Sunday, October 24, 2010

Interview: Chris Pandolfi of The Infamous Stringdusters

This is the second part of a two-part interview series that I am posting to coincide with the "Fly Palomino Tour 2010", featuring the double-bill of Trampled by Turtles and The Infamous Stringdusters.

Previously, I was lucky enough to speak with Trampled By Turtles' vocalist/ guitarist, Dave Simonett. For this interview, I spoke with Chris Pandolfi of The Infamous Stringdusters regarding the band's creative processes, his thoughts on Festy, and what he has been listening to lately.

It seems that right now is such an exciting and interesting time for bluegrass and string band artists. There seems to be a growing movement of innovators stretching out the boundries and expectations of the genre, balancing tradition with experimentation. Artists like the yourselves, Punch Brothers, and Abigail Washburn come to mind.

How do you see yourselves pushing the expectations and traditions found in string music?

Can you talk about your own expectations of the band within the creative process, as well as when performing live?

Chris Pandolfi: Our goal as a band is to combine the influences/ideas of all six members into the most musical sound possible. It doesn't happen the same way every time, but we are developing ways of creating and playing together that are only possible after years of shared experiences, on and off the stage. We want to max out the possibilities of being a 'band.'

In the creative process that means more time in pre-production, learning to understand and craft the music as a group. On stage it means being being totally tuned in to what everyone else is doing, making your instrument find its place as one sixth of a bigger sound. But there are no rules, and we are all complete equals, so it's easy and natural to step up when necessary, or to trust the other band members if they are driving the process. Any pushing of boundaries is bound to be a natural thing, after all that label is not one that we can give to ourselves. It's up to the people who are listening. We don't even know where the boundaries are.

Having been unable to get to Festy this year, can you share what you enjoyed most about your experience?

CP: The Festy weekend had already made it into my top ten weekends of all time by noon on Saturday. We brought together a ton of close friends and all the things we love to do, put them all in an amazingly beautiful place, and just let this amazing feeling take us all away for a few days. I truly enjoyed it all--it was as the title stipulates, an 'experience.' It was atop of the list by Monday.

How would you describe your writing/ recording process?

CP: For our last record, Things That Fly, we spent about 3 days at a time in a rental house, working on music all day and night. We did that a few times, and then spent about 9 days in the studio, which really yielded some great results. But it's just the beginning. We got a glimpse at what's possible for us as a band, now we just need some time, which we will have soon.

We love to create music together and we're so excited to figure out where the process can take us. To me, this time is truly one of the most amazing/inspiring parts of my life as an artist.

How did you and Trampled By Turtles decide to tour together for the Fly Palomino Tour 2010?

CP: Our managers have worked together in the past, and like good managers do, they stayed in touch and paired up two bands that are totally unique while still having the common thread that will bring our different communities of people together. It makes sense, and that is so hard to do with a true co-bill tour. We love the Artist Farm. This tour is going to be ridiculous.

How are playing festivals, including Festy, different than your own shows? Any preference one over the other?

CP: Every show is a little different. Festivals are shorter, so you have to find your rhythm quickly to connect with the crowd, and then keep it there if the energy in on. A good portion of the crowd might be hearing you for the first time. Club shows give you a little more room to spread your wings and try different things. The people are there to see you, and if they are tuned in to the show the music just comes to life and takes off. But you need to pace yourself during a 2-3 hour club show, feel the crowd and really tailor the flow to that particular night. At any show, your best bet is to plug into the energy of the place and go.

I’m sure there are many, but who would you consider your strongest influences?

CP: This list is literally endless. Between the six of us we love absolutely everything, including the sound of Spongebob's voice, any kind of Gary Busey spoken word stuff, even the ultra-crappy new Guns N' Roses album.

What have you been listening to lately?

CP: Right now I am listening to the Fleet Foxes self-titled album and loving every second of it. I especially enjoy this music at extreme volumes. I loved Phoenix's last album, and I have been coming back to Nick Drake lately. That music has such a vibe to it, very pure.

The latest album by The Infamous Stringdusters, Things That Fly, was released in April, 2010, by Sugar Hill Records.

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