The once-popular alt-rock/pop/funk group has reunited to play a show at Bell’s Brewery this week and to record its first album since 1999. Yes, it’s ‘quirky and ridiculous’ and downright thrilling.
Knee Deep Shag will take the stage at Bell’s Brewery Eccentric Café on Thursday, performing its first reunion show in just shy of three years.
Don’t expect them to slip into oblivion for another three years before they do this again, however.
While together this week, the ’90s groove sensation out of Kalamazoo will also be spending some time at La Luna Recording, where band members will begin work on their first studio album since they followed up their 1997 debut, “Intuition,” with “Good Disguise” in 1999. (Scroll down for videos.)
Now, officially broken up for 13 years — the same amount of time they were together (1991-2004) — their upcoming reunion show and album may come as a surprise to some. But as the band’s longtime frontman Matt Gross has been known to sing, “You never saw it coming, but I did.”
Local Spins caught up with the vocalist recently and chatted about the breakup, the reunion show, the new album in the works, what the guys have been up to for the past 13 years, and gigging on a Thursday night.
BREAKING UP AND GETTING BACK TOGETHER
“I think what we managed to do was step away from it before that love and that passion was completely depleted,” he said of the breakup. “The five members that we had in 2004 were all crucial to the survival of the band and we knew it. And one of the guys simply felt called to move, and I will say truly upward with his musical endeavors in life and it is easy to see now that he made the right call.
“We could have fought for it and tried to be something else together but we didn’t. And so, the core of it, our connection between each other as friends and our connection to the music managed to remain despite the fact that we had to walk away for a while, and it has been real easy to want to step back into those shoes.”
Four of those five members that were part of the last, and longest-lasting, incarnation of the group have remained in the area and communicate regularly.
The fifth member, keyboardist Rob Cookman, moved to New York City after the breakup and is now a music director with Broadway shows that travel the country. His work with “Cabaret,” which will be live this week at the Wharton Center at Michigan State University, has brought him back to the area for a short time.
“With Rob here, we decided to pounce and set up a gig,” said Gross, adding that one of the best parts of doing a reunion show is getting to not just hang out with each other but with their old friends and longtime fans they expect to have in attendance.
Yet what Gross is most excited about is getting back into the studio.
“The gig is a total thrill but it’s fleeting,” he said. “To have something tangible I can stick in my back pocket that is the result of these five guys coming together again is the most exciting prospect, without a doubt.”
Gross said there is no timetable for a release, but that fans can expect the album to mostly feature songs they have already written and performed live, some of which is on Knee Deep Shag’s “Live Album Vol. 1” (2002) but was never recorded in studio.
And while Gross has been keeping his pipes fresh singing at funerals and performing intimate gigs like the one he just did Sunday at Trybal Revival in Kalamazoo, the other members have continued to stay active musically as well.
Among there many projects, bassist Mike Fuerst and guitarist Phil Barry have both been playing with Kalamazoo’s own Corn Fed Girls, an original acoustic Americana ensemble in which Fuerst plays fiddle in. Fuerst’s wife, Sarah, takes over bass duties in that group, which has two albums, “Cornstar” and “Papercuts” available.
Sarah Fuerst and Barry also make up the up-and-coming local folk duo Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, which is preparing to release its second album. Mike Fuerst, meanwhile, also plays in The Red Sea Pedestrians, a high-energy gypsy, jazz, roots band from Kalamazoo that is part of the Earthwork Music collective.
Drummer Jeff Moehle has been involved in a lot of production work and has been playing with a few Chicago acts in addition to teaching music.
On Thursday, the five of them will hit the stage together at Bell’s Brewery for the first time since July 2014 and fans should expect to hear an array of familiar tunes, most of which appeared on “Good Disguise” or “Live Album Vol. 1” along with possibly a few “quirky and ridiculous covers here and there,” Gross said.
Opening for Knee Deep Shag will be Kalamazoo native and Grand Rapids resident Andy Holtgreive, the singer and principal songwriter of Shag’s “brother band” Domestic Problems. Holtgreive will play a solo acoustic set and those in attendance should expect to see members of Knee Deep Shag join him on stage, and later see Holtgreive get up on stage with the headlining act as well.
“Our live show is really our chance to share and be with the people,” Gross said. “We’re sorry it’s a Thursday night, but when you’ve been away from it for 13 years, they aren’t holding a Saturday for ya anymore. Just finish the night drinking water instead of beer, and if you can, go into work late the next day.”
To purchase $10 tickets in advance, go online to bellsbeer.com. Doors are at 8 p.m. Show starts at 9. Admission is $12 day of show.
VIDEO: Knee Deep Shag, “3 P.M.” (2014)
AUDIO: Knee Deep Shag, “By a Thread” (from 1999’s “Good Disguise”)
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC