Last year’s Skate And Surf Festival was truly an exciting weekend to be a part of. Not only did I get to experience the surreal joy of watching both The Gaslight Anthem and The Front Bottoms draw legions of fans to the oceanfront streets of Asbury Park, I was graced with the opportunity catch a select group of bands that I would have never dreamed of ever seeing in my lifetime. While Poison The Well, From Autumn To Ashes, American Nightmare, Nora and Hot Rod Circuit were definitely on my radar, Thrice was another anticipated reunion set that I was looking forward to watching the most, considering that it was my first time seeing the band play before they announced their hiatus in 2012.
Since their return, the Orange County-based post-hardcore icons have played a few club dates in between, while appearing at several major festivals throughout 2015, including Riot Fest, Wrecking Ball and Taste Of Chaos. On top of that, the highly revamped quartet was also eager the get back into the creative process of writing a new record from the very get-go, resulting to the release of their ninth studio effort, To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere, in May. With a new full-length under their belt, Thrice are currently on the road celebrating their return as full-time touring band, featuring La Dispute and Gates as opening support.
A few weeks before Thrice started their North American-based comeback tour, I had the pleasure of speaking with drummer Riley Breckenridge about getting the band back together, the writing and recording process of To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere, as well as adapting to innovative technology as a newly-revived group in the digital age.
This time last year, I had the opportunity to catch your set at Skate And Surf Festival in Asbury Park, which was actually my first time seeing Thrice in well over four or five years. Since then, what was it like playing in Thrice again?
Oh, it’s been awesome. I mean, I missed it so much during the four years that we were on break. Not only playing live shows, but being [able to] create with these guys is something that I really cherished for the 15 years that we were an active band. Once we took the break, there was a huge void in my life (laughs). So, I’m really, really thankful and excited to have an opportunity to do this again.
I think band morale has been high as it’s been in ages, just because we kind of came back refreshed, and reinvigorated, and just excited about doing this again. In that way, I think the break was really healthy for us.
How did things work out in a way where the opportunity to get back together made the most sense amongst yourself and the group?
I think I got a text from [vocalist and guitarist] Dustin Kensrue in like, November of 2014. He and [guitarist] Teppei Teranishi were living up in the Pacific Northwest at the time, and went to go see a Brand New show. I don’t know what happened at that show, but we got the “Thrice group text,” and Dustin was like, “Teppei and I are at Brand New. It’s awesome, and I think we should start thinking about playing some shows and making some music.”
It was a pretty unexpected text, but it was one that I was very excited and stoked to get. Like around the holidays—after that Christmas holiday—both he and Teppei were down in Orange County, and we got together with our families for dinner and just kind of talked about what the next year could be like, and what the next record could be like, and it was awesome. We scheduled a little impromptu jam session while they were down here, and we picked up where we left off four years prior.
I was little apprehensive—like, if you don’t do something for four years, it’s natural to be a bit little rusty, or to expect for the vibe to not be the same, but it came back really quickly. We started planning some reunion shows, both festivals and few club dates, and we did that for pretty much all year last year. Then, we scattered in some writing sessions kind of in the midst of rehearsals of those shows.
Very cool! Moving forward, did you feel like writing and recording new material was the first thing that came to mind when you started playing again?
Yeah, I mean, at the beginning of the hiatus, when Dustin announced it, he made it pretty clear that he intended to come back and play live shows with us, and make more music with us. So, it just felt kind of natural that once things started rolling again that we’d start writing again because it’s too fun not to, and I really couldn’t see us being one of those bands that just only does festival shows, and doesn’t put out any new music. Plus, we want to play new stuff (laughs).
Of course. In a musical sense, do you feel like you were picking up right where you left off since Major/Minor? Or would you consider To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere as a fresh entity where you completely restart on a clean slate?
I don’t think it’s like a completely fresh start. We worked with a producer named Eric Palmquist and he was definitely the most hands-on producer that we’ve had since we worked with [producer] Steve Osborne on Vheissu, which came out in 2005. Early on in the process, he kind of asked us some questions like, “What kind of band do you want to be?” “Here are some things I think you do well. What kind of changes do you want to make going forward?”
He really pushed us to chase the ambition that we had, but then also remember the things that people appreciate about our band, and try to make the most of that. So a good focus on the strengths that we have built whatever the prior eight records, but also a conscious effort to push ourselves forward. In that regard, I would say it’s kind of a logical step, but maybe not totally logical (laughs). It really feels like a cool mix to me of everything post-Vheissu, with some new stuff sprinkled in, so it’s a good step I feel.
For this new record, file sharing played a role in helping the band exchange ideas in the initial writing process. Compared to having everyone together in a studio, what were the advantages of using these software applications in the beginning?
I think some of the positives of it was that it kind of forced us to be more productive individually. Because if we weren’t in the middle of some jam sessions that we had scheduled, or if you had an idea for a chorus, or a verse, or a new beat, or some new part of the song, it was on you to write that and record that in your home studio setup, and add it to the “Logic Sessions” that we were passing around.
