Punch Brothers perform in The Current studio

Punch Brothers perform "I Blew It Off" live in The Current studio. (MPR)
Punch Brothers perform in The Current studio (live session + interview)
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  • Punch Brothers perform in The Current studio (live session + interview) 25:22
  • Punch Brothers - I Blew it Off (live on 89.3 The Current) 03:11
  • Punch Brothers - Magnet (live on 89.3 The Current) 03:13
  • Punch Brothers - Julep (live on 89.3 The Current) 05:37

Chris Thile of Punch Brothers has been getting a lot of press in Minnesota lately. Just a few weeks ago, Thile had the rare experience of being substitute host on A Prairie Home Companion, stepping into the (red) shoes of the venerable Garrison Keillor for two consecutive weeks. "It was an incredible experience — rarely have four hours of my life been that stimulating," Thile says.

Now on tour supporting their new album, The Phosphorescent Blues, Punch Brothers — comprising Thile on mandolin, Paul Kowert on bass, Gabe Witcher on violin, Chris Eldridge on guitar and Noam Pikelny on banjo — stopped in to The Current's studio to play some songs and to chat with Bill DeVille before heading off to their gig at First Avenue in Minneapolis.

Here are some memorable quotes from the band during their conversation with Bill:

On the delicate balance of using drums in the band:
Witcher: "The thing about adding the drums is we've developed such a rhythmic approach to playing as a five-piece that unless it's very tastefully done, you're just being redundant or covering someone else up."

On the origin of the song, "I Blew It Off":
Thile: "I was in the middle of a tour, playing a bunch of Bach. And I was in a hotel room practicing the B-minor Partita over and over again, and in between giving my hands a rest, I just started [strumming and singing] 'I blew it off …' It kind of came in even as I was blowing off practicing the B-minor Partita."

On evaluating tracks as a group while recording:
Thile: "You can talk all you want about music, but what it could actually be coming through the speakers is something very ambiguous and something that you kind of have to try to understand together without talking a lot."

On the idea that The Phosphorescent Blues is a concept album about smartphone technology:
Thile: "In a time when it's pretty easy to take connection for granted or feeling connected at all times … you [can] start to devalue human connection in your mind … but at the same time we're so hungry for it — we're so hungry for it — and so the quality of human connection that we'll settle for starts to lower despite ourselves. … The record is far from an indictment of the technology, it's just trying to recognize that it has changed everything, and we have to figure out a way to make it work for us and not the other way around."

Songs Performed

"I Blew It Off"

All songs from Punch Brothers' album, The Phosphorescent Blues, out now on Nonesuch Records.

Hosted by Bill DeVille
Produced by Lindsay Kimball
Engineered by Michael DeMark and Henry Ingber
Web feature by Luke Taylor

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5 Photos

  • Punch Brothers
    Chris Thile of Punch Brothers performing live in The Current studio (MPR / Nate Ryan)
  • Punch Brothers
    Guitarist Chris Eldridge, mandolinist Chris Thile and banjoist Noam Pikelny performing as Punch Brothers live in The Current studio (MPR / Nate Ryan)
  • Punch Brothers
    Punch Brothers' bassist Paul Kowert performing live in The Current studio (MPR / Nate Ryan)
  • Punch Brothers
    Punch Brothers' Chris Eldridge performing live in The Current studio (MPR / Nate Ryan)
  • Punch Brothers
    Punch Brothers violinist Gabe Witcher, bassist Paul Kowert and guitarist Chris Eldridge performing live in The Current studio (MPR / Nate Ryan)

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