New Brunswick, NJ, 1998: Five friends played their first show in their singer’s basement. They were called Thursday, and what came after that could be described as a revolution. After 1999’s Waiting (released on Eyeball Records), Thursday signed to Victory Records to release Full Collapse.
From that point forward, they began to bring the post-rock and emo scene to the mainstream. After departing from Victory to make their major label debut on Island Records with 2003’s War All The Time, Thursday kept on picking up momentum. In 2004, the band went on a hiatus that lasted until 2006 when A City By The Light Divided was released. Fast forward to 2011, Thursday’s latest No Devolución marks the end of 13 years of music, tradition and Thursday.
I had the pleasure to speak to vocalist Geoff Rickly about the breakup, his favorite tour, what’s planned for their annual holiday show at Starland Ballroom and his future. It was a bittersweet interview for me, being a native Jersey kid and growing up not too far from Geoff’s hometown of Dumont, NJ. But maybe this isn’t goodbye forever, just goodbye for now.
How have fans responded to the news of the break?
I expected some people to be bummed about it but the emotional outpour has been overwhelming. Really, it’s kind of amazing to see all at once how much of an impact you had on so many people’s lives. Not that I underestimated it, but we sold a million records, some people really like us and some people even have tattoos, but to really see night after night these people who have amazing stories about how they heard about us and how they met their wife at a Thursday show, friends who have gone off into different directions but have gotten matching Thursday tattoos that tied them together and the only time they see each other is to come see us… All the ways you really bridge the gap between people. It’s not just a thing that they listen to and enjoy, but it’s become intertwined into the fabric of their lives. That’s beyond I could ever wish for and that’s everything I’ll ever aspire to do as a band ever again because it’s like bottling lightning.
Was it planned to announce the break after Thrice? Or was that coincidental?
Totally coincidental. We had just decided and Steve was like, “you’re never gonna guess, look at thrice.net,” and we all started laughing. Because we were like always, always in step with those guys without talking about it. We weren’t aware of their music, and I’m not sure if they were aware of ours, but in every city that both of us would play there would be a chance that someone would be to us, “Do you know that band Thrice?” or to them, “Do you know that band Thursday?” and we’d be like, “Not really.” Then we’d get the ‘you guys would get along, you guys are the same kind of guys: Real sweet. Most bands that come through aren’t as sweet as you guys.’ I always thought that was really flattering that people would equate because those guys are such good guys.
What are your personal plans after the tour?
I’m going to take a little break from traveling. I’m writing; I have a bunch of writing jobs for different things. I’m writing a script for a TV show, I’m writing content for a non-profit called Angles In Africa. I’m keeping busy with writing jobs mostly, which is good. It’s always the part with being a singer that I’ve been most comfortable with. Writing lyrics, just writing for people and doing some freelance journalism on the side. That’s what I’m working on and I’m sure I’ll do some music again sometime, but I don’t know when or what yet.
What is the strongest song you’ve ever written lyrically?
There are a bunch on Common Existence that I was really proud of, there are a bunch on War All The Time that I was really proud of. Probably, off of War All The Time, “Tomorrow I’ll Be You” is really strong, and off of Common Existence, “You Are The Cancer” is one of the best things I’ve ever written.
What is your fondest memory on the road?
You know, it’s so funny because I have a ton of great stories. But for me, the best part of being on the road is just the little things that wouldn’t make sense to anybody. Like the inside jokes, the funny, weird things you come up with together. From being in the van all the time one of the nicest things is you fall asleep and then you wake up and you got your head on one of your band member’s shoulders and another band mate is asleep on your shoulder. It’s that kind of brotherhood and camaraderie, it just doesn’t happen with adults in American culture. It’s a really sweet, little thing that most people wouldn’t think of. It’s all the little moments that are the best, not all the crazy stuff like being on a hotel roof in Belgium, or looking at the side of the stage and seeing Robert Smith of The Cure singing along with one of your songs—that sounds like the amazing stuff but it’s really the simple stuff.
