The Grateful Web Interview with The Infamous Stringdusters

Article Contributed by gratefulweb | Published on Monday, September 19, 2011

The Grateful Web recently had a chance to talk to The Infamous Stringdusters' guitar player, Andy Falco, discussing their upcoming Festy Experience festival, some of the Stringdusters diverse musical backgrounds and why Yonder Mountain String Band would put a tear in the eye of the omnipotent Bill Monroe...

GW: I've got Andy Falco here, the newest member of The Infamous Stringdusters... Thanks so much for chatting with us, Andy.. Are you out on tour yet?  Where are you?

FALCO: I'm in New York right now, I'm doing some other stuff, on my time off.. I'm about to meet up with the band for some shows down in Bristol, [NC,] and Boone, [NC,] before heading in to record a studio album in Asheville..

GW: What's the ETA on that?

FALCO: I think it's gonna be out this spring.. It'll be out first studio release on our new label, High Country Records.. So we're really excited about that.

GW: You guys were on Sugar Hill, before that, right?

FALCO: That's correct.  And now, we've branched out on our own and are entering a new era, for us.

GW: Is this record company your own -- in house?

FALCO: Yes, it sure is. Taking control of our own destiny, so to speak.

GW: Sounds like you guys have a lot of cool stuff coming up.. I think Friday you are spinning tracks ?

FALCO: Yeah, I think we're gonna kinda get into a room and be able to play dj for a while. We're gonna make it a sort of a chat room where the theme is The Festy Experience.  That's our own music festival we have outside of Charlottesville, Virginia.  That'll be Columbus Day Weekend in October. We're gonna be there to spin tunes... And we'll be there to chat, too.. It's gonna be kinda fun, actually.. [laughter.]

GW: You guys gonna take requests from folks who log in, and whatever requests they make, you're gonna play?

FALCO: Yeah, and or we might just choose some stuff on our own.  You know, some things that maybe influenced us.  Or maybe some bands that we're excited about.. Maybe bands that are gonna be at The Festy.. Maybe give them a taste of some of what they're doing. Maybe do some requests too, yeah -- If somebody wants to hear something, why not? It's sort of like having a listening party with your buddies.  So why not?

GW:  How did you come up with Charlottesville, Virginia as the location of The Festy Experience?  Most of you work out of Tennessee, right?

FALCO:  Yeah, we're based in Nashville, but we sort of live all over the place, now. I live in Charlottesville, now.  Our management offices are there. We've spent time, there. .

In fact, we'd performed on the grounds at Devils Backbone there in Nelson County.  It was a small beer festival, or something, a couple of years ago.  We just loved the site. It was and is a beautiful area. And I think it was sort of right around the time we got to thinking .. [about holding a festival of some kind.]

You know?  A lot of our conversations and ideas start -- out on the road.  We spent a lot of time together. And a lot of our conversations on the road start out with:  'Wouldn't it be sick if we .... ?' Sometimes it's to 'tour in a UFO,' but other times -- it can be great ideas like: 'Wouldn't it be sick to hold our own festival?'

We play so many festivals all over the place.  And usually as a band, when we leave a festival you get to thinking: 'How cool it was, that they did - this..'  or 'I didn't like so much how they did that,' and so forth.. It came to be a bit like [market] research.

So we were in the position where we could get with some partners, and take what we think of as the best of all those festivals and make our own. There's a 'green' element to it, which is important to us.  There's an outdoor lifestyle component to it, also.  There's a bike race, and a run that we host on the grounds. Of course, there's the music -- too.

It's the kind of place you can go and rage and have yourself a good time -- but -- you can [also] bring your kids. There's stuff for kids -- too.  We did our first one, last year.  It's gonna be a great time. 

GW: Checking the lineup, I see Dave Grisman.. Emmitt Nershi, RumbleBucket, Railroad Earth.....Looks pretty diverse..

FALCO: We love all kinds of music.  We come from playing all different types of music.  I have an electric background.. A big part of my influences was when I was a kid, my older brother took me to all the Dead shows, for example.

GW:  How old were you when he was taking you, [to Dead shows?]

FALCO: Oh, I was 14 years old.  I got to see a lot of shows with Brent Mydland and of course, later ones.. For me, that's where I draw a lot of live music experience.  Cause I'm just a Deadhead.. We try to bring a little of that element.. The vibe.  The way they were able to create an experience for everyone.  For us, it's all about creating the experience for people -- whether it's a live club or our own festival.

I'm from New York.  The Grateful Dead used to play like what -- 9 nights at the Garden? You'd look forward to these times, [as though they were a festival in and of themselves,] I mean.  You'd look forward to these times, you know -- seeing people you hadn't seen in a long time.. You know the experience. For me too, I remember going to a Dead show, and would be like imagining your favorite song and all.. It's like going to a great restaurant and anticipating the taste of the meal beforehand.

We're trying to take from that.. We're trying to create a consistent experience, you know. Sharing that with the audience and all...

GW: Are you gonna be able to spend some time out with the fans, the crowd and all?  I'm sure you'll be recognized, and all.  But will you be able to just hang out with people that weekend?

FALCO: Oh.. Man -- We are THERE the whole weekend. I mean like -- this is our party, and everybody there is our guest, you know.  We're all there -- hanging out -- cruising around -- sitting in with other bands.. Walking the campgrounds... A lot of the band will be camping themselves, you know -- camping out.. We love that stuff, you know?

