The Infamous Stringdusters Share The Festy Experience
Justin: So one sponsor I saw—The Devils Backbone Brewing Company—gave $1700 to The Blue Ridge Medical Center Dental Program. Were you guys involved with that, or was that a completely separate thing?
Travis: Well the liquor laws in Virginia are very complex, so in order to pour remote taps, you have to partner with some type of nonprofit, so that was the nonprofit that we worked with. I believe that was last year, and we may be working with them again this year, there’s some talk about us maybe trying to start our own nonprofit, maybe something based around music in the schools, you know, something a little closer to our wheel house, but I think it all worked out to be something that was really convenient.
Justin: That’s really great of you guys. So what can you tell me about The Blue Ridge Burn, the 5k/10k race that you guys close the festival with? What made you guys decide to do that, was it based around the repeated emphasis on an outdoor lifestyle that you mentioned earlier?
Travis: It’s sort of the same concept, they were already doing this event out there once a year, so not everybody is a mountain biker, and the great thing about trail running is that the barrier to entry is so low, you don’t even need to own a pair of running shoes, you know? You can just get out there and walk the trail and they were already doing this event at some time, I think it was in September so we asked them if they wanted to move it to this weekend and make it part of our event and give people yet another option to sort of energize themselves. I know for me, a day without a run or a ride or some yoga is an incomplete experience. So it just made sense to sort of balance it out, it’s one of the most simple outdoor activities that you can do.
Justin: Yeah I like that, you can go at your own pace and don’t have to worry about being the last person in line, which is where I usually end up. [laughter]
Justin: So to shift gears, I see you guys have some dates with the Emitt-Nershi Band including two nights in Seattle and San Francisco, Portland and et cetera. Jesse [Cobb] (Mandolin player for The Infamous Stringdusters) is playing a show with Noam [Pikelny] from The Punch Brothers, you guys opened for Yonder. It’s interesting to see that you guys support eachother at different festivals and shows, rather than just a casual sit in situation. Do you guys feel there is sort of a family vibe to the bluegrass scene? How’d you become friends with The Punch Brothers or Yonder or Drew Emmitt and Bill Nershi?
Travis: The ties that we have to those bands are real in the sense that our banjo player Chris Pandolfi was the original banjo player for the Emitt-Nershi Band when they first started. And when we started The Stringdusters he decided to play with us full time, and he turned Emitt-Nershi Band onto this great banjo player Andy Thorn who I played with for several years in a band in Colorado.
The Punch Brothers, they started right around the same time we did, we were already a band and then they asked our guitar player Chris Eldridge to join their band, so he left our band, we got Andy Falco and he started playing with them, so that’s a very real and obvious connection. We’ve known Noam for years when we were living in Nashville.
Then in terms of Yonder, they’re sort of at the top of the bluegrass peak in a lot of ways, and I got into the music going to Yonder shows, I used to drive 10 hours from Durango, Colorado to go see those guys, and they’re a huge part of the reason I got into the music and the great thing about acoustic music and the bluegrass scene is that it really is a mutual admiration society. We all love to pick and we all love to hang, we love to show eachother new tunes and new music, we love to watch each other play and Yonder is such a powerful band and they’re all really hip cats and they’re big fans of ours and we’re big fans of theirs and it just feels really natural and obvious for us to get together and play some shows. We did Red Rocks with them this summer, it was them and us and Railroad Earth and that was just an amazing experience and there was so much positivity coming from those guys and from every corner of the acoustic and bluegrass world. I think it’s a real incestuous scene full of people who just love to play music, so our paths cross a lot.
Justin: So you just mentioned Red Rocks, a lot of bands that I’ve talked to said Red Rocks is a goal of theirs or that Madison Square Garden is a goal of theirs. What are some of your personal goals, and what are some of the goals of The Stringdusters for the future?
Travis: Well Red Rocks was a major milestone for me, growing up in Colorado I used to go up there and see shows, you know, I went up there to see String Cheese a bunch of times, and saw R.E.M., and if you’re a musician in Colorado, then that’s a sort of Mecca. The Stringdusters philosophy in general is to have a really good time, to enjoy life, be present and play good music. I think if we can share that with larger and larger audiences, that will be really amazing. As far as specific venues I don’t know if we necessarily have any goals, there’s a lot of festivals that we’re really excited to play and for us, we just want to see continued growth as a band, we want to explore new musical territory and hopefully continue to have a lot more people get turned onto the scene. I think if what we’re doing is good and if it has value and meaning, then we’ll see our audiences grow and if our audiences don’t grow then, you know. [laughter]
Then we’ll know that it’s not meant to be, but right now things are just cruising along for us, we just got out of a record deal and we released our live record, it comes out actually at the Festy but you can pre-order it right now, it’s name your own price. We’re super psyched to finally have a live record out and to have ownership over it, the record label had us sort of chained to the ground for years so that’s been a major goal of ours. The Festy is a major goal, releasing and distributing our own music on our own timeline our own way is a huge goal and, you know, getting some more people on the road with us so we can put on a bigger and better and more exciting show. More lights, better sound, that sort of thing.
But honestly man, the most important thing for us is to just stay together, keep being true to our music and playing music together and to love each other, you know, we’re a band of brothers and the experience of day to day being on the road, so many bands are out there and they’re hustling and they’re thinking that there’s this place they’re going to get to, thing’s are going to get so much better whenever this happens. And we don’t have that mentality, you know, we play the shows that we want to play right now. We’re going to do a Ski tour in January cause we love to ski and we’re putting on The Festy cause it’s important to us and we try to enjoy every show, focusing on the present. I think every night that we enjoy ourselves, the goal is achieved.