Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Independent, unified

Band is greater as one than the sum of their parts

Express Staff Writer

These five guys come with strings, and style all their own. They blow into Ketchum on their “Ski Tour” tonight. Courtesy photo

The Infamous Stringdusters define synergy. Five successful individuals with vaulted tenures playing with luminaries like Dolly Parton, Earl Scruggs, Levon Helm and the Emmitt-Nershi Band come together to create a unique sound that defies tidy definition.

It's a sound they've dubbed "high country," explains bass player Travis Book.

"More than bluegrass, not quite country, always progressive and energetic, 'high country' is our genre as much as it's our mindset."

It's also the name of the band's new label, which just released "We'll Do It Live," its fourth and first properly live record.

Band members, each a songwriter in his or her own right, trade places at the microphone. That keeps each song fresh and puts each musician and each string instrument into the spotlight.

The Stringdusters are currently on their Ski Tour, which stops in Ketchum at Whiskey Jacques' tonight, Jan. 25. Tickets are $10 at the door only and the show starts at 8 p.m.

Book answered some questions ahead of time on behalf of the band.

Q) Where's the name come from?

A) Ben Eldridge from the Seldom Scene suggested it, and we thought it was cool.

Q) Five members, not related, and yet you appear to be a cooperative bunch. Was there intention in the beginning that there would be no single lead singer?

A) Yeah, we get along great. That's the most important part of banding together. Initially I think Jeremy was going to do most of the singing, but as time went on, we realized that a three-singer approach worked well, kept things interesting and made the music infinitely more dynamic. That process, arriving at three singers, was natural and organic. It didn't require any intention, it just happened.

Q) If y'all were to explain your music in terms of a paper plate full of food, one with all those compartments, what would be in each bit that could explain how your music tastes and feels? (I'm from Texas and I saw myself sitting outside with brisket and sausage and slaw and a bread roll and a Shiner bock.)

A) BBQ ribs, a New York slice and a Devils Backbone Stringduster Ale. Our music is rooted in the mountains or the high country, but there's a heavy metropolitan influence.

Q) Venue preference?

A) Big stage, big sound system, big dance floor, some seating above or on the periphery, for the more conservative fans, and a bar.

Q) Dance style your music provides most?

A) We've seen it all and encourage our fans to do exactly what they want to be doing at our shows. It's their show as much as it's our show.

Q) Can you briefly explain the Pledge concept? As I understand, it's a pay-as-you-go concept with member benefits. What happens once you reach the Pledge goal? Where do you go from there?

A) The band came up with a roster of exclusive items that fans can pledge for, like a digital download and even a private performance. The money that's raised will go directly to making the High Country CD Release Tour. Pledgers get instant access to a pledger-only part of the website with inside access to footage from the 2011 fall tours with Toubab Krewe, Emmitt-Nershi Band, and Yonder Mountain String Band and more. Chris Pandolfiade, explains it more at

Q) How long can you keep up the pace of performing and honoring all the Pledge benefits?

A) What we hope will keep this moving forward is a well-planned set of incentives/benefits, a group of people that can help with the fulfillment and coordination of Pledge and an amazing crew on the road. 

Q) What's the successful conclusion of the Ski Tour look like to you?

A) It's happening now: lots of sold-out shows and a few gorgeous ski days. 

Hear them play:

When: Tonight, Jan. 25, at 8 p.m.

Where: Whiskey Jacques' in Ketchum.

How much: Tickets: $10 at the door only.


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