Of all the bands to break out of the New Brunswick scene, I have never been able to escape Thursday. Their music dug its way very deep into my ears at a very young age; blasting from behind the closed doors of friends’ older siblings’ rooms and then, when I was barely old enough myself, live in a basement or two—surrounded by a bunch of sound-hungry young people like myself, all feverish and sweaty and some of us bleeding. Then as the years went on, they just became this constant entity in my life. Go to college, my classmates all have Thursday tattoos. Go to dinner, the waiter has a Thursday tattoo. Get a job in a bookstore, my manager has approximately eight different Thursday t-shirts. And a Thursday tattoo.
Full Collapse, since it’s release in 2001, has been and remains a monumental contribution to the CD players of many, many people. “We love that record,” Geoff says. “Obviously it’s very special to us. So much grew from it.” And he’s not just speaking in terms of the band’s personal success; people got into music, because of this record. People picked up instruments and started bands and had something to believe in. I know I can hardly imagine a world in which Full Collapse didn’t exist; the tour marking the 10-year anniversary of the album’s release was huge for me, and so many others.
Every album since then has had the same passionate, aggressive fire to it as well. 2009’s Common Existence left off with a track called “You Were The Cancer,” that sort of previewed a new, more expressive sound, and that absolutely translated over to their sixth full-length album, No Devolución, which was released on the 12th of this month. “Oh, it’s great driving music, isn’t it?” Geoff asked me, when I mentioned I’d been listening to it in my car. It certainly is—though I will admit it makes me want to disregard any posted speed limits. Not that it matters. If the cop pulling me over heard Thursday blasting from my car, I’m sure he’d totally understand.
“It’s pretty different from our previous stuff. I mean when we first started out, we were labeled as hardcore, especially with our earlier releases. We kinda let go of the past and we didn’t think of a genre. We made an album that we wanted to make. We freed ourselves from expectations; this record is a breakdown of everything we‘ve done so far and then some.” In the past though, old songs and lyrics were sometimes inspiring to new material, and many of the band’s songs revisit or answer back to earlier work. “Well, I keep track, you know? And sometimes I write responses back to older songs. The end of a song is never really the end, it could always be the beginning of a new song.”
I think that familiarity, and the ability to recognize it, has greatly contributed to their staying power. It’s something to follow, but it’s never dull or predictable. The kids who grew up listening to them, while maybe not as regularly attending shows, are still listening, and the younger kids who are just getting into them will be going backwards to the old stuff and loving it also. This dichotomy doesn’t stress them out. “Strangely enough, it’s our old fans who are the most ready for change, for something new. And the younger kids who are just now starting to come to the shows want to hear the Full Collapse-era sound. It’s kind of funny to think about. Audiences are younger these days, some of these kids are going to their first concerts. Sometimes they’re there to see someone else, and they get introduced to us that way. I mean, I remember years ago, playing at Surf & Skate, Taking Back Sunday were headlining and we were just like, is anybody gonna like us? And they did. That was just such a really great show. And people still remember that show.” Though they might draw a different demographic than they used to today, the guys still keep where they came from at the forefront of their minds. “Back then, New Brunswick was a sort of cultural epicenter. Merging scenes—cities. Bands coming in from Boston and D.C., Philly and New York. And it was never about status. There was no ‘king.’ Just kids from Jersey. We got to do what we wanted. We used to joke around and say, ‘the deal is not big.’ It was just people playing for the sake of playing.” But as with any diverse scene, the good, the great and the amazing also come with the bad, awful and dangerous. “It was a mixed blessing though. That area fell on some rough times; heroin was huge, a huge problem. A lot of the kids we were friends with or knew from around got sucked into that. That’s what ‘Division St.’ is about.”
There were a lot of lessons to be learned in New Brunswick—not all of them easy. One of the most important things Geoff has learned in the 14-year span of his career with Thursday is about brotherhood. “Everyone learns different things. For me, it was like, I was an only child but now I had all these brothers. And that’s how it’s always been; the music is second to the friendship. I love being in Thursday.” And that unity has been apparent throughout all six records and in live performances as well.
But no matter how many records a band sells or how many heads they can draw to a show, there’s no denying that the music industry is in trouble. Everything’s going digital, getting leaked or being pirated. I asked Geoff his thoughts on the matter, and he chalks a lot of it up to the uncertainty. “No doubt it’s a broken industry, no one sells records anymore. Bands work so hard and the labels just don’t know whether or not to release a record, if they want to risk the cash, and it is a risk. Everyone’s kind of holding their breath, not knowing the fate of the industry; everyone’s trying to stay afloat. But people always need music right? They’ll figure something out.”
The state of the industry is putting no limit on the band’s touring, thankfully. In fact, they’ve got quite a full schedule, plenty of new songs off the new record to fuel them forward, and are looking at a pretty busy spring and summer. By the time this is printed, the band will be in Europe. About a week after they’re set to return, they’ll be heading right back out again; this time in the U.S., with friends My Chemical Romance—this includes two dates at Starland Ballroom, May 7 and 8. So keep your calendars free. Their Starland shows are serious business, and if you plan to go I’d definitely recommend getting your tickets as soon as possible; they had to book two shows for a reason.
As epic as those Sayreville shows will be, they also have something major planned for summer. “Oh, we have a big tour planned. But I’m not allowed to tell you about it, because the headlining band hasn’t announced it yet. I can’t say a thing until they do!” After some teasing and prodding, and, I’ll admit, some flat-out begging-in the pursuit of music journalism and not at all because I really truly needed to know, I coerced him into giving me a little hint: “All I’m going to tell you is, it’s a band that we shared the scene with before War All The Time came out. And it’s going to be a very exciting show for everyone involved. And that’s all I can say!” I was promised an email though, when everything goes public, and hopefully I’ll get to report on that information in a later issue.
I had one last, huge question before I felt like I could wrap up the interview; something I was confident many people were wondering. And so I asked him point blank: In a couple more years, will there be an anniversary tour for War All The Time as well? “That record is a classic to a lot of people; it’s a classic to us! We love that record, but I feel like we never toured it the way we should have. I mean at that time, we were still playing mostly from Full Collapse. We were comfortable and confident there. But yeah, that tour would take place in 2013. So assuming the world doesn’t end in 2012, it’ll probably happen.”
Feel free to put this article down for a moment, and do a little dance. I did!
Thursday will play two shows at Starland Ballroom: May 7 and 8. More information at thursday.net.