Keeping up with THRICE
By
J. Gordon
4/11/2006 12:18:07 AM

"I don’t think people know where we’re coming from—I don’t expect them to—but I don’t think we’ll ever give in to the pressure of writing for anyone else but ourselves. "

Thrice has gone through quite a transformation over the last few years. From their math-infused punk beginnings, to what some might call radio-friendly emo, the band is headlining major festivals, receiving critical acclaim—and also getting major disses from the hardcore scene and original fans. We climbed aboard their tour bus at the 2006 Taste of Chaos tour, sat down with bass player Eddie Breckenridge, and put some of the harder questions to him.

“It’s a weird tour. It’s like a festival, except inside,” Eddie says of Taste of Chaos. He turns down the volume on the TV (Hulk Hogan on a VH-1 special). We chat about the severe Midwestern storms, and then we get down to business. Yes, it's a pretty weird mix for Thrice, and their sound, against the rest of the bill, is looking more and more like that old Sesame Street song, “One of these things is not like the other.”

“We’re playing with a lot of different bands, so the crowd isn’t a majority of our kids,” Eddie admits. “That’s always a good thing. But it’s different.”

It definitely is different from past Taste of Chaos tours, which seem to be getting harder and more ‘scream-o’ with each passing year, in contrast to 2006’s co-headliner, Thrice. And we get the feeling, from Eddie’s quiet, melancholy tone and comments, that he and the band have been beat up a little by both the press and the fans.

“We kind of come from that scene originally,” he says. “Although we never really sounded so much like that. When we started, we were playing with the more hardcore, heavier bands. But it’s cool. There’s a few people in every crowd that can listen to our music and it will pull their ear in a different direction. And there are obviously some that don’t really like stuff that doesn’t have screaming. That’s fine.” His affirmations after each statement feel like he’s trying to talk himself into believing it. One’s heart breaks for him.

So was it a conscious choice for Thrice to make the switch to more accessible, dare we say, radio-friendly music?

“No, it wasn’t conscious,” says Eddie. “It was just us getting educated.”

He says that they learned a lot touring with and talking to other bands. “You know, your ear changes as you grow. When we started the band, most of us were in high school, listening to a lot of punk rock and hardcore stuff. I grew up listening to metal, and had those influences. Over time, I started listening to different bands from all different genres. We’ve always appreciated all music, but maybe didn’t recognize that our band had the capability to play stuff with that dynamic. Our new record [Vheissu, Island Records] could be influenced by anybody from Pink Floyd to a newer band, like Isis or Coldplay. Even Talk Talk.”

So, are you telling me that the Taste of Chaos kids are not open to all this genre-crossing?

“Well, it’s different [for them]. Especially the new album. It takes a certain ear to appreciate and understand where we’re coming from. Not everyone understands the heavy element, and not everyone understands the more melodic elements. Especially the quieter, softer stuff. So, mixing them together, [the ones who appreciate it are] a select group of people.”

One might suspect that part of the resistance to the new Thrice might in part be due to the lyrics, which are heavy on morality and faith in God. But taking a look around, tons of hardcore bands are doing that right now: UnderOath, and Taste of Chaos tour-mates, As I Lay Dying…just to name a couple. Does Thrice have a particular religious message they’re trying to get across?

“I can’t really answer that because it’s coming from our singer, Dustin [Kensrue],” says Eddie. “I know that he has his belief. I know he tries his hardest not to have specifics, to be ambiguous about it and have things that all people can share.”

Is there anything atheists can get from Thrice?

“Oh, I hope so! Not all the people in our band believe. I can’t say for everybody, but that’s definitely not the motivation in our music.”

Eddie says that the Irvine, California-based band has been together for almost eight years, touring for almost six of those years. “It’s been a long time. It doesn’t seem like a long time. We’d just done the Warped Tour and were like one of the veteran bands. We’d done it two years prior and were one of the youngest bands [back then]! It’s weird how it works.”

Eddie claims that the absolute high-point of his personal career with Thrice was touring with the bands Hot Water Music, and also Cave-In. From these two groups, Thrice modeled themselves as performers, and as people. “Watching them play every night and seeing it be not so much of an act, but just their lives and their real emotions. There was something way more real about watching them play than with some of the other bands. It was inspiring.”

He says the worst thing about being in a band is being away from loved ones, which sounds like it’s taking its toll a bit more, every day.

“I’m watching what I like to call ‘reality’ slip away. I’m seeing my friends’ [back at home] lives happen, almost like looking at pictures, because I don’t get to live it. Friends having kids, getting married, all those milestones. It’s scary but it’s also a good thing because I realize how important my time is with my friends and family. I don’t take it for granted.”

So, do you feel like you’re missing out?

“In a way, but at the same time, I’m experiencing so many things that have helped me to be the person I am today. I just feel kind of torn, and a lot of people don’t understand. Especially when you’re in a relationship. Dustin and Teppei [Teranishi, guitar] have both been married for three or four years now. They’ve probably seen their wives a year, total.” Eddie says that he has someone special back home now, as well. “And I realize their pain more and more…”

And now, our dear Eddie looks so downcast and forlorn. As giving him reassuring hugs would be unprofessional [and possibly unwanted], we are compelled to radically change the subject:

Speaking of pain, what the hell has happened to the credibility of hardcore music? The punk/hardcore/metal scene has now been totally commercialized and Taste of Chaos actually has a corporate sponsor (Rockstar Energy Drink)! Is this an oxymoron?

“It’s strange,” he laughs. Thank God, we’ve cheered him. “Maybe more people are starting to understand [the music] on some level. But I think the roots of the music, bands that created things that are important, have been lost in this over-saturation of people who have ripped off their music hundreds and hundreds of times. I don’t know if I can say [corporate sponsorship is] a bad thing, but I definitely hate it when a style of music gets destroyed by an overkill of sound, and a lack of creativity.”

Has the industry ever pushed Thrice toward a certain more marketable sound, and if so, did you agree?

“We actually turned in our demo [for Vheissu] and they were like, ‘where’s the heavy stuff?’ We said, ‘We’re just writing what’s come out of our heads. We’re not trying to write to a sound.’ But I think we feel more pressure from the kids to write a heavier record.” He laughs again, but it’s a sad laugh.

“I don’t want to offend anybody, but I don’t think people know where we’re coming from—I don’t expect them to—but I don’t think we’ll ever give in to the pressure of writing for anyone else but ourselves. People want to hear something that’s technical or heavy, I can understand that. I used to be that kid in high school. But the cooler thing about making music is maybe experimenting with something new. Trying to portray the feelings that you get when you have this mindset as you write. Having it transfer over to people listening. Maybe it’s an ethereal, spacey song, something someone can get lost in. I can understand a rock song, too. But we just have to do what we have to do. I don’t think music is just about being tough. With heavy music, it’s a testosterone-fest, and when you’re 15, your requirements are a lot different from when you’re 25.”

No doubt, Thrice’s sound and message will continue to grow with this talented group as they grow older. The question is: will the fans be able to keep up?

 

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