We kind of built out that the framework of these songs, and because it’s so easy to use Logic as a recording software, you can just cut and paste parts. Like, “Oh, here’s an alternate version of this song with this chorus that I came up with,” and people can kind of weigh in. We ended building up a lot stuff that way, and then when we’d get together with the four of us in the same room, we’d jam on it because the vibe was right. Then, we’d all go our separate ways, and then everyone would start working individually.
It also really helped to have pretty set structures of songs. I mean, they were fluid, and we could change them at any time. We had really good reference demos going into this recording process, which was really helpful because we can reference those early ideas. They were all in those Logic sessions, and nothing was lost like in the past.
At first, were there any hesitations to peruse this strategy when you started writing?
It was definitely challenging in most ways. I think mostly because it was foreign, and we had never really written like this before, but we didn’t really have a choice. Geography is tough, and flights are expensive. We couldn’t really pay to have Teppei fly down to Orange County every week to practice, nor did he have time to do that because he’s running a business.
But it wasn’t totally foreign to me because I have a stupid baseball-related side project called Puig Destroyer. So every song we ever wrote as Puig Destroyer was written virtually—basically in the same way that Thrice wrote a lot of this record [To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere]. But with Puig Destroyer, we never got together to jam—we hadn’t even all been in the same room at the same time until a few months ago (laughs). So, it wasn’t foreign to me, I am familiar with programming drums for demos, and setting up alternate versions of files. I felt comfortable recording guitar ideas that they had in my little crappy home studio.
It might have been easier for me or for Dustin because I think he did a lot of his solo record that way. It was a challenge, but not a challenge that we couldn’t overcome.
Lyrically, I’ve read that this record is more politically centered, and also focuses on social and cultural related themes as well. What were some of the major influences that came into play with focusing on these themes throughout To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere?
Dustin is 100 percent responsible for the lyrics. We kind of give him free-range to do whatever he wants, and sing about whatever he wants to sing about. I think he’s been really inspired by and challenged by just a lot of the crap that’s going on, whether it’s fear-mongering in politics or foreign policy. That’s most of it, political stuff and the development of social media and click-bait media to a certain degree—that is where title [of the record] is formed.
There’s just so much information available, and there’s so many distractions that it’s really easy for people to become disengaged in the present, and I think that was something that he was thinking about.
Right. With the way technology has developed recently, along with the fact that we are in an election year, there’s bound to be a lot of inspiration for songwriting in this day and age.
Mhmm. Like, even since that we put out Major/Minor in 2011, it’s crazy how social media has gotten, and how important a role it plays in band publicity and stuff. Around that time, Instagram was just starting, and now it’s massive and it’s an integral part in your promotion as a band. We still don’t even know how to use Snapchat, and Snapchat is huge (laughs).
I was just about to note how Snapchat has become such a huge application that bands use more frequently to utilize their social interactive presence as well.
Yeah, it does—it made feel old (laughs). I tried to set up a Snapchat account for the band. We were in the studio, and I was like, “I don’t know what the hell I am doing” (laughs).
Since the record will be out just in time before you start your tour with La Dispute and Gates, what are you looking forward to the most about getting back into performing?
I am very excited to play new stuff. I think we are playing a decent amount of new stuff, some songs that we haven’t played a ton in the past, and a couple that we haven’t played in a while. We’re still trying to keep the core of fan-favorites, but it’s such a challenge to make setlists now. We got nine full-length studio albums, and our sound has been so schizophrenic over the years that it’s such a challenge to make a set that totally doesn’t feel disjointed. You know, we did it ourselves (laughs) because we wrote those songs, but I think we’re getting better at finding a way to have a set that is a representative of our entire discography that flows well and has some dynamic shifts.
So yeah, I am excited to play everything that we’re playing and I am excited to see the La Dispute guys again. We toured with them in 2010 I want to say, and they put out a great record [Rooms Of The House]. I heard a little bit of the Gates record, and it is awesome, and I think it’s a really strong bill. I am just excited to play live shows, I am excited to headline shows with new material, and to get to see the country again. It’s been a while.
Sounds great. It’s very exciting to see Thrice back again. Now that you will be celebrating the release of To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere on the road, is it safe to say that the band won’t be going anywhere anytime soon?
Oh yeah. We’re already talking about the next record, so we’re excited. I feel like it’s a natural thing—like, once you make a record and you finished those recording sessions, you’re so in that creative and recording mode that it’s natural for you to think about it and get excited. It’s something that we’re already talking about, so I’m stoked.
Thrice are currently embarking on their comeback tour with La Dispute and Gates. This week, the band will be making their triumphant return to the Tri-State Area, where they will be performing at PlayStation Theater in Manhattan on June 16, The Fillmore in Philadelphia on June 17 and at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville on June 18. The band’s ninth studio album, To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere, is now available on Vagrant Records. For more information, go to thrice.net.