Five Questions with…Chris “Critter” Eldridge

June 22nd, 2010
(Photo: C. Taylor Crothers)

Punch Brothers Photo by C. Taylor Crothers

After the breakup of Nickel Creek, mandolin badass Chris Thile gathered some seriously talented musicians, Chris “Critter” Eldridge (guitar), Paul Kowert (bass), Noam Pikelny (banjo) and Gabe Witcher (violin), and formed the progressive-bluegrass outfit Punch Brothers. Their first album, Punch, came out two years ago while their second disc, Antifogmatic, is just a week old, and its accompanying tour brings Punch Brothers—below, playing “This Is the Song (Good Luck),”—to Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow night. Expect original material with some cool covers (think: Radiohead and the Strokes) in the mix. Ahead of this show, Brooklyn resident Critter (pictured, above far right) e-mailed The House List to answer Five Questions.

Which band have you seen play live the most often (excluding bands you’ve toured with)?
It’s hard to say, but when I lived in Nashville I used to always go to the Station Inn to see the Time Jumpers, an old-school Western swing/classic country group. I am convinced that they are one of the greatest bands in the world.

Which bands that you listened to growing up do you still listen to?
Since both of my parents are banjo players, bluegrass is the music that I was surrounded by during my childhood. Probably because of that, I wanted nothing to do with it for years. However, lately I feel that I can learn a lot by hearing how direct really good bluegrass, like Bill Monroe or the Stanley Brothers, can be.

What’s the toughest part of playing New York City?
This city has been one of the world’s epicenters of great art and music for a long time, which can be intimidating. But ultimately it is actually a good thing because it absolutely demands that you dig deep and pull the very best out of yourself. A disproportionate number of best shows that I’ve been a part of have taken place here.

Do you have any crutches when writing a song—are there certain words or styles you feel you lean on too much?
I do have a crutch in that I have four great musical minds that I get to develop musical ideas with. If ever I have an idea that seems worthwhile but I can’t figure out how to proceed, they always have a good solution.

Your after-party is at Hi-Fi, the Avenue A bar known for its endless jukebox, and The House List gives you a buck. Which three songs are you playing?
“Move It on Over” by Hank Williams Sr., “The Curse” by Josh Ritter and, finally, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by the Band. —R. Zizmor