Swaager was lucky enough to get a chance to sit down with bluegrass greats The Infamous Stringdusters at Electric Forest last Friday. Here we chat with guitarist Andy Falco and fiddle player Jeremy Garrett about touring, life on the road, their place at electronic music festivals, and more.
Swaager: Looking at your touring schedule, it seems like you guys have a lot of stuff going on - you're going out to the Catskills soon, playing lots of festivals, and more. Tell me a little bit about what's on the horizon as far as touring goes. What are you really excited for?
Andy Falco: We're going out west, so we're gonna do a bunch of festivals out there. We're also going back east for Grey Fox.
Jeremy Garrett: We're going north and south too. (laughs)
Falco: Yeah, we kind of go everywhere, and we love it. We love being out there and playing everywhere. We're really psyched. At the end of the festival season, we have our own festival, The Festy Experience, which we're always so psyched about. It's sort of our flagship party of the year.
Swaager: What compelled you guys to start your own festival? You obviously love touring and the whole festival experience - what's your favorite part of it?
Garrett: We've all been going to festivals for a long time, so we all just culminated all of the good ideas that we saw. We were always of the mindset that it would be a lot of fun to do - to pick the music, to play at the festival, to cultivate the audience's scene that we wanted. We figured we knew how to do it because we'd been to enough of them. It was just getting all the right partners - we've got a great team put together and a lot of great people to help us to do it. It's been a blast because we've had all the right things happen for it. It's gone really well.
Swaager: How many years has that been going on now?
Garrett: This will be the third year.
Swaager: Tell me a little bit about life on the road. What do you guys like to do on your off days when you're not playing shows?
Falco: We try to spend a lot of time doing outdoor activities. We'll bring our bikes with us sometimes and do a bunch of riding; we'll bring skis with us in the wintertime and go skiing; we go rafting. Everyone's always seeking out different things to do. Sometimes people want to take us out on cool adventures, so we like to just go do it.
Garrett: I've been riding my motorcycle a bunch lately. I'm gonna take it on the next tour, actually.
Swaager: That's awesome. If you could choose some of your favorite cities - not only to play in, but also to explore in - what would they be?
Falco: The City. New York. I'm from New York, so New York is my place. Charlottesville is also a great town.
Garrett: The Front Range.
Falco: Yeah, anywhere over the Denver/Boulder area is pretty sweet.
Garrett: New Orleans is one of the best places, although we've not played there - we're going to this summer, and I'm very, very excited about that. I've been there before, and it's a great town with a lot of cool class. San Francisco is great too.
Swaager: How does it feel for you guys to play a festival like Electric Forest, where you're a bluegrass band in a sea of electronic music?
Falco: It feels great.
Garrett: It really does. We actually feel like we have a lot more in common with the artists at a place like this than we would at a bluegrass festival. A lot of that has to do with the vibe, the scene, the type of people and the crowd that comes. They identify with us, and vice versa. It's a good reciprocal energy for us onstage at a place like this - this open crowd, this real open vibe.
Honestly, we have a bunch of different influences. Some of our jams are coming from the standpoint of really rhythmic and ambient music, different levels and textures of sound. It's related to techno, in a way - so we feel like this place is great for us. This is our second time here. We do Outside Lands in California too, and different festivals that are like that, and always seem to have really good responses.
Swaager: Will you guys be sticking around to check out some of the stuff at the festival today? Who are you excited to see?
Garrett: We were discussing this earlier. We're not familiar with a lot of the bands that play here, and we haven't really had a chance to look at the scene yet. I always love coming to a place like this because you discover a lot of great bands you've never heard of. That's awesome for me. As a musician, that gets hard to do sometimes - to get impressed by bands you hadn't heard of.
Swaager: What are some of your top musical influences?
Garrett: Mine is Tony Rice - biggest influence, for sure. I have rock influence as well - U2, Guns N' Roses, different people like that. Some blues people too, like B.B. King. Just a variety, a huge variety. I love all kinds of stuff, even down to classical and hip-hop.
Falco: Yeah, just a lot of variety. The Beatles, Hendrix... there's just so much good music out there.
Swaager: What are some of the best festivals you've played, or your favorite experiences?
Falco: Our festival is great for us, because we pick the bands and the vibe, but outside of that...
Garrett: High Sierra is a good one.
Falco: Yeah, High Sierra. Electric Forest.
Jeremy: Electric Forest is a good one. There's a bunch of great ones. Horning's Hideout, the Yonder Mountain String Band festival - we're gonna be with The String Cheese Incident there pretty soon. The Yonder festival is always a lot of fun.
Falco: We're lucky - we get to play a lot of great festivals. It's really hard to choose. They all have something that's awesome.
Swaager: It looks like you're playing a bunch of upcoming shows with The String Cheese Incident. Are you guys close with them?
Garrett: Yeah, we've known those cats for a while, especially Billy. We've done a lot of different shows with him. We got to know those cats over the years, picked with them a bunch. They've played with us onstage and vice versa. We played with them here last year. That was a lot of fun. It's really cool to get up and be part of their big show. They're super chill guys, very laid back. We enjoy working with people of like mind.
Swaager: You guys just released a video for "Don't Mean Nothin'." How was the process recording that?
Garrett: It was great! We're lucky, we have a guy in the band - Chris Pandolfi - who has become an experienced video guy. Tom Daly is a guy we know from Charlottesville, and having him do the shoot and Chris edit it was great.
Falco: I think we're gonna have a video for every song on the album.
Swaager: That's a really cool idea. Last question - if you could choose anything to tell your fans or convey one message, what would it be?
Garrett: Come to the shows! (laughs) They always do, they've been great. We have great fans. We'd love to say we love you and we appreciate your support.