Percussive pop/jam collective Rusted Root is back. Popular hippie noisemakers in the '90s, the Pittsburgh-based group fit nicely to the left of Dave Matthews and to the right of Phish -- perfect for the set that wanted to blink their third eye but not have it wide open for hours. They hit their commercial peak with the 1995 song “Send Me on My Way,” which, for awhile, seemed to be included in every movie, TV show and ad that existed on planet earth.
Still fronted by Tremolo-picking, bearded sage Michael Glabicki, the band is looking to get back to their roots after a couple of crossover attempts in 2002’s Welcome to My Party and the seven-year-hiatus-busting Stereo Rodeo in 2009.
Celebrating their 20 year anniversary with a run of shows that will make a stop at UCSD’s Loft in La Jolla on Tuesday, I spoke with Glabicki from a recent tour stop in Reno. We discussed their two decades of music, being back on the road and their new “Fortunate Freaks Unite! We Are Rusted Root Campaign.”
Scott McDonald: How are you doing?
Michael Glabicki: I’m great, man. How are you?
SM: Very, well. How are things on the road?
MG: The shows have been great. And we’re finishing up our new album right now as well. We’ve been playing the stuff out for a couple of tours now, and there are already fans showing up singing the words. Most of the shows are selling out, there seems to be a lot of excitement around the new material, and it feels good. I’m pretty excited.
SM: It’s hard for me to believe this is your 20th anniversary.
MG: I honestly don’t think about it. I mean, it’s neat. But it’s just something we always thought we’d do as a band. We just want to keep evolving and moving forward as souls and as musicians. That’s what it’s all about. I’m always concerned about what coming up around the bend.
SM: Of course. But I do think it’s a significant milestone.
MG: It is exciting. And it’s great that we’re still getting turned on in new and similar ways to when we first got started. Our music is very tribal and earth oriented. It’s ritualistic, and while we’re moving through it all, there are times when the world can open up its doors and let the flood in. If we were made into a movie, there would be certain chapters to it, and this would be a key one.
SM: What did you do during the hiatus?
MG: Well, it wasn’t really that much of a break because we were touring during most of that time. But it was good to get away from the process of making the music for awhile. We did a live record in that time, but it was more of a vacation than it was a hiatus. But I did spend more time with my girlfriend and my son, and it helped us all to not have the pressure.
SM: Were you surprised by the reactions to Welcome to My Party?
MG: I wasn’t. Only because people have zoned into a deeper sense of the band, and I think that there is a character to the band, an underlining beast that exists, and I think that record deviated from that. We used click tracks, and it got us out of our element a bit. I think if we had just played that record live, it would have sounded a lot different. But it was just an experiment.
SM: How is the whole “Fortunate Freaks Unite! We are Rusted Root Campaign” going?
MG: Good. We’re on schedule to get the recording done. We still need to raise a little more money to mix and master, but we’re confident we’ll get there. People have actually come down to the studio for a day and they’ve sung on tracks, do some hand-claps/percussion, stuff like that. They’ve loved it and it’s been a lot of fun.
SM: Cool to get monetary support, but I imagine finding fans that are so invested and still place such an importance on your music has got to be bolstering.
MG: Absolutely. You hit it right on the head. And it’s good because so much of music has gotten away from any sense of intimacy with the crowd. We want to include our fans and get their emotions involved in it. This is just an extension of that. There have been some deviations along the way, but it feels good to be back doing it in a way that creates real connections. Without that, there’s no reason to do it at all.