GW: Ok, we're  changing directions, slightly.. I'm looking at your band's website right now, .. And one of the comments, kinda struck me. I'm just gonna read one of these comments here, verbatim: 'Congratulations on a mind-bending set out at Red Rocks.. Ya'll blew the doors off the place, and in my opinion you should have been the headliners, as you clearly owned the stage, and the night.  In the world of entertainment there's entertainment and they're hype. You guys are the real deal whereas Yonder is mostly hype. You proved last night that you are a musically-superior band, collectively, and individually. Keep doing what you're doing and ya'll just might reach the musical prowess of Bill Monroe and the 'Boys, and the technical proficiency of The Traveling McCourys, while Yonder Mountain is relegated to the Bluegrass equivalent of Lady Gaga.'

My question is: Yonder tends to get a lot of slack for their version of Bluegrass.  Obviously it's not traditional Bluegrass, maybe in the sense of how you guys, [Infamous Stringdusters,] are doing it.  But what do you think about that comment?  Not specifically towards Yonder, but how Bluegrass has gone from the traditional Bill Monroe Bluegrass to the what Yonder's doing, or what Bela Fleck was doing when he 'plugged in.' And we can talk about Jerry and his banjo-picking.. So -- would Bill Monroe be turning over in his grave, seeing Yonder Mountain, and what they do -- selling out Red Rocks?

FALCO: Bill Monroe would have cried.. Cause I saw.. I stood there, way back in the venue while Yonder played.  Ten thousand people were dancing and laughing and having a great time. And down on the stage is a four piece bluegrass band, was melting their faces..

Bill Monroe would have been damned proud of what they're doing. See this is the thing -- Bill Monroe created a genre of music -- Bluegrass. He was 'cutting edge,' and was doing new stuff.  He didn't want people to copy what he was doing.  In the spirit of Bill Monroe: It would be a shame to 'do it the way he did it.'  If he'd just played the old fiddle tunes the way they were always played before, there would be no Bill Monroe, nor would there be Bluegrass.  The music has to move forward.

We all come from sort of different kinds of music, but the common denomenator is Bluegrass. It's part of our musical DNA's individually, and as a group. Your musical DNA is sort of taking all the stuff you've heard through your life and it SHOULD come out in the music.. There were times when Andy was ripping a solo and it sounded like a 'shred-solo,' I mean.. You know? This stuff comes out.. I play a lot of bluesy stuff, you know?  I come from an electric background.. Stuff influenced by Hendrix, in my playing.. I mean, that's all part of me, so it should come out in the music. And it's the same with a band.. That's what makes the band, SOUND like a band. 

I love traditional Bluegrass as much as anybody.. There's one thing you know -- preserving a musical genre. You can even have a band that wants to do just that, [in performance,] and that's just fine.. But I don't understand people getting upset when people try to do other things with it.. You're not trying to change the music, but you also have to play what's true to yourself.

GW: I agree.. It's a theme I've heard, over and over again.. Like with the Grateful Dead, and Phish. There's a lot of traditional -- old school deadheads that just 'won't' take to Phish.  And that's despite the band doing what the Dead did -- in that they 'jammed,' they 'improved,' and all.  They'd try.. I mean one night might not be so great, but the next night might.. And that's why you go, til you catch that great show.

FALCO: To me it's like, you can't really go see the Grateful Dead anymore, but you can go see Phish.. I mean.. I was a Deadhead.. It took me a long time to get into Phish, because they were a different band. I think Phish is a great band.. I don't really know their music all that well, but.... I think I saw them once when they were opening for Santana, years ago.. I've heard a lot of great stuff of theirs.. I mean they are a sick band, a great band.. But they are different than the Grateful Dead. You pick and choose with anything, music included.

GW:  One of the nice things about festivals, you can pick and choose what you like.  If you don't want to see a set by Yonder, step to another stage, and see someone else, then. Kind of a luxury, actually.

FALCO: Yeah, but I think I would encourage people to pick and choose.. But, you know what?  If you are at a festival, try something new, too.. Step outside your comfort zone.. I remember being an '80s kid,' and my brother was getting me involved in all this kind of hip music.  I was into Hendrix, and the Grateful Dead, and all....

And in that scene pop music was considered to suck, you know.. I 'hated' everything that was pop.. Cause it was almost like you were brainwashed [to think it sucked..] ... Like five or six years ago - I put in Michael Jackson's Thriller and it was stellar.. Back then I'd have been like 'that's just horrible music..'  But now I can see that it's one of the greatest albums ever made.. Once you open your mind and let go of the idea of what you are 'supposed' to like or not like, you'd be surprised.. We love everything from sequenced music, to blues, to hard rock, to BlueGrass.  Our van always has some kind of music playing in there..

GW: Eddie Van Halen plays on Thriller..

FALCO: It was produced by Quincy Jones.  It's a masterpiece, you know? Back in the day, I just didn't give it a chance.. I just expected to hate it because it was pop.. Life's too short not to experience it all..

GW: Thanks for your time today.. You and I seem to come from similar times, the 80s and all. We'll have a writer at The Festy Experience over Columbus Day Weekend in October. 

FALCO: Yeah, check out our website for the festival at

-- Special thanks to Gina for handling the transcription and Crissa for setting up the interview --