That’s what I’m going to miss the most, these guys are like my brothers I’m going to miss having an excuse to spend so much time with them. We’re not going to fall out of touch or anything like that. I already told them that whatever band or project they work on, I’m going to be their biggest fan. I would never stop supporting these guys, I love them, they’re so talented. It’s been such a privilege to sing for a band that’s much more talented than I am.
Do you have any surprises planned for the Starland Ballroom Holiday Show?
Oh yeah! It’s going to be special. It’s going to be a bit different from what we’re doing right now; we’re going to add some little surprises.
What’s the best part about playing the annual holiday show?
It’s a sense of it being an event. So many people I know just look forward to that as their real Christmas party. All of our fans who have been with us for the last 13 years, they all know each other. Some of them fly in from other countries or other parts of this country. So they meet up and come early and I’ll buy them donuts and coffee and go hang out on the line in the cold—sometimes it’s snowing! It’s just such a festive occasion and that show is just the best show. We give it our all every year. It’s just great. So many faces come out of the woodwork, sometimes friends I haven’t seen, like friends from high school, will show up at these shows.
So if you can’t spoil any of the surprises, can you at least spoil the setlist a bit?
It’s looking long and covering everything.
It’s one of those shows that you don’t want to miss, huh?
Yeah, that one and the very last U.S. one of ours in Philly are going to be special. Those are both getting close to selling out, too. So they’re going to be crazy shows.
How did being from Jersey influence you personally and the band?
I think Jersey takes on a mystic quality in rock ‘n’ roll. Everyone from Bruce Springsteen on, we always make references from where we’re at and what we’re doing. It’s just a great place to write about. On the one hand it has the glamour of the city over its shoulder and it’s more working class suburbs. It’s a really good contrast; you feel like you’re small but you’re next to the big city. It had a huge impact on how Thursday is. If you look at “Division St” or “Turnpike Divides,” it’s all so about Jersey.
From the Summer EP to No Devoluciónwhat was the biggest change you saw in Thursday?
It’s so funny, but I would say the biggest change was between Waiting and Full Collapse. To me, Waiting sounds like a band just trying to figure out what they want to do and Full Collapse is exactly that’s what we want to do, that’s who we want to be. So that jump is the biggest jump we’ve ever made. After that, it was just maturing. War All The Time was more aggressive and crazy and A City By The Light Divided was more artsy. I mean all these little changes. But nothing was a bigger change in playing and cohesiveness and the direction for Full Collapse—that was a huge step for us.
What has been your favorite album that you’ve released?
For me, I love every record but the two that are tied for me are Full Collapse and No Devolución. I think those are the most complete statements of what we were going for. Full Collapse would be the perfect early record of ours and No Devolución would be the perfect late record of ours. Just where I think every song is just right on, I don’t feel like we blew it. I’m singing exactly how I wanted to be singing on both those records. One was a very young, undefined voice that didn’t always hit the right notes but was very sincere, and now—No Devolución, I could really sing now. I have complete control over my voice. So it’s like those two records are really special to me and the fact that they came out the same week, 10 years apart, it feels like some sort of sign that both of them are brother records.
Sorta like the beginning and the end?
Yup, the beginning and the end. That’s exactly how I feel about those records. Even though there was Waiting before that- to me the full time Thursday being a band, being on people’s radar that started with Full Collapse.
You’ve been credited with being one of the pioneers of bringing the emo/post-rock scene to the mainstream, how does that make you feel that Thursday is one of those bands put next to Sunny Day Real Estate that helped the movement?
It’s so flattering! For a while I didn’t like it because a lot of the bands that said they were influenced by us I didn’t understand, I didn’t like them. I didn’t think they had anything to do with what we were doing. But now, the young crew of bands that are saying they’re influenced by us, such as Touche Amore and La Dispute, I’m so proud to have influenced them. Of course you’re always proud and flattered to influence anyone, but when it’s bands who put out some of my top records of the year, and for them to say that we changed their lives and made them want to play music, it’s like, “Okay, that’s awesome.”
Thursday will play Starland Ballroom on Dec. 26 and Theatre Of Living Arts in Philly on Dec. 30. For more information, go to thursday.net.