Road to Backwoods: Particle and Interview with Steve Molitz

The 9th annual Backwoods Pondfest is set to take place this coming weekend, August 7 and 8 in beautiful Upstate New York at Twin Ponds Campsite in Peru. Tickets are still available online via their website (click here) and include two nights of car camping and live music. The intimate festival gathers local and regional acts as well as nationally recognized bands such as this year’s headliner Particle featuring keyboardist Steve Molitz, guitarist Ben Combe, bassist Clay Parnell and Allen Aucion on drums. The four piece livetronica funk band lays out hard hitting, improvisational jams with energetic, spacey melodies that create contagious dance grooves. I was lucky to have Steve Molitz answer a few questions for me about his July 4 weekend, new music and Backwoods Pondfest.

Susan Rice: Talk about epic holiday memory. How did it feel to perform on July 4th in Chicago as part of the Grateful Dead post show late night series? Were the Grateful Dead a major influence on your music?

Steve Molitz: “Epic holiday memory” pretty much sums it up! Our post-Dead show on 7/4 was sold out in advance, and the energy in the venue was off the charts. It was just one of those nights where everything clicked and there was a very tight feedback loop between the musicians, the music, and the fans. There was a magic in the air that the Dead created at their show, and the fans bottled it up and brought it with them to our late night. It was an absolute honor and a thrill to be a part of such a special weekend of music.

The Grateful Dead have definitely been an influence on my music, but in sort of an abstract way. Stylistically, Particle and the Dead sound very different, but thematically there’s a lot of overlap. I learned a lot from them about how to approach improvisational music with an open mind and an open heart. You really have to have faith in the unknown, and you have to be willing to place all your trust in the hands of your band members. Only then can you truly lose yourself in the moment and become an interwoven fabric of the improvisational tapestry.

I’ve been touring on and off with Phil Lesh for the past eleven years, and one cool thing that he tells his band members is that we just have to give ourselves permission to try new things. He encourages us to reach beyond our comfort level into an unknown realm, and that is always where the most profound musical discoveries occur. I have really tried to incorporate that ethos into Particle’s approach to improvisation, so in that way I suppose the Dead have been a huge influence on us …

SR: This will be your first time performing at Backwoods Pondfest. What are you most excited about for headlining this North Country festival?

SM: I’m most excited to check out some of the other bands on the festival. It’s always such a treat at these summer fests to experience so many different types of music all in one place. Off the top of my head, a handful of Backwoods Pondfest bands that I’m excited to see are Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Sophistafunk, Normal Instruments, Lucid, Mister F, and The Heavy Pets…

SR: What new music have you been listening to on your road trips?

SM: I guess the newest music I’ve been listening to is Particle because we are in the middle of recording a new studio album right now so I’ve been completely immersing myself in those songs. That music is so new it’s not even out yet! I can’t wait for people to hear these songs, and I can’t wait to tour with all this new material…

I also listen to a lot of podcasts on the road like the Joe Rogan Experience, I Am Rapaport Stereo Podcast, Ari Shaffir’s Skeptic Tank, The Duncan Trussell Family Hour, etc..

Also, Prof’s new album Liability drops on 10/16, and that’s right in the middle of Particle’s big Accelerator Tour (tickets here), so I’m sure I’ll be bumping Prof almost exclusively come October.

SR: How have you been able to keep up with the nonstop, crazed momentum of Particle?

SM: Love is all you need …

… and coffee 🙂