Photo ©The Infamous Stringdusters
Do you need to blow off some steam after the first week back at school or want to continue your 2020 celebrations in style? Come to the Ashland Armory on Thursday, January 18th to sing, dance and stamp your feet with the Infamous Stringdusters. Originating in Nashville, TN, this GRAMMY award winning quintet have been creating music together since 2006. Known for their all-American-bluegrass/rock tunes and fun covers, the group just recently released their newest album, Rise Sun, a live recording that holds a message of optimism for the future.
The Siskiyou caught up with the band’s dobro player, Andy Hall, to talk about the life of a touring band and their new album.
Siskiyou: Congratulations on the new album! Can you tell me about the difficulties of doing a live recording versus in the studio?
Andy Hall: Thank you! A live recording is much easier in some ways because you just need to capture a high-quality recording of a show and we record all of our live shows. We took this one show and really gave it the special audio treatment to make it sound great and released it. The studio recording is a much larger process and can take quite a bit of time.
Siskiyou: With the studio recordings you can run the risk of the perfectionism coming into play because you have the ability to redo a lot of stuff. Do you ever experience that?
AH: It’s different for each band. We record even the studio records very much live and tend to not go over and over things too much in the studio. Sometimes just the setting up and getting everyone in the same place and finding a week where we can do this can be the biggest hurdle. Everyone is a sort of trained musician and we’ve had criticism that our records sound polished, but we just play it really well [laughs]. We might only do like two or three takes and we’re like “I’m sorry, I wish could have played it shittier, but this is what it is.” It’s a big process to do a full record’s worth of new material and also to come up with a reason to do it. You can just do a record if you have songs, but for us we have to have a little more to say.
Siskiyou: Rise Sun has a lot of optimism in it, was that the reason for recording it?
AH: Yah that was definitely. When [we’re] getting ready to do an album we get together and play each other’s songs and sometimes a theme kind of emerges from that. From [Rise Sun] you can tell we were feeling like it was time to make something that had a positive and optimistic message, and that’s how we are as people. I think with some artists it’s more about reflecting a negative feeling or a feeling of despair and that comes across in the music. For us it’s more like we want to make music that will take us to how we want to feel.
Siskiyou: The Infamous Stringdusters don’t play “traditional” bluegrass. Can you talk more about that?
AH: We’ve been touring since 2006 and we kind of started in the traditional bluegrass scene. We realized at a certain point that it didn’t reflect who we were and felt like there was more of a limitation there, at least for us. We had to almost start over because the bluegrass scene and the more jam-band scene are totally different. We had to abandon what success we had built in the traditional scene and restart on the trajectory that we knew we wanted to go and that was difficult and challenging.
Siskiyou: The band have a tight-knit community of fans. Have you had any fan interactions that have really stood out to you in the 15 years you’ve been a band?
AH: I’ve had fans come up to me who were military veterans and say that our music saved their life and healed them and things like that. The community of people has been a place for them to land and it’s been very positive. That type of stuff makes what you do feel meaningful, and we appreciate the fans a lot for that and try to give back as much as we can.
Siskiyou: Is there anything else that inspires you to keep doing what you’re doing and to write music and stuff like that?
AH: A lot of us are outdoor enthusiasts. We like to ski, camp, hike and fish and that sort of thing. I think outdoor activities and being in touch with nature really fill the tank and recharge us. We get a lot of inspiration from the natural world.
Siskiyou: When you’re on tour are you able to feel like you can connect with nature?
AH: It’s tough. It’s a high energy show and we put a lot into it emotionally and physically. During the day sometimes people will have enough time to go on a run or go on a hike [or] we’ll have the day off and be able to do a little adventure.
Siskiyou: When you’re on the road, do you have anything that you do to keep yourself sane?
AH: I get off of the tour bus during the day. The bus will drive at night and we sleep in the bunks and we wake up in a new town. I try to go for a run or go to a coffee shop or explore the town a little bit.
Siskiyou: You guys do quite a lot of covers, do you have any covers you’re excited to be bringing on the tour this time?
AH: We try to make new ones every year that we tour, so we’ve got some things in mind for sure, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise [laughs]. There will be fresh covers in the mix for this tour [along with] the collaboration with Yonder Mountain String Band, it will be a pretty cool night.
Siskiyou: Speaking of collaborations, if you could collaborate with anyone who would that be?
AH: We’ve always wanted to play with Trey Anastasio from Phish. We just recorded a song with G-Love, so that will be coming out in the next month. For us it’s more about what naturally comes about, like you meet an artist and all of a sudden you have a connection with them. You can always shoot for the stars, but when a collaboration happens naturally those tend to be the best.
Siskiyou: Do you have a lesson from 2019 that you’re going to bring into the new year?
AH: My biggest goal is to just truly enjoy every moment of [touring] and not sweat the small stuff. What we’re doing is really awesome and fun, and it can be easy to get tired and run down. For me it’s all about making sure I enjoy every moment and being grateful for what we’re doing and that will translate into a better show for the crowd.
Siskiyou: For anyone who hasn’t seen you what should they expect from your show?
AH: It’s a bluegrass show, so you’re going to hear banjo, dobro and fiddle. It’s super high energy and there’s going to be improvising and jamming. We’ll be playing some of our more well-known original songs, throw some covers in there and hopefully it will be an exciting, good vibes kind of show.
[End of Interview]
The Infamous Stringdusters will be accompanied by popular bluegrass group, Yonder Mountain String Band. The show is a co-bill so except a full set from each group as well as some collaborations during the show. You can buy tickets online at liveatthearmory.com, doors will be opening at 7pm with Yonder Mountain String Band taking the stage at 8pm.