Nonesuch Keeping a secret isn't easy, but Punch Brothers frontman Chris Thile…
- Posted on Jul 9th 2010 3:00PM by Mike Ayers
"He wielded a mighty sword in getting what we do to come through the speakers in an impactful manner," Thile tells Spinner. "Acoustic music is not meant to be recorded. It's meant to be heard in a small space. If I'm playing these songs in my living room, it's right there. It's aggressive and thunderous -- it'll whack you upside your head. Getting that to come through your speakers is so much more difficult with acoustic instruments than things that are already two-dimensional, like an electric guitar."
Due to Thile's prior association with best-selling bluegrass act Nickel Creek, it'd be easy to look at Punch Brothers as some sort of extension of his days with Sara and Sean Watkins. However, he says the Punch Brothers are a whole different beast.
"Jon's the kind of musician who realizes that we play bluegrass instruments but it's a different thing," Thile explains. "He was in no way trying to squeeze the spirit of our forefathers, the Stanley Brothers, Flatts and Scruggs. It wasn't about that at all. Those are just tools. It's not the house that's being built. Jon understood that. I wanted to send him things and get his input, but he was pointedly disinterested in that part. I'd send him demos and he'd say, 'It sounds like you guys. Just write more, but I don't want to change what you're doing.'"
Thile and the other four Punch Brothers benefited from Brion's expertise in getting the clarity of the instruments to stand out, maybe more so than others in the genre. The group's sound is highlighted by Thile's mandolin abilities, where at times he's extremely delicate on tracks such as 'Missy' and 'Alex,' but pushes the instrument's boundaries on the winding 'Welcome Home.' But it wasn't all about Brion's production techniques that make the album what it is -- Thile also credits Brion's laidback encouragement with helping the group get through the sessions.
"He'd come in late at night with some cheese and a bottle of port and talk to us about what was important about the music we were making," Thile says. "It was an incredible process and Jon's impact can't be underestimated."
The Punch Brothers are touring this summer with comedy legend and banjo enthusiast Steve Martin. 'Antifogmatic' is out now on Nonesuch.