The Punch Brothers featuring Oceanside native Chris Thile (Nickel Creek) have been referred to as a “string-band version of Radiohead.”
“We’re rooted in the present with an eye toward the future,” says Thile. “I think a lot of people associate bluegrass music with sort of an eye toward the past...this upholding of a certain standard. What we love most about it is how fiercely creative it was. That’s the standard that we’re trying to uphold.”
They released their album Antifogmatic in June, 2010. The record debuted at number one on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart.
Antifogmatic is named after a type of 19th century alcoholic drink that was meant as a cure for the effects of fog and other inclement weather. Of choosing the title, Thile says “Antifogmatic is an old term for a bracing beverage, generally rum or whiskey, that a person would have before going out to work in rough weather to stave off any ill effects. This batch of tunes could be used in much the same way, and includes some characters who would probably benefit mightily, if temporarily, from a good antifogmatic.”
The band also includes Chris Eldridge (guitar), Paul Kowert (bass), Noam Pikelny (banjo), and Gabe Witcher (fiddle). They headlined the International Bluegrass Music Museum’s ROMP Bluegrass Roots and Branches Festival, held June 23 to 25, 2011, at Yellow Creek Park, just outside Owensboro, Kentucky.
Banjo player Pikelny released a solo album in October 2011, Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail, featuring Thile on mandolin.
The bluegrass documentary Porchlight Sessions, featuring the band alongside Mumford and Sons, Steve Martin, Vince Gill, and others, debuted September 26, 2012, during the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Festival and Conference week in Nashville TN.
Thile also performs in a duo with bluegrass guitarist Michael Daves. Chris Thile and Michael Daves released their impassioned collaboration/conversation Sleep with One Eye Open in 2011. The album was recorded over four days in Jack White’s Third Man studio in Nashville, featuring sixteen traditional tunes by the Monroe Brothers, the Louvin Brothers, Jimmy Martin, and Flatt & Scruggs.
Thile explains “Mandolin and guitar and two male voices, it’s such a good sound. It was important for us was to get that brother duet thing, but with this Lower East Side punk energy. One of the most enjoyable things about this experience was to underline the slightly delinquent side of bluegrass.”
In late 2012, Thile was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” grant, which comes with a $500,000 award to be paid over five annual installments. The follwing year, the Punch Brothers performed on two songs for the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers/Justin Timberlake film Inside Llewyn Davis, chronicling the early 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene. The soundtrack was released September 17, 2013, on the Brothers' home label Nonesuch Records.
They were among the headliners at the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival in Franklin, TN (held September 26 and 27, 2015), along with Willie Nelson, the Decemberists, Sheryl Crow, Weezer, and Jimmy Cliff.