Punch Brothers on bluegrass, collaboration and the band's "instant mind meld"

The acclaimed quintet, Punch Brothers, has been belting out a modern form of bluegrass since forming in 2006. "CBS This Morning: Saturday" co-host Anthony Mason sat down with three of the band's founding members, Chris Thile, Gabe Witcher and Noam Pikelny, at Reservoir Studios in New York City.


The five members of Punch Brothers all grew up in string bands. The quintet includes Chris Thile on mandolin, Gabe Witcher on the fiddle and violin, Noam Pikelny on banjo, Chris Eldridge on guitar and Paul Kowert, the standup bass.


"Within the first 15 seconds of playing music with each other, it was just – it was an instant just like mind meld," Witcher said.

It all started when Thile met Witcher at a bluegrass festival in Southern California when he was just seven years old and Witcher, who was playing in his dad's bluegrass band, was nine.

"They had this gag where he would basically play on top of a chair, so he was the same height as everyone else," Thile recalled. "I was like this is the coolest kid in the whole world!"

Thile and Witcher stayed friends, but it wasn't until 2006 that they began to collaborate.

"It became apparent that while we had jammed informally quite a lot over the years and stayed in contact, that it was probably time for us to actually get serious and do a project," Witcher said. 

That's when they pulled in Pikelny and Eldridge -- and Punch Brothers had their first sessions.  

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Gabe Witcher, Chris Thile and Noam Pikelny 

CBS News

Their music has elements of country and classical but with their string instruments, the band is most often called bluegrass.

"Does it ever bother you to be put in that category?" Mason asked.

"It depends. Like if we came into the studio right now and we were asked to sit on hay bales ... like that would probably be across, you know, it would cross the line," Pikelny.

The band does enjoy playing with audiences expectations. Their last album, The Phosphorescent Blues, made the top 10 on the folk, rock and bluegrass charts.

"We would love to be the band that gets you out of your musical routine," Thile said.

"Most of the reason I am in this band is just to have the best seat in the house. To get to listen to these guys play," Witcher said.

"When it arrives and everything's going just right, there is a sense of, of being dissolved as an individual in a wonderful way," Thile said.