While Greensky Bluegrass is a bluegrass band, the term is used somewhat loosely. For instance, along with the dobro-banjo-guitar-upright bass-mandolin recipe, the band adds in a hefty dose of horns, not part of the usual bluegrass repertoire. And distortion. They like distortion. Plus the bandmates named their latest album "Handguns" (released in Oct. 2011 and debuted on Billboard's Bluegrass Charts at No. 3), which doesn't strike me as all that bluegrass, either. Speaking of "Handguns," the album was recorded in Michigan this past winter, in between tour dates. Using vintage microphones, they musicians laid the songs straight to tape, on the exact recording console that Lynyrd Skynyrd used for "Free Bird" decades earlier.
"I think the less perfect sound image that tape and analog equipment captures has more character," said Paul Hoffman, the mandolin player.
The band performs at State Bridge on Sunday; Olora Brothers will open the show beginning at 4 p.m. The show is part of a busy summer that's seen the band play their first ever performances at SXSW and in Hawaii. And coming this August, they'll go north, to Alaska. In the dozen years this quintet has been making music, its seen nearly every corner of America and is only two states away from saying Greensky Bluegrass has played all 50.
Hoffman talked to the Vail Daily about his memories of State Bridge, a few of the festivals left on the band's bucket list and why a "perfect" recording isn't always so perfect.
Vail Daily: Are you excited to perform at State Bridge?
Paul Hoffman: It's a beautiful place to play. We've driven by a few times and I think we even slept there once before they rebuilt it. Yarmony is right up the road so we are familiar with the terrain, so to speak. Lots of great memories floating the river and such.
VD: You've had a busy summer, performing at SXSW, in Hawaii and other far-flung locales. How has it gone?
PH: We did an eight week tour in the spring. It was epic. Sometimes I think about shows from that tour that are so far apart and remember, 'Oh that was the same tour.' Hawaii was killer. We're currently trying to figure out how we can get back there this winter and maybe a do a few more of the islands. Wanna go?
VD: Where's one place you've yet to play that you really want to be invited to?
PH: Hmmm .... There are a couple festivals we are yet to experience. Austin City Limits, Outside Lands, Gathering of the Vibes and Merlefest are a few that come to mind. Other than that, it feels like we've been almost everywhere. (We're )even crossing Alaska off the list this summer, leaving only Nebraska and Delaware on the untouched list. I'm not in any great hurry to play in those places. Although saying we've played all 50 will be cool. And, how could I forget? Europe!
VD: How did you come up with the name for your new album "Handguns"?
PH: It's named after a song that I wrote. I think it's a great image for power and responsibility, which makes the lyric very poignant, to me anyway. "Handguns make less mistakes without love." KInd of a sad lyric but it lent well to the album title and to some fantastic artwork.
VD: For that album, you recorded the songs straight to tape. Tell me about that process and what it adds to the sound.
PH: Tape sorta takes from the sound more than it gives. Digital processing and modern awesome microphones can capture sound so well it almost sounds unreal. Or doctored. Your ear can only hear so much. I think the less perfect sound image that tape and analog equipment captures has more character. Ultimately when making a record or recording a song, I think you're presenting a vibe. The crisp amazing digital picture just wasn't what we wanted to present.
VD: What do you like fans to bring you?
PH: Cookies, barbecue, invitations to ride on their sailboats and you know what I like!