Interview: Chris Thile & Chris Eldridge Part 3

Chris Eldridge and Chris Thile on the morning we spoke for this interviewHere’s Part 3 of our interview with Chris Thile and Chris Eldridge (a.k.a. Critter) of the Punch Brothers. In this third, and final, installment, we’ll be discussing the actual process of recording the new Punch Brothers CD, Punch, and in particular the major composition, The Blind Leaving The Blind.

Brance: Your last CD, How To Grow A Woman From The Ground, was recorded live with only two microphones. How about Punch?

Chris:

We recorded live again on this record. It’s my favorite way to record. This time around we did multi-track, but in a minimal way.

The main tracks were recorded with a setup borrowed from orchestral recording called a Decca Tree. We just gathered around that setup in a semi-circle and and recorded totally live. But we didn’t want Noam and Gabe to have to lay back too much, we wanted them to be able to play dynamically they way they normally would, so we did set up some spot mics so we could give a little boost here and there when needed.

A Decca Tree is a method of recording that combines three microphones positioned spatially in a “T” shape. It is most often used with omni-directional microphones. Chris told me they used three Neumann mics for their set up. The Tree is positioned above the assembled musicians and provides a pleasant sounding stereo recording.

Brance: Using a set up like that requires a bit of room. What size space where you in?

Chris:

We cut the tracks in New York City, in a large orchestra room with a very nice natural room sound.

Brance: Recording a CD live is hard enough, how did you handle recording such long compositions?

Chris:

Well, we didn’t record it all in one day! We tracked one movement, or two songs per day on average. The music is fairly intense, and recording has an intensity of its own, so it takes it out of you to record something like this live. We went in to the studio knowing the music was hard to play, but our goal was to make it sound easier than it is!

Considering Chris’ statements about combining classical composition disciplines with the vibrancy of bluegrass songwriting, keeping the music intense and engaging, and making it sound easier than it is, I’d say they guys did a fantastic job with this recording.

Punch is released this coming Tuesday, February 26, 2008. I’m sure we’ll have a post or two with some comments on the music itself by then, but I’ll go ahead and give you my recommendation. Go get it!

Be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 of this interview.

  • zalty

    So you decided to mirror a 4-movement composition with a 3-part interview? Great initiative 🙂

    Very interesting interview! I didn’t know the decca tree setup before. The result is really astounding on the record. The blind leaving the blind is my favorite work from the Punch Brothers, even more so because I had the pleasure to discover it bit by bit on an MP3 player in between my busy life in Berlin. The mix of jazz mindset and bluegrass sound makes the 4 tracks sound really complex, and makes my mind travel.

    Thanks for letting me know more about it!