Interview by Scott Preston
The Infamous Stringdusters are the new vanguard of acoustic music. Well crafted songs, vivid arrangements, instrumental virtuosity, stunning improvisation, unique individuality and complete harmony… Bluegrass, Rock, Country, Blues, Folk, and Jazz, the “IS” is American Acoustic Music.
When The Infamous Stringdusters came out June 10 on Sugar Hill Records, some may assume from the title that it’s a debut recording. Those already aware of the Stringdusters phenomenon will know differently: that 2007’s Fork in the Road was the album that boldly introduced this daring, disciplined band to the world of bluegrass and a wider world of music enthusiasts who heard it and decided: ‘if that’s bluegrass, then I love bluegrass.’ Fork in the Road was named Album of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association. Its title track was named Song of the Year, and the band itself earned the honor of best emerging artist in a competitive field. It was a stunning cap to an amazing 2007.
In their breakout year of 2007, the Infamous Stringdusters played over 150 dates, including the biggest festivals in acoustic music, jammed on major stages with heroes like David Grisman and Sam Bush, and landed a development deal for motion picture music with Lions Gate Entertainment. With the release of The Infamous Stringdusters, 2008 promises more roads and more new fans in bluegrass and beyond. (source – thestringdusters.com)
Cincy Groove: So how did the six of you in The Infamous Stringdusters end up getting together?
Travis Book: Our original guitar player, Chris Eldridge, our banjo player Chris Pandolfi, and our Dobo player Andy Hall all met through mutual friends in Boston. Andy Hall was on his way out of the Berklee School of Music, Pandolfi was on his way in. Chris Eldridge was going to school at Oberlin College in Ohio. Andy Hall then moved to Nashville and was playing in a bunch of different bands. One of them was the Ronnie Bowman Committee with future Infamous Stringduster members Jeremy Garrett (fiddle) and Jesse Cobb (mandolin). So when Pandolfi and Eldridge moved to Nashville the 5 of them put the band together. Then they needed a bass player and they called me, I was out in Durango, CO at the time, to come out and audition. They asked me to join and move to Nashville in Fall of 2005. Then Andy Falco (guitar) replaced Chris Eldridge in Sept of 2007.
Cincy Groove: Did you have a different approach to your latest cd “The Infamous Stringdusters” compared to your previous release?
Travis Book: We did. The first record was recorded before we were really even a band. There is another bass player, who played with the Del McCoury Band who actually plays bass on more tracks than I do. We hadn’t really toured at all and made the record over 5-6 months. The recording sessions were spread out over a long period of time. There were a lot of bits and pieces gathered up from songs the guys had written years before. There were a bunch of great tunes on the cd, but we hadn’t at that point spent a lot of time together as musicians.
The music we wrote for the new record had a lot more to do with the present lineup of the band. When you are playing with the same group of guys everyday you start to slide into the same rhythm and patterns. The other difference with this record is that we went in and recorded it in less than 2 weeks.
Cincy Groove: How did the band decide to have Tim O’Brien co-produce the new cd?
Travis Book: We were just sitting around and made a very short list and Tim was at the top of the list. We called him up and he was familiar with the band, he knows all of us individually on some level. We also have the same booking agent as Tim so we have played a lot of the same places.
Cincy Groove: Did you have any guest collaborations on the new cd?
Travis Book: No not really, Tim did play on one track. Other than that, we really just did our own thing. We wanted to make a statement as a band and we figured between the 6 of us we had all the instruments represented.
Cincy Groove: How did you recent European tour go?
Travis Book: It was long, we were there for 5 weeks and had about 5 days off. We were kind of in our own little world. We drove around packed into this little van. We were never in a place long enough to get comfortable and it was hard for us to speak to any of the locals because of the language barrier. So it was a good chance for all of us to get to know each other.
Cincy Groove: Were there any shows from the tour that stand out in your mind?
Travis Book: There was one show in particular where we were playing an Anti Neo-Nazi rally in East Germany. We were added to the bill kind of late. Everybody else on the bill were these hard rock and punk bands. That was definitely one of the stranger moments on the tour. We also played in Denmark, Holland, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Slovakia.
Cincy Groove: What other bands have The Infamous Stringdusters worked with?
Travis Book: We have gotten together with Sam Bush a few times. We also have been playing shows with Tim O’Brien as his band. We just set up like we normally do and put Tim right in the middle. We also did a show in California where David Grisman sat in with us. It seems all the mandolin players will come play with us but nobody else will (laughing).
Cincy Groove: Who are some of the bands influences?
Travis Book: Really that whole generation of bluegrass musicians, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Tony Rice, Stuart Duncan. We are also influenced by bands like Led Zeppelin, Portishead. Everyone’s iPod is filled with all kinds of music. We are really all across the board.
The Infamous Stringdusters:
Andy Hall (dobro)
Andy Falco (guitar)
Chris Pandolfi (banjo)
Jeremy Garrett (fiddle)
Jesse Cobb (mandolin)
Travis Book (upright bass)
Upcoming Infamous Stringduster tour dates:
For complete show details visit – thestringdusters.com
Jul 31, 2008 Club Passim Cambridge, Ma
Aug 1, 2008 Podunk Bluegrass Music Festival East Hartford, CT
Aug 2, 2008 Shangri-LA Arts and Music Festival Blue Hill, ME
Aug 8, 2008 Targhee Bluegrass Festival Alta, WY
Aug 9, 2008 Tractor Tavern Seattle, WA
Aug 10, 2008 Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival Spokane, WA
Aug 21, 2008 Courtyard @ City Hall Culver City, CA
Aug 23, 2008 Summergrass San Diego, CA
Aug 24, 2008 Summergrass San Diego, CA
Aug 29, 2008 Four Corners Festival Pagosa Springs, CO
Aug 30, 2008 Four Corners Festival Pagosa Springs, CO
Aug 31, 2008 Four Corners Festival Pagosa Springs, CO
Sep 6, 2008 High Country Bluegrass Festival Boone, NC
Sep 7, 2008 Pickin’ In the Panhandle Martinsburg, WV
Sep 12, 2008 Kent Stages Kent, OH
Sep 13, 2008 Center for the Performing Arts- Illinois State Univ Normal, IL
Sep 19, 2008 Rhythm and Roots Reunion Bristol, VA
Sep 20, 2008 Rhythm and Roots Reunion Bristol, VA