Every week, Wondering Sound contributor Ami Armstrong recommends a music film available to stream.
“I know. I’m uncomfortable, too,” Chris Thile says to the audience after telling them they’re about to hear a four-movement instrumental piece drawn from his recent divorce.
Breakups suck, but when you’re a prodigy like mandolinist and composer Chris Thile — best known for his work with the progressive bluegrass group Nickel Creek — you can heal the pain through playing music. That’s what he did with his project Punch Brothers. How to Grow a Band, a documentary directed by Mark Meatto, follows the musical soul mates as they take the 40-minute suite “The Blind Leaving the Blind” on the road in 2008. The suite, which fuses traditional bluegrass with classical music, isn’t just music for Thile — it’s a cure for the pain of failed love.
But beyond Thile’s personal struggles, How to Grow a Band includes typical band-dynamic conflicts: Who has final say when the project is meant to be a collaboration? And how does an artist stay true to themselves without losing their audience? Is it possible to create a new musical sound? The film doesn’t try to answer those questions, but does show the Punch Brothers sharpening their collective sound as they conquer new concepts.
Watch How to Grow a Band on Netflix and see the trailer below.