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Punch Brothers is an American band consisting of Chris Thile (mandolin), Gabe Witcher (fiddle/violin), Noam Pikelny (banjo), Chris Eldridge (guitar), and Paul Kowert (bass). Their style has been described as "bluegrass instrumentation and spontaneity in the structures of modern classical"[1] as well as "American country-classical chamber music."[2]

Punch Brothers
2008 Punch Brothers - credit Cassandra Jenkins SMALL for website.jpg
Background information
Origin Brooklyn, New York, New York, United States
Genres Progressive bluegrass, classical music, acoustic music
Years active 2006–present
Labels Nonesuch
Members Chris Thile
Gabe Witcher
Noam Pikelny
Chris Eldridge
Paul Kowert
Past members Bryan Sutton
Greg Garrison
Punch Brothers, NC Museum of Art, July 16, 2015. Photo by Julianne G. Macie



2006–2007: Beginnings and GrowEdit

Thile formed the band in 2006 to record the album How to Grow a Woman from the Ground. In an interview with the Nashville City Paper, Thile described the formation of the band:

We got together one night just to drop a ton of money, drink too much wine, eat steaks, and commiserate about our failed relationships. We had gotten to play together a few days before and we had said that we needed to do something musical together. With our hearts smashed to pieces, it became more urgent — our lives had gone the same way for so long. I knew I wanted to have a band with Gabe [Witcher], but I didn’t know if it would be a rock ensemble, an ambitious acoustic classical thing or a bluegrass group. We played, and there was a serious, instantaneous connection. Then I knew I wanted to put together a bluegrass band — one with a lot of range, but aesthetically a bluegrass band.[3]

Initially the band was known as The How to Grow a Band. In 2007, the band officially changed its name first to The Tensions Mountain Boys and then settled on Punch Brothers. The band's name comes from the critical line of an earworm jingle that is the centerpiece of Mark Twain's short story "A Literary Nightmare".[4] The chorus of the jingle consists of two lines, "Punch, brothers! punch with care! Punch in the presence of the passenjare", that are said to be the mantra of railroad conductors.

What they formed was a type of group that American Songwriter magazine calls "A 21st century version of the Bluegrass Boys."[5]

2007–2009: "The Blind Leaving the Blind" and PunchEdit

Chris Thile and Punch Brothers at Wintergrass, 2008

On March 17, 2007, this group debuted Chris Thile's most ambitious work to date at Carnegie Hall: "The Blind Leaving the Blind", a forty-minute suite in four movements. Thile says the piece was written in part to deal with his divorce of 2003.

On February 13, 2008, the band set off on their first national tour as Punch Brothers.

On February 26, 2008, Punch Brothers released the album, Punch, on Nonesuch Records. The album features Thile's suite "The Blind Leaving the Blind", as well as other original songs.[6]

In March 2008, when Chris Thile was asked in an interview if there would be another album by Punch Brothers, Thile said that "there will definitely be another album."[7]

On November 8, 2008, the band announced on their website that they parted ways with bass player Greg Garrison. Paul Kowert, who studied under Edgar Meyer at the Curtis Institute of Music, took Garrison's place on the bass.[8]

2010: AntifogmaticEdit

Antifogmatic, the second album by Punch Brothers, was released on June 15, 2010 and features both traditional bluegrass and newgrass styles on the ten-track listing. Though bassist Kowert toured extensively with the band in support of Punch over the last two years, Antifogmatic is the first Punch Brothers album on which he appears.

2011: Documentary How to Grow A BandEdit

The band is also the focus of the documentary "How to Grow A Band" directed by Mark Meatto. It was filmed over a two-year period and, according to the website, "explores the tensions between individual talents and group identity, art and commerce, youth and wisdom." The film premiered at the 42nd Nashville Film Festival in Nashville, Tennessee on April 15, 2011. The film also screened as part of the 38th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival in June 2011.

2012: Who's Feeling Young Now?Edit

The band released its third album, Who's Feeling Young Now?, in February 2012. Shortly afterwards, they contributed the song 'Dark Days' to the soundtrack for 2012 blockbuster The Hunger Games. In November 2012 they released Ahoy!, the 5-track EP companion to Who's Feeling Young Now?

2012: Ahoy!Edit

Ahoy! consists of five songs recorded at the same time as Who's Feeling Young Now? that were not featured on the full-length release. Three included songs are covers.[9]

2015: The Phosphorescent BluesEdit

In November 2014, the band released the first single, entitled "I Blew It Off," from their then-untitled fourth album. In December 2014, the band announced that the new album, The Phosphorescent Blues, would be released on January 27, 2015, along with the immediate release of another new single, "Julep."[10] Julep was nominated for Best American Roots Song at the 2016 Grammy Awards.[11]

2015: The WirelessEdit

On November 20th, 2015, the Punch Brothers released an EP, The Wireless, consisting of 5 tracks.

Band membersEdit

Noam Pikelny (banjo), Chris Thile (mandolin), Greg Garrison (bass), and Chris Eldridge (guitar) at Wintergrass, 2008

Current membersEdit

Former membersEdit

  • Bryan Sutton – guitar, vocals (2006–2007)
  • Greg Garrison – bass, vocals (2006–2008)



Title Album details Peak chart positions
US Grass US US Heat US Rock US Folk
Punch 1 10
Antifogmatic 2 128 1 39 2
Who's Feeling Young Now? 1 76 19 5
Ahoy! EP 1 144 42 7
The Phosphorescent Blues 1 37 9 4
The Wireless EP 1 34 9
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Music videosEdit

Year Video Director
2013 "Movement and Location"[12] Danny Clinch


  1. ^ Paphides, Pete (January 25, 2008). "Chris Thile and his mandolin". The Times. London. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  2. ^ Holden, Stephen (February 22, 2008). "Covers and Classical Moves From a Bluegrass Virtuoso". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ "Nickel Creek's Thile 'grows' a new band". Nashville City Paper. 2006-08-23. Archived from the original on 2006-08-26. Retrieved 2007-10-13. 
  4. ^ "Punch Brothers: Punch". Retrieved 2010-04-23. 
  5. ^ "Punch Brothers: American Pickers". American Songwriter. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  6. ^ "Nonesuch Records Signs Singer/Composer/Mandolinist Chris Thile and His New Band, Punch Brothers". All About Jazz. 2007-10-09. Retrieved 2007-10-10. 
  7. ^ "Now out of the Creek, Thile's packing Punch - The Boston Globe". 2008-04-05. Retrieved 2015-03-18. 
  8. ^ "Punch Brothers". Retrieved 2015-03-18. 
  9. ^ "Punch Brothers: Ahoy!". Retrieved 2018-02-18. 
  10. ^ "The Phosphorescent Blues – Pre-Order Now". 2014-12-04. Retrieved 2015-03-18. 
  11. ^ "2016 Grammy Awards Nominees Announced". The Boot. Retrieved 2017-04-06. 
  12. ^ "CMT : Videos : Punch Brothers : Movement and Location". Country Music Television. Retrieved January 25, 2013. 

External linksEdit