The Infamous Stringdusters is an American string ensemble featuring master musicians Andy Falco (guitar), Andy Hall (Dobro), Chris Pandolfi (banjo), Jeremy Garrett (fiddle) and Travis Book (bass). Although the group has effectively situated itself within the jam band scene since its 2006 emergence, individual members are no strangers to the world of traditional bluegrass.
We recently caught up with Falco to discuss his love for both Jerry Garcia and Bill Monroe, as well as the current tour that lands the ’Dusters back in the Lowcountry this week for a pod show at Charleston Pour House.
City Paper: What were some of the key occurrences in your own artistic development?
Andy Falco: Listening to my parents’ record collection, which was super eclectic. They were a little older than people that were hippies but also too young to have been Beatniks. My parents loved all kinds of stuff, you know, New Orleans jazz, Doc Watson, The Beatles — everything. When I was young, my mom had the wherewithal to put me in an Episcopalian choir, even though we didn’t belong to that church. All of the practices that were required for that taught me a lot about discipline and growth. I’d say that one of the most important occurrences, however, was when my older brother signed me out of middle school one day to take me to my first Grateful Dead concert. It was April 4, 1986. I’ll never forget that experience. As a guitarist, I had already gotten into Jerry Garcia, and I was listening to the Dead’s Reckoning album every night, trying to learn their songs. But, encountering those guys in person definitely had a major impact on my musicianship.
CP: Chris Eldridge [of the Punch Brothers] was the Stringdusters’ guitar player for a while. How did you end up moving into that slot?
AF: Well, we all knew each other from various picking parties and had become friends. So, when “Critter” [Eldridge’s nickname] was leaving to join Chris Thile’s band, I was one of the people asked to audition. After a few jam sessions, I got the gig. That would have been 2007, I guess.
CP: Since those days, your quintet has cultivated quite a reputation for being progressive. So, what made you decide to salute the father of bluegrass on the forthcoming record, A Tribute to Bill Monroe?
AF: This is one of the projects we were working on remotely during quarantine. I think that, as a band, our musical DNA is really varied, and that is what gives us our unique sound. The common denominator among all of our influences, though, is bluegrass. Without bluegrass, the Infamous Stringdusters wouldn’t exist. And, bluegrass itself would not exist without Bill Monroe, so that’s how we landed on him as a focal point.
CP: You’re back out on the road for a handful of long-overdue tour dates. What can we expect from the current live show?
AF: You can expect a lot of excitement from the guys on stage. It’s been so long since we’ve played any material in front of an audience that it’s all going to be fresh for us. Throughout the tour, we’re probably going to be revisiting everything in the catalog. Plus, we have the classic Monroe tunes to try out now. And, we also recorded a proper Stringdusters LP of original songs in recent months, so we may pull some of that stuff out too.
CP: The music business seems stranger than ever. In this day and age and at this point in your career, how do you measure success?
AF: Just getting to make a living doing what we love and staying busy with work that means something to us — that’s success, man.
The Infamous Stringdusters play at the Charleston Pour House April 25.
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City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.