Testing effects

Hear how the bluegrass-blazin’, death-metal-rooted wiz twists the traditional music of Kentucky toward the psychedelic sounds of San Francisco.

Born William Apostol, Billy Strings (a nickname given to him by his aunt because of his fluency on several instruments) sharpened his chops in bluegrass alongside his father in Michigan. But to play music with musicians closer to his age, he started shredding in bands inspired by death metal bands Cryptopsy and Cannibal Corpse. While the death-metal thing never stuck (he’s still a regular listener of the genre), the energy, string-splitting proficiency, and raw power trickled into his bluegrass performances. He and his stalwart bandmates logged over 200 shows for a handful of years before recording his 2017 debut Tinfoil and Turmoil, which has many pillars of bluegrass (acoustic instruments, no drums, lightning-fast picking, strong vocal harmonies), but also features the rowdiness of death metal, modern-day tales of drugs and debauchery, and hallucinating delays and reverbs that usher in progressive jams.

Months before his sophomore release, Home, hits the shelves, Billy Strings had the honor of headlining one of the Ryman’s Bluegrass Nights. And that’s where PG’s Perry Bean had the pleasure of spending some quality time with Strings to talk about the perfect acoustic guitar and why he uses pedals to break down bluegrass barriers while still paying reverence to the music’s forefathers like Doc Watson and Bill Monroe.

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