Mandolinist Chris Thile has been rather busy since the disbanding of his former project Nickel Creek last year. First among several new projects is an album with his new band, Punch Brothers, due Feb.
Mandolinist Chris Thile has been rather busy since the disbanding of his former project Nickel Creek last year. First among several new projects is an album with his new band, Punch Brothers, due Feb. 26 via Nonesuch.
As previously reported, "Punch" contains Thile's four-movement suite "The Blind Leaving the Blind," which the quintet performed at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall last year. The other three tracks on the set were co-written with guitarist Chris Eldridge, bassist Greg Garrison, banjo player Noam Pikelny and violinist Gabe Witcher.
"We took an 'anything goes' approach as we started to make the album. We wanted lots of room for improvisation," Thile tells Billboard.com of the eccentric set. "That's what feels so different from Nickel Creek. I had gotten used to thinking completely in the box -- verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, out. We weren't ambitious with the form, but of course we'd been in a band since I was 8 and you establish certain habits. In a new situation like the five of us now, we have mutual respect that anything possible."
The quintet entered into recording and rehearsals with rough skeletons of songs and then depended on one another to flesh out the compositions with their own, specific part.
"For each track, there's a lead role and accompaniment switches around from player to player. But it was obvious that when this came together it wasn't gonna be a traditional band record," says Pikelny. "The traditional band record has been done. What we can say is that it's impossible to play these songs apart from the other players, that's not how the songs are supposed to be heard."
The story behind "The Blind" is based on Thile's experience after his divorce from his wife, which occurred in the middle of 2004 when he was only 23. Now 26, Thile looks back at "how it all kinda trivialized the impersonal relationships, like religion and this vague moral structure in my life. It was my friends and family that had the most tangible impact in my life. So in a way, the piece is triumphant. I did a lot of soul searching and made me think about death and fear and man's inability to change how things play out."
The Punch Brothers will be on the road this winter, starting with a slew of dates in the U.K. then touring the U.S. beginning Feb. 13 in Burlington, Vt.
Thile will also be heard apart from the Punch Brothers later this year, as he releases a collection of solo musings and collaborations with composer/bassist Edgar Meyer, also through Nonesuch.