Jamie Shields of The New Deal talks down time, group dynamics, and the new venture [Exclusive Interview]
The buzz about the return of The New Deal has been stirring up the music community since they announced their return, and rightly so. The New Deal are pioneers of the electronic jam scene and were a rock of the community since they formed in 1998. Sensible Reason was able to catch Jamie Shields before his daily studio time to ask some questions. Ranging from what he was up to during the down time, how the dynamic of the group might change with the addition of Joel Stouffer (Drummer), and learn how he feels about the group as they move forward.
With six dates already decided for the summer (including The Hudson Project, Catskill Chill, and more to come) make sure you don’t miss an opportunity in what is going to be an incredible return tour. For dates and location make sure you are checking their website and following them on Facebook!
Sensible Reason: On your welcome back announcement you said “We just needed a break to go do other things,” what were some of those other things? What have you been up to these last couple years?
Jamie Shields: Well there are lots of other things, from my side of things what I needed to do was be a full time dad. I have two kids and the kind of traveling The New Deal was doing for a long time just wasn’t conducive to proper family life. That’s kinda one thing that was very, very important. But as important, in general, it was more about the ability to do other things. We found that with The New Deal, with anything that takes a lot of your time and energy and have been working on forever, it prevents you from doing other things. It stops you from being able to have a life. We felt that was needed to redevelop that part of our lives to be able to do other musical ventures. I write a lot of music– I was doing that before The New Deal, I did it during The New Deal, and I did it after The New Deal. But mainly the ability to do things that did not require us to commit to traveling X amount of days per year which takes away from other things we want to do. We love The New Deal but if it starts to feel like work, then its best to try and not to do that, because I don’t ever want music to feel like work; it’s enjoyable, its fun. The travel is work but performing the music is not. If you feel like it’s time to take a break from something that you love, to do something else that you love, then you have to do it– and that is how we were sort of feeling at the time.
SR: I’m sure not traveling was also relaxing.
Jamie: Yea, well certainly less stressful. There is a lot of traveling by air and by car, all that. It is very different [now] than it was 10-15 years ago– it takes up most of a day.
SR: How did you and Dan decide on the new drummer? What was the decision making process?
Jamie: Well Joel had played forever with Dan in a band called Dragonette, and we knew Joel as he filled in for Darren when he broke his hand. So we have known him for a long time and as importantly fans of the band sort of new Joel as he had sat in with Darren. Joel understands what The New Deal is doing. He comes from a jazz background. He doesn’t play jazz but he comes from a jazz background; I guess we all do as we are very good at listening to what each other are playing and we complement it. We play with the other people in the band as opposed to playing along with them. You try to contribute a musical sense, and you have to do that in The New Deal– you can’t just of kind of secede, and Joel is very good at that. We like him and we like to hang out with him. You’re spending a lot of time with the person so you have to make sure you like doing it which qualifies all the categories.
SR: Do you see this new venture as a rebirth, evolution, or adjusted continuation? How would you describe it?
Jamie: Well I wouldn’t really say it was a continuation as we have never really been continuing; we have always been trying to change the style and things that we were doing so the we could develop, you know. This is a further development [and] Joel brings a different kind of energy to the stage, he plays in a Different style than Darren. So I would not say it is a rebirth, I would just say that it is a revisit (laughs). You know, we still do what we do, which is always what we did, which is to step up and play what you’re feeling. Which is what we are going to continue to do and sometimes it is the same and sometimes is different but more importantly it is what we want it to be. What we play is an extension of our musical personalities, so when that comes out its great. If this is different than the old New Deal, it’s because there are different meshing of personalities. It’s will be an extension of the old New Deal and we will see where it takes us.
SR: During The New Deals down time, Cosby Sweater has been throwing down some incredible VL Tone covers, how does it feel to have your music covered so enthusiastically and fanatically?
Jamie: Well when we started playing and we had recorded our first show, we listened back to it and released that as our first record, the reason we did that was because if I was excited by it there had to be other people out there that we going to be that excited too. And if they are hopefully it will pass along to other people who will also be excited by it. So I knew there were people out there based on the audience that we have that really dig what we do and that’s great. It is fun to be able to have people do interpretations of our music and we are appreciative of the fact that and that they took the time to play that onstage. We throw in covers all the time, and sometimes it’s in the middle of a jam and we don’t unveil it to people, we do it primarily for ourselves (chuckles). But it’s always nice to hear different versions of our tracks, we try to make them different in various ways, shapes and forms. I know people out there who may hear a version of their song and think “Oh, that’s not how I intended it,” but for our stuff we don’t care– we intended it to be played however it was played that particular night and also by that particular person. So it’s great to see. We have some tracks that really lend themselves to be covered, or can easily be changed by someone else’s musical ideas or vision. So you can really see where other people are musically and it’s nice to see our tune as a spring board for that.
SR: You guys originally toured for 12 years and never really had a personalized stage set up. Are there any plans for creating one and upping the production after coming back together?
Jamie: Well we had a fairly extensive light show for the past 4 or 5 years of the band for sure. We had a lighting director and we brought lights with us. So as far as lights go that was there. Never did too much visual but what we do, and already having a serious light show there, is you don’t want to be throwing a million things at people coming to see the show. We know that people coming to see us are dancing and they are there to listen to music, and the lights just help to expand that experience. In terms of elevated stage production, a lot of what we do is based in our music and based on our improv and I don’t see us putting out any films anytime soon on stage but you never know. Our focus is to provide our number one at a show which is the music and our number 2 is the lights and we seem to have those both covered on stage. Anything else after that well, we will see we don’t want to be taking away focus from what people are coming to the show to hear from us which is a pretty intense musical experience.”
SR: Are there any new album releases in the works since I believe the last one was from 2006? Can we expect some new music this coming summer?
Jamie: Our last record I wana say was 2009, we released about 15 live records. Those are all official New Deal releases. Before that we did released 3 or 4 studio records but primarily we release live records because there is a greater presentation of the experience because maybe 1500 people or 2000 people were able to see and they can share with a lot more people than that. Now those people can experience it not in a visual way but definitely in an audio way. So we will continue to release live concerts. Whether or not we decide to release any new studio stuff, well if we record any new music it will most likely be released individually by song.
Special thank you to Jamie Shields of the New Deal for taking the time to talk with us! You can check out the New Deal this summer, just head to their website for dates and information and stay tuned because more dates will be announced!
Catch the New Deal at Catskill Chill Music Festival September, 5th-7th. Tickets and full lineup are available here.