Greg Humphreys left Durham three years ago for Brooklyn, but the veteran singer-songwriter will always come back for gigs. The Winston-Salem native returns for a Dillon Fence performance Saturday at the Cat’s Cradle for the Be Loud! Sophie Foundation 2015 benefit, which also brings out Southern Culture on the Skids, Preeesh!, The Veldt and others.
“I miss it back there,” Humphreys says, calling from his Brooklyn apartment. “I left with my fiance, and we have an 18-month-old son. Some things have changed, but other things remain the same.”
What remains the same is that Humphreys is still consumed by music. He’s either on the road with his underheralded Electric Trio, which is based in Brooklyn, or with Hobex or with Dillon Fence – or solo.
“Music is my passion,” he says. “And I’m in a great space. The Electric Trio just recorded our first album, which will be out in 2016.”
Dillon Fence, which also includes guitarist Kent Alpin, bassist Chris Goode and drummer Scott Carle, is also recording new tracks for its first release in a decade. “It’s not a full album for Dillon Fence,” Humphreys says. “But it’s a few songs we’re recording that we’ll work into the live set. It’s fun to add something new. I don’t want to just do what’s in the catalog.”
But the material from the catalog is so strong.
The power pop from 1994’s “Living Room Scene” album remains irresistible. The anthemic title track and “Queen of the In-Between” was right up there with what power pop kings Matthew Sweet and Redd Kross delivered during the post-grunge era. It’s easy to forget, but Dillon Fence was just a notch below Juliana Hatfield’s Blake Babies when Mammoth Records was a happening indie label 20 years ago.
“Mammoth was a great label,” Humphreys says. “We had a great time doing what we wanted to do, and it was so cool that we found an audience. Those fans are still up there when we come out.”
In 1996, Dillon Fence petered out and Humphreys formed Hobex. Both bands still exist, but during the last decade, Humphreys took a five-year hiatus from playing in an amplified band and went solo acoustic.
“Being in a band for 15 or 17 years took its toll,” he says. “So I went back to the basics, and it was really good for me to do things on my own and let the songs stand on their own.”
Greg Humphreys Electric Trio is priority, but the vocalist-guitarist is recharged enough to do occasional Dillon Fence and Hobex dates. “I’m completely revitalized,” Humphreys says. “And I’m really looking forward to getting back to Durham. I loved living there. I moved there in 2007 during the start of the renaissance. DPAC and all of the restaurants have attracted so many people to town. It’s awesome there. It’ll be fun coming back. Any chance I get, I’ll go back there. I’m a North Carolina guy. I grew up there. I went to school there.”
Humphreys actually studied journalism at UNC. “I loved it,” Humphreys said. “I did political cartoons for the Daily Tar Heel. But the straight job never worked out for me since I gave music a try, and it was the best thing I ever did. Being a musician was always my passion and that’s still the case.”
Being a father does change things a bit for Humphreys, though.
“I’m overjoyed being a father,” he says. “I spend as much time as I can with my son, but I still go back to my music. ... I get to go back and be on a bill with the Veldt. It’s just like old times.”
Who: Dillon Fence at “Be Loud Sophie 15”
When: 8 p.m. Saturday (Be Loud shows are Friday and Saturday nights)
Where: Cat’s Cradle, 300 E. Main St., Carrboro
Cost: $20 ($40 weekend pass)
Info: 919-967-9053 or catscradle.com