In the nearly 30 years since 10,000 Maniacs released their breakout album “In My Tribe,” the alternative pop-rock group has returned to their indie roots.
“In My Tribe” spawned such hits as “Hey Jack Kerouac,” “What’s the Matter Here?” and “Like the Weather,” ushering in the band’s most successful commercial period.
In the ensuing years, the band, which will perform 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 23, at the Levoy Theatre in Millville, has had to deal with major changes to its lineup. Original lead singer (and writer of some of its biggest hits) Natalie Merchant left for a solo career in 1993, and in 2000, original guitarist (and a main songwriter) Rob Buck passed away at age 42.
Led by co-founder Steve Gustafson on bass, 10,000 Maniacs has tapped the crowd-funding site PledgeMusic.com for its last three releases, including “Playing Favorites,” a live album recorded last year in the band’s hometown of Jamestown, N.Y.
Gustafson talks about the realities of being a veteran act in the download age, why Merchant left and how the Maniacs stay true to their original sound.(tncms-asset)8ed32fea-0b35-11e7-9b18-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
At the Shore: Will “In My Tribe” figure heavily in your performance at the Levoy?
Steve Gustafson: We will be playing most — if not all — of that album in the show. We throw in other hits and a couple of odd covers and a deep cut. We might do a Joy Division song or a Cure song in the encore.
ATS: What’s it like to be involved in the same band more than three decades later?
SG: We all have day jobs — I’m the technical director and manager of a 400-seat theater here at a college in Jamestown. The income from selling records is mostly gone. I just got a royalty check today — we call them money trees. It doesn’t sustain us completely. We’ve got to get out there and do gigs.
ATS: How does crowd-funding today compare to your indie beginnings?
SG: The first two records we released we basically borrowed money or got funded through friends and family. The crowd-funding site … is 500 hardcore fans — they refer to themselves as “the stalkers,” We call them our uber fans.
They do the funding for us — we’ve gone back to the well three times. We put their names on the records as executive producers. They get access to us rehearsing and writing songs — it’s a seat at the table.
ATS: That’s another big change from when you started — artists giving fans a direct window into their private moments. How have you adjusted?
SG: I think fans like to see the process, they like to see art being made. We try to remind ourselves of that.
I answer every email. I go to almost every post I can find on Facebook, and I answer it. To me, it’s about building an audience.(tncms-asset)47489bfa-0a69-11e7-9d55-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
ATS: What was it like making the shift from Natalie Merchant, who is the voice of most of your hits, to Mary Ramsey?
SG: They’re very different personalities. Mary brings her skillful viola playing as the lead instrument, which is really cool to have. She can play circles around us, and we encourage her to play more.
There was no ill will — Natalie wishes us well, she loves what we’re doing.
ATS: The band went on hiatus for several years after Rob Buck’s passing. How do you stay true to your sound today?
SG: We still have that jangly guitar sound, a little bit of funkiness and lilting folk. Mary adds so much with her viola playing; it’s a new sound that’s become the Maniac’s sound. There’s no denying it’s 10,000 Maniacs.
If you listen to Ms. Merchant and her band play these days, it’s not going to sound like 10,000 Maniacs. I’m not saying it’s bad, but if you want to hear 10,000 Maniacs, come see us.