Jim Weider to bring latest The Weight Band to Waterville
Jim Weider is a household name for the legion of fans of the legendary group, The Band. From 1985 to 2000, he replaced Robbie Robertson as the band’s lead guitarist, writing songs and performing on their three studio albums, âJerichoâ, âHigh on the Hogâ and âJubilationâ. In 2018, his group, The Weight Band (consisting of Weider on guitar, mandolin and vocals; Michael Bram on drums and vocals; Brian Mitchell on keyboards and vocals; Matt Zeiner on keyboards and vocals; and Albert Rogers on bass and vocals), released his first CD “World Gone Mad” on their own independent label The Weight Band Records and not too long ago I had the opportunity to chat with Weider about that album, his band’s history and a few other surprises when I reached him at his home in Southeast New York near Woodstock. I started by asking him how things are going with him today.
Weider: Things are going well. We released this live acoustic record “At Big Pink and the Levon Helm Studio” and we’re playing it. We entered the studio at the end of 2020 in December and recorded a full original album for the weight band, so we could do a few of these tracks in October when we get to Waterville. You know, I think you interviewed me with Percolator from up there before.
Q: It could very well be.
Weider: Yes, and that was some time ago too.
Q: So we can assume you’ve played Waterville before.
Weider: Yes. The Weight Band played there once before, we really enjoyed the theater. It’s a big old theater, we had a lot of fun playing there, people went out.
Q: Now, is it any puzzle for you to put together a set since you have so much material to draw on?
Weider: We do and it’s great because that’s what we’re trying to do is change the shows and change them every night. We’ll do something from the “World Gone Mad” album, some classics from the band, and then we’ll do a Grateful Dead song or add an Allman Brothers song, since Matt, our keyboardist and vocalist, was with Dickey Betts. Then we mix it up a bit because we love to change every show and make it exciting for people.
Q: Well, one of the things that attracts me to a band, regardless of genre, is the vocal harmonies and as a band you’re so good.
Weider: I’m excited, this is the best harmony band I’ve had since being in The Band, and in fact when we lost Richard Manuel we never had that kind of harmony. . We had Rick and Levon, which is fantastic, but now we have a four-part harmony, so we’re going to this Eagles realm where you can throw all four parts, and then everyone’s singing, so it’s a lot of fun.
Q: And I’m sure some band members are attracted to certain songs to sing first and like that.
Weider: Oh, yeah, we turn up the vocals, we do like The Band always did: on our record “Heat of the Moment” on the album “World Gone Mad”, one guy will sing a verse, the next guy will sing a verse. We do that with âNew Speed ââBoogieâ in the Air Dead where they’ll all be swapping verses. So that’s really cool, nobody gets exhausted (laughs)!
Q: (Laughs) And that must also make it interesting and exciting for your band members, and that will help keep it fresh after all these years.
Weider: Yeah that’s the thing, keep changing the music and adding new tracks every week to keep everyone on their toes. And then we’re going to stretch it: we’re going to jam some tunes like âLife’s a Carnivalâ and really stretch it. We had such a great time the last time we played there, which has been years now because of COVID, in Waterville, it was just a phenomenal show and everyone came to town and to the surroundings, so I can’t wait to be there.
Q: And with the total shutdown due to the pandemic, you’ve lost the opportunity to do the job you love and need to survive, in a way.
Weider: It was a tough time, yeah, but during that time I just started writing material for this new album that we recorded, so something good comes out of something bad, usually. So something good came out of it: we have a great new album that’s going to come out at some point, maybe towards the end of the year. I also just released this live album and we have another live album, “Live in Japan”, which we are going to do some songs on.
Q: Are you going to release this album as well?
Weider: At some point I will put it up for sale. So I did a lot of things during that time, creatively too. That was all we had to do, there were no distractions, there was no work, nothing for the artists, so in a way it gave you a goal: you had time and there weren’t any distractions so it was kinda good. I don’t want to ever see it again (laughs), I hope we don’t see it again now!
Q: Well, let’s get back to a nicer subject: the new album you recorded in 2020. Does it have a name?
Weider: âShines Like Goldâ is a song I wrote with Colin Linden.
Q: I should have asked this earlier, but how did The Weight Band come about?
Weider: We started with me and Garth Hudson from The Band and Jimmy Vivino, who is currently with the Conan O’Brien Show. We just went out and did a few shows playing songs from The Band and I was like, âIf Garth has to do that, I guess that doesn’t make them a ‘tribute’ band. So we went out and it was so well received that I named it The Weight Band; and Garth left and Vivino left, but the band kept playing shows like that. And then I said, “I don’t want somebody to use ‘tribute’ so let’s write a new album,” so I wrote the album “World Gone Mad” so that we have an original record. The band has grown and we’ve been together for nine years now and we have a completely original record, except for a cover by Willie Dixon. The band has really grown as a band, so we’re leaving that horrible word “tribute” aside. We will do band tunes, we will do some deaths, we will do some Allmans because our heritage, we have become ourselves, that’s what I’m getting at.
Q: It must be satisfactory for you too.
Weider: Yeah, it’s just not something you miss out on, I like to go into the creative realm and keep it new, fresh.
Q: Is there anything, Jim, that you would like me to pass on to people reading this article?
Weider: Yeah, you can just say we’ve had a new member since we were at Waterville last time: Matt Zeiner, he’s from the Dickey Betts Band and is an amazing keyboardist and singer, he made an amazing difference. You can tell them that they’ll hear an Allman Brothers tune, and they’ll hear some Dead tunes, and they’ll hear some classics from the band and some original songs, so it’s gonna be a lot of fun and you can tell them to “Get out. and take off your shoes! â
Lucky Clark has spent over 50 years writing about great music and the people who make it. He can be contacted at [emailÂ protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.