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Interview: Gabe Witcher of Punch Brothers

Chris Eldridge, Gabe Witcher, Paul Kowert, Chris Thile and Noam Pikelny of Punch Brothers (Photo by C. Taylor Crothers)
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Punch Brothers' music is the sound of synapses firing. The band's mix of unpredictability and virtuosity means there's always something new to uncover in their original pieces. And upon listening to one of their covers, you'll be hard-pressed to imagine Bach's Brandenburg (Concerto #3) without banjo or Of Montreal's "Gronlandic Edit" without mandolin.

The band is comprised of Chris Thile (formerly of Nickel Creek) on mandolin and lead vocals, Chris Eldrige on guitar, Paul Kowert on bass, Noam Pikelny on banjo and Gabe Witcher on fiddle. They first collaborated in 2006 on an album released under Thile's name, then a record called Punch followed in 2008.

For their latest release, the band moved to New York so they could write music and practice in the same city. This geographical advantage led to their most collaborative and genre-defying album yet, Antifogmatic, named for "a bracing beverage—rum or whiskey—that one would have in the morning before going out to work in rough weather, to stave off any ill effects."

Punch Brothers will perform at the El Rey Theatre tomorrow night with the album's producer, Jon Brion, opening the show. LAist caught up with Witcher last week to learn more.

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LAist: The song "Don't Need No" is so intriguing in how you pass the melody from one instrument to another, plus it's also the track where you take over on lead vocals. What was the songwriting process like for that one?

Gabe Witcher: That's one of the fun things that happens when we all get together. All the instrumental stuff came out of that main melodic line fragment. It just started to grow as we found some interesting harmonic ways to develop the melody so it actually went somewhere.