Despite rumors to the contrary, the members of Widespread Panic want their fans to know that the band does plan on being together for a 26th year -- and beyond.
"We just want to continue to do more," percussionist Domingo "Sunny" Ortiz tells Billboard.com. "Hopefully that will eliminate the whole thought of this being our last year. Yes, next year we're going to take some time off, so there's a lot of speculation that 'Oh, they're breaking up,' yada, yada, yada. We feel like we kinda just started, kinda like a coffee bean growing. We still haven't come up to our potential as musicians. As friends and as buddies we definitely are growing, but there's definitely a growth in this music process that I think we have yet to tap into, which is what keeps us excited and interested."
Widespread Panic is currently on the road celebrating its silver anniversary, and Ortiz says there's been some talk about a follow-up to 2010's "Dirty Side Down" -- even if it might have to wait for the group members to indulge in some of their outside projects before it becomes a reality. And Ortiz promises that the new songs will be "fresh and new. Everyone is just so involved in the music that it'll all be fresh and new. And it might turn a few heads and we might lose a few people, but in the artistic realm of everything we want to continue to feed that fire, that desire to be different. We pretty much don't cater to what everyone else is doing; we' kind of do it our way or no way at all. That's one of the things that's excited me about this band for 25 years is we're never afraid to step on the edge -- and occasionally fall over it."
Ortiz says the group isn't sure who will put out is next album, however. "Dirty Side Down" was released on the group's own Widespread Records imprint and distributed by ATO, and it's previously worked with Capricorn, Sanctuary and Warner Bros. "They all gave us complete control of everything, which is great," Ortiz notes, "but nowadays a label is not used to the band's advantage in certain ways. For 25 years we've never sustained ourselves with record sales; we've always been a touring band. And now with the Internet and streaming, like we 're doing with our live shows, that's a whole other entity. So we're going to have to see if anyone would want us to do a project with them."
Ortiz isn't worried that any of the solo endeavors will take anybody away from Widespread. "We've always done that," he explains, "and it only makes us better players, and that makes us better as a band." Meanwhile, the group is enjoying its 25th anniversary jaunt and letting itself indulge in a bit of satisfaction and celebration.
"Obviously we've had our moments, our ups and downs. We can't erase any of that," Ortiz says. "But watching these kids and fans kind of grow up as we have, and now some of them have teenaged (children) that are follow us today, that makes us feel good. And being able to come out and do shows with different songs every night has always been a big deal to us. We don't do the same set, ever. So that's exciting, too."