Punch Brothers' Chris Eldridge: Creating a full-length album is the noble thing to do
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What started as a side project where friends could get together to eat, drink, and jam, the Brooklyn band Punch Brothers quickly became something more. The band has toured non-stop since the beginning of 2012 -- they already made it to Minneapolis in early March -- in support of their last album, Who's Feeling Young Now? Armed with new music via an EP, the band is back for a victory lap before settling down for the rest of this year. The group will be back on the road again in January of 2013; no one said they could sit still for long.
Ahead of Wednesday's First Avenue show, Gimme Noise spoke with guitarist Chris Eldridge about their constant touring and what to expect to see at a Punch Brothers show.
Gimme Noise: How has the tour been going?
Chris Eldridge: It's been great; this leg of the tour started in September. We've been touring like crazy, and we'll be winding up in Chicago just right after we come to you guys. There's something really nice about playing so much. The music becomes more intuitive, and you get more into it in a fun way.
GN: Are you touring in support of your EP, or did that just happen to come out while you guys were on tour?
CE: That coincided with us being on tour. I think of this tour as an extension of our last tour, and the new EP coming out gave us new music to play. We mix it up every night anyways, but when you have new music, it's a fresh pool of music to draw from.
GN: Why release an EP since you guys just released a full-length album earlier this year?
CE: Those were all songs we recorded for the album. They didn't make the cut, not because we didn't like them. On the contrary, I would say those were some of our favorite songs, but they didn't fit. When you're putting an album together, you're thinking of a whole; you're going for parts to approach. Those songs from the EP didn't really fit what the album was becoming, so we took our time in releasing them.
GN: What are your thoughts on the trend of artists releasing singles versus albums?
CE: I'm not excited about that shift, because I think there's something really beautiful about an album. When you make an album, you're creating something that can take a listener on a journey. I think it's still a really noble thing to do. To get somebody to sit down for forty minutes is a Herculean task in this day and age. I do realize in this digital world you can buy any songs on iTunes, so the format of an album is irrelevant. That's something that's happening, and there's no going back.
GN: You said you play a different set every night? Not many bands do that. Why did you guys integrate that into the show?
CE: It's to keep it interesting and engaging for ourselves. There's this great thing about playing all of the time that you get locked into a groove, but the other side of it is going on autopilot.
GN: The band embraces the bluegrass sound that is very popular these days, but you guys hail from Brooklyn, respectively. What genre would you dub the Punch Brothers?
CE: It's hard to answer that. I don't think any of us are preoccupied with categorizing the band. We're just trying to make music. That said, we all grew up in the bluegrass world, and as kids we played instruments that are still deeply embedded in that world. I think as we've all gotten older, we became of what's out there. We're a lot more interested with everything. I especially love listening to old classic country and string quartet. What we're all interested in is bringing the stuff in music that's transcended and latch onto that and make something of our own. We find great things that we love.
GN: So, despite the internet taking from musicians the attention span of listeners, I think we can agree that it broadens our world. It's safe to say the band is known for your live shows. What kind of musician do you feel you're better at, a live or studio musician?
CE: If I could do only one for the rest of my life, I would play live, but that's not to say I like one more than the other. One of my favorite things in the world is crafting a record music, crafting a record, and chipping away at something to reduce it down to its best parts they capture. But there's nothing better than playing to an excited house and taking all the energy from a room.
GN: For those that have never seen a Punch Brothers show, what can we expect to see at First Avenue on Wednesday?
CE: We love playing live, and we're instrumentalists at heart even though we love songs. A live show is more lovely than the record and has a lot more space to move. We try and stay open, and we try to have a lot of fun.
Punch Brothers will perform at First Avenue on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 with The Milk Carton Kids.
18+, $25 adv, $27 door, 7:30 pm
Purchase tickets here.
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