By Max McKeon
Boasting a unique bluegrass sound, Grammy award-winning albums and a rousing live show, The Infamous Stringdusters have steadily become a “can’t miss” band in the bluegrass circuit. With their upcoming appearance at the Peach Music Festival, we spoke with guitarist Andy Falco about how the group came to be, the band’s musical influences, and what we can expect when they hit the stage this Saturday at Montage Mountain in Scranton.
H81R: The Infamous Stringdusters have been playing music together for quite some time. “Let It Go” is the band’s sixth studio album – can you talk briefly about the beginnings of the band and how you got involved in the bluegrass scene?
AF: We were all playing on the bluegrass scene as side guys. Basically, The Stringdusters are a band of guys who just wanted to play their own music. I came on in 2007 and we had been friends for years at that point from playing with different bands. Everyone knows each other in that scene, by playing different festivals and hanging out, and we all sort of met each other over the years within the scene.
H81R: It seems that bluegrass is steadily becoming more and more popular, with bands like The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons incorporating bluegrass elements into their work. How does a band like The Infamous Stringdusters translate the success found in the bluegrass world into finding new audiences that don’t necessarily know too much about bluegrass?
AF: That’s an interesting thing because you’re always trying to reach new people- it’s the question of the hour. As musicians and music lovers, we come from such varied backgrounds as far as influences and what we listen to musically. For example, I didn’t grow up listening to bluegrass at all — I grew up playing the electric guitar and going to Dead shows. I slowly got into it in a roundabout way and I think, for me personally, I was kind of trying to learn bluegrass and trying to shed all those musical tendencies. After awhile it all kind of occurred to me that all those musical influences could be in there and should be in there – it’s like your musical DNA, you know? So, I think with The Stringdusters, is that even though it started as a more traditional bluegrass thing, as time went on we started to allow these other influences to come out. We got more comfortable not trying to sound like bluegrass, but just trying to sound like The Stringdusters — whatever that may be. And what that is, is all of our musical backgrounds put into one sound. That’s one of the ways to reach other audiences, with our approach in how we present our shows and the way and style that we play and fuse into what we are doing. That’s the most exciting thing musically, is letting these influences come out and seeing where it takes us.
H81R: I saw you guys recently worked with Billy Hume for your last two albums before “Let It Go” — how was that experience working with a producer that has found success with artists pretty far removed from the bluegrass genre (such as Nelly and Lil’ Jon)?
AF: Billy is the man — he is an incredibly talented producer and musical engineer. We had been doing albums primarily in the acoustic and bluegrass world; to work with a guy who was this incredibly gifted engineer and super creative, and who had never mic-ed up a dobro before, was an amazing experience. He was just checking it out, listening to the music, and going with his instinct, and it was a great experience working with him. I can’t say enough about the guy.
H81R: The Infamous Stringdusters are heavily involved in your own festival in Virginia called The Festy Experience – can you tell us a little bit about how that festival is different from other festivals?
AF: We curate the music for the festival, and we work with other partners like The Artist Farm to handle a lot of logistics, but the music comes from people that we’ve met along the road. We’ll often put a band that not a whole lot of people have heard of in a headlining spot — and when you’re there, it’s just an amazing sense of community. There’s an award-winning brewery on the premises, and we try to be as environmentally conscious as we can; there’s no plastic cups and everyone is issued a Klean Kanteen for the weekend. It’s an amazing setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and it’s a place where you can party and have a good time, but also bring your family and not feel worried. It’s just a great scene about music, lifestyle and feeling good.
H81R: Last question. The Peach Music Festival is in its third year of operation in Scranton with no end in sight. We’re really excited for the band to play in our hometown this year. Is there anyone in the band that is excited for a particular performer on the Peach bill?
AF: I’m really psyched to see The Allman Brothers. I haven’t seen them in a while, and I used to go see them at the Beacon in New York. I just got “Live at Fillmore East” on vinyl for the first time, and I’m a big fan – they’re a huge influence to me!