The Mountain Times

°F Sun, April 20, 2014

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Q&A with Al Schnier, founding member of moe.

Al Schnier is one fifth of the band moe. and he took some time to talk to The Mountain Times about the snoe.down festival this weekend. Al was a founding member of the band over 20 years ago in Buffalo, NY and his signature vocals and guitar playing help shape moe.'s unique sound. The band has amassed a loyal following of fans that enjoy one of the most symbiotic artist-fan relationships in music.

Schnier explains it best when he says, "There was never a moment when we decided 'Hey, people really like us - we need to capitalize on this!' It's been a very organic relationship that's grown like a friendship. None of it was manufactured because of a contest or someone told us that we needed to capture email addresses…and we're not counting on our next single to maintain it." Summer festivals like moe.down have tripled attendance since the first one in 2000 and accolades, awards and successes have been well-earned.


Mountain Time: Why did moe. decide to do a winter music festival?
Al Schnier:
We host several music festivals already. We do "Summer Camp," "moe.down," we've done several Caribbean destination events and even cruises. It just occurred to us that we should do something in the winter time, something based on skiing. We've done a lot of "ski tours" where we play ski towns or play a place like Tahoe for several days. We thought maybe we could combine these two worlds together and have a festival that brings our passion for music and skiing and snow sports together.

MT: Have the fans been receptive to the idea?
AL: The fans love it. It's different than a typical summer festival. We get a good deal of our fans out on the slopes skiing with us. It's a great way to interact with our fans. Ever since the inception of snoe.down it's been one of my favorite things to do, to ski with the fans. A lot of people don't ski and they can enjoy this great part of the country, beautiful Vermont, music all day, restaurants and hanging out.

MT: The first snoe.down was in Maine and then a few years at Lake Placid. How is the festival different at its new home in Killington?
AL:  Once we got to Killington, we realized there was a different vibe there. Killington is more of a ski town. Lake Placid has their village, but the mountain is miles from there, Lake Placid has so much other stuff going on in town. In Killington we had the option of putting a stage on the mountain and doing shows in the different lodges. The thing we enjoy doing is having music in other venues like The Pickle Barrel and The Wobbly Barn. The VIP brunch where we play an acoustic show on Sunday is one of my favorite things that we do. We've figure out these little tweaks along the way.

MT: Why does the snoe.down fit in Killington?
AL: It's the ski town vibe. I think everyone has a Killington story. I've been going to Killington since I was 13-years-old. At one time or another, everyone has taken a ski trip there and it's one of the most epic destination mountains in the northeast and there is a reason for that. There is awesome skiing and there is a nice vibe there. Great restaurants, too, and it's just a great place to hang out. In the northeast, it's hard to find a better spot.

2--Nor 'Beaster -Al -Schnier -of -moe .-Photo -courtesy -of -Dave -Barnum

MT: How do you choose the bands that will join you at your festivals?
AL: It's like 52 card pickup. We throw out a bunch of invitations to a lot of our favorite bands that we have recently played with. Strangefolk is an example of guys we have known for 20 years and were so excited to have. They were at the top of our list. Then there are the bands that will play the base lodges... regional bands that are some gems we discover along the way. Eastbound Jesus is a good example; a band that Vinnie and I met at a bluegrass festival. Most of these bands are bands that have come across our radar somehow or somewhere since the last festival. Then it's just a matter of working out schedules.

MT: One of your side projects is a bluegrass band called Floodwood. Does Floodwood scratch a 'creative itch?'
AL: Absolutely. It's something that I've always gravitated towards and finally just had to make the time to do it. The players in the band are just ridiculous, they are so good! The timing was just right. The three other players in the group were all ready, willing and able at the right time. As soon as we pulled the trigger in this thing we came out of the gate with a bunch of originals. We are trying to squeeze in as many shows as possible and we are working on an album which we might release at moe.down this summer.

Photo courtesy of Dave Barnum