and awesome, all at the same time. Chambers: For me, the first rehearsal, at least at the beginning, was less about the music and more about the four of us just being in the same room together again. For the ten years we played together, we were pretty much inseparable. Then, I basically didn't even see them for ten years. Honestly, our being together again is the only part of this whole thing that feels at all like a reunion to me. I was just really grateful to see everyone first. I was confident the music would take care of itself. By the end of the night, neither would disappoint.

4. Looking back, what sort of influence do you guys feel NWS had on the local STL music community? Kociela: Hmm, that is a tough question. There were so many great bands "back in the day" getting deals and working hard to get ahead, that it all was just a big storm of music, friends and shows. If we influenced anyone, hopefully it was to work hard. We were relentless in our touring, self-promotion and songwriting. It eventually paid off. Chambers: Michael's right. There were a lot of bands from St. Louis during that time, whether they were signed or not, that were making some great music. And I think each of them influenced the scene in their own way. But for us, probably more than anything, I'd hope we always showed our passion for music above anything else. We were probably the poster band for how the music industry can chew you up and spit you out. But that didn't change why we were playing in the first place. We played for nearly six years before we were signed and another four after we spit from the Universal. We had records before, during and after that experience. At the end of the day, your love of writing and playing together has to be so much bigger than your dreams of "making it." And for us, I'm proud that it always was.

5. Is there any new music in the works for the band, or is this just a one-off gig? Kociela: There are some ideas floating around. Stay tuned. Not sure if that equates to more shows. [I'm] just enjoying the moment for now. Chambers: There is always music. Danny and I both have been sharing pieces and parts of what we've been up to lately, but it's probably still too early to tell whether or not we'll have anything new for the show. What I will say is that, as a writer, you don't just shut it off. I have a very strong feeling that this experience will lead to some new material. Just can't say when, exactly.

6. Alternately, is there any leftover/unheard material from the '90s lying around that might be released? Are there any plans to re-release any of the indie stuff for the show? Kociela: Most definitely. We plan to release a full disc of unreleased tunes at the show. It will be a mix of all sorts of stuff, ranging from songs that didn't make our major-label debut to local studio recordings and maybe some live stuff. Not totally sure yet.

7. Do you have any particular show memories that stand out, in terms of being memorable or special? Kociela: Well, there was the time I walked on to the stage at the Other World and it was so foggy, I walked/fell off the other side. Then there was that time when we had no monitors at Riverport while playing a show for 20,000 people. That was sweet. But seriously, I mentioned it the other day: Coming back from recording in Seattle after getting the deal with Universal Records and playing the Music Blast on the Landing was my highlight. It just felt like we accomplished what we set out to do, and it was an exciting time. Chambers: Like Michael says, coming back from Seattle to play the Music Blast after recording Fortune Cookie was a great show and a great experience. But my favorite shows, whether playing for 200 or 20,000, always revolved around the connections we made with the crowd. I remember when we played "Ride," at Homegrown. It was a great feeling. You're out there in front of all those people, and this is supposed to your rock star moment and it was none of that. It was just a very human emotional connection that I felt with everyone there. I remember just seeing it on peoples' faces and thinking that we had written something special...something that people connected with, and that they were going to take it with them and have it for a very long time. And that's really what music is all about.

8. Anything else you want to add? Kociela: As cliché as it sounds, I'm just so thankful for all of our fans/friends who have supported us through the years and have pushed u for this reunion. It is incredibly exciting to be on stage with the guys again. And to be honest, I think we are sounding better than ever. And to get deep - the experience thus far has been a huge reminder of what a great experience it was to be in New World Spirits, and just how important music is in my life.

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