I zipped down south to Taxman Brewing in Bargersville to meet with Allie Burbrink, Katie Burk and Sam Herrin of The Whipstitch Sallies, where we discussed the equipment the three-piece outfit uses to make their classic-with-a-punch music, and, of course, alcoholic beverages. Taxman's The Standard is delicious.
NUVO: Allie, let's start with you. What's your main instrument?
Burbrink: It's a Martin DM model from about the year 1999. Someone asked me the other day if it was a D-18, I get that a lot, but it isn't. It's a DM — dreadnought mahogany.
NUVO: Now you also play banjo. What model are you using?
Burbrink: My banjo is a Gold Tone [WL]-250 model. It's a White Ladye tone-ring. It's historical, that name goes back a long time. When I saw that I thought that it was cool.
NUVO: Katie, will you describe your fiddle?
Burk: It's called Lewis, the Dancla. It's really a nicer learner's instrument. I consider it my lucky charm. I've had it since I was 13. It was a replacement because my orchestra teacher dropped a music stand on my first one, so I got an upgrade. I've taken it everywhere. It's been on the beaches of Hawaii. I left it out overnight at a festival by a campfire. A friend brought it to me.
Burbrink: Yeah, the next day, covered in dew.
Herrin: Some nice hydration.
Burk: I used to play violin and now I play fiddle. I think it's really about hygiene, because I just don't clean it to make it look more rustic.
NUVO: My grandfather always said that the bridge was lower.
Burk: You can do more double stops, two strings at once. It makes it a lot easier. My friend built me a new bridge.
NUVO: Sam, you're playing mandolin and guitar, right?
Herrin: Yeah, when Allie is playing banjo I'm playing guitar.
NUVO: What's your mandolin?
Herrin: It's an Eastman MD305. I much prefer the A-style to the F-style. It's a tone thing. An A-style, the tone is more like a fire hose, whereas most F-styles are more like a laser pointer. I would rather blast than have lasers I guess. For the money I could either get an F-style that sounded shitty or an A-style that sounded great. So I got the A-style. I prefer tone over looks.
NUVO: What's your acoustic guitar?
Herrin: It's a 1969 Gibson B-15. Nothing's been re-done to it. It's pretty beat up, but I love it. I got it in Bloomington.
NUVO: I've been selling gear for almost 15 years and have never seen that model.
Herrin: It's a student model so it's got a little thinner body; a little smaller body. It's bigger than a concert but the neck scale is different too.
NUVO: What is the band drinking these days?
Burbrink: It's evolved.
Herrin: It goes in phases and stages
Burk: We used to be a whiskey band, as in we used to do shots before we'd go on.
Herrin: When Jack Daniels came out with, what I now consider terrible, that honey whiskey...
Burbrink: I'm rockin' that tonight. For performing I prefer whiskey. Other things make me not as focused. Whiskey's all right. It's liquid courage.
Burk: I'm a gin and tonic person. It's my go-to.
Herrin: In the bluegrass world, you don't realize how much of a party scene it is until you're in it. I feel like we're pretty tame. Comparatively.
Burk: We've turned down a lot of moonshine. More than we can drink.
Burbrink: That's true. We've declined more 'shine than we have imbibed. We hit it pretty hard when we got to Cashiers [North Carolina] though.
Herrin: That's because it was the most hellacious ride.
Burbrink: It was the worst drive in the history of drives. It was this crazy, hilly...
Herrin: Not hilly, mountain-y.
Burbrink: Mountain-y, switchback-y road in the sheet pouring rain in Sam's jeep. It was a soft top, with plastic windows; couldn't see.
Herrin: It was terrifying.
Burbrink: She was in need of a drink when we got there. Luckily it was a party house. They were like, "Jello shots? Moonshine?"