Author: Alex Sievers
When talking about rock, punk and post-hardcore bands that matured as artists authentically, Thrice are the prime example. Barely any of their 11 records are the exact same entity; they are often multiple things all at once. The band have always, boldly and fearlessly, moved forward in a decisive, conscious manner. That happened from Artist In The Ambulance to Vheissu and into The Alchemy Index series. It happened when they came back from their hiatus in 2015, picking up from 2011’s sublime Major/Minor and returning with 2016’s excellent To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere. Now, it’s happening again.
Their eleventh LP, Horizons / East, is another body of work showcasing this exact forward-thinking mindset, that ever-evolving songwriting DNA. Here, there’s definitely big rock attitudes, impressive choruses, and a strong guitar-driven mindset with robust riffs. (“The Dreamer” or “Scavengers.”) Yet there’s also moody synthesisers, plenty of pianos, crashing walls-of-sound, jazz pieces, quartal harmony, Fibonacci-inspired guitar riffs, odd time signatures, electronics, and without spoiling the surprise, moments like the stunning closer “Unitive-East.”
It’s different from 2018’s Palms and TBEITBN respectively, but it’s still Thrice. That’s the beauty of it. That’s their most important quality: it’s always them even when things shift in other sonic directions with new sounds and dynamics, fresh instrumentation and differing tonalities. A skill few possess, something that can only occur when the same four individuals have played together since 1999.
More specifically, Horizons / East is a thematically well-spoken and thoughtful record about perception and interrelatedness, the kind that’s highly relevant to the world’s current social politics, not just within America. It’s about what people choose to see and believe. Or, more dangerously, what information and evidence those very same people choose to ignore and disregard in favour of their own toxic and myopic world views. Here, bassist Eddie Breckenridge offers such glimpses into the music and theme of Horizons / East, days before Thrice’s most vibrant and pertinent record yet releases on September 17th.
Bold: Eddie // Thrice
Let’s start with the name, Horizons / East. It’s clear the title is a book-end of sorts for what the album encapsulates: the lyrics of “Color Of The Sky” and the feelings of the final song, “Unitive-East.” Pretend I’m an idiot for a second and explain that title and how you guys wanted that reflected?
“Horizons is a lyrical concept Dustin [Kensrue, vocalist and guitarist] came up with to accompany the music we ended up creating. Thematically it’s meant to represent the idea of perspective and what you are able to see from differing perspectives. What can we see or what can’t we see? What do we choose not to see or even imagine. It’s pretty relevant with what’s going on in the world right now. I really like what he’s come up with lyrically for this record.”
This can be an out-there record for Thrice musically yet it also feels natural. Which is such a tricky balance to accomplish. From the inside looking out, how do you guys approach making an album like Horizons / East? What’s running through your head – fan expectations, any and all previous albums, the current climate when it eventually releases, etc. – when piecing it all together?
“To be honest, and I can really only speak for myself here… I don’t have any preconceived thought when creating music. I really just try and let out what is in me. Kind of like following a trail you’ve never walked on. Sometimes that trail is a guitar… you hit a few notes and you something inside you says: ““Go that way, there’s something cool over there.””
Talk to me about the album’s cover art; this black hole surrounded in a wash of yellow, red and pink hues. To me, that seems like a great visual metaphor for the band’s music – colourful, growing, and evolving.
Thank you! I’m really digging how it turned out. Jordan Butcher [Anberlin, Caspian, Underoath] has done a couple of our album covers now, like Major Minor/ and Palms. He has a great eye and works well with our vision. The cover idea is an eye that looks sun-like and is also using a color scheme that creates a really beautiful and striking effect when wearing Chromadepth glasses. All of the artwork revolves around the concept and the effect of the Chromadepth.
How blurred is the line between metaphor and the personal on “Scavengers” for you and the band? I see it two ways: showing a person’s undying love for their partner, loving them no matter their infidelity, or about bringing someone back from an extremely toxic world view. Which one is more accurate and could you elaborate on it?
“I think it has more to do with the latter. Gaslighting, cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias… all the ways people can get wrapped up in a distorted sense of reality. It’s really scary stuff, and even scarier is how hard it is to break someone free of their narrow perspective. Dustin always goes at these topics with a sense of hope.”
The topic of human interaction, of valuing other people and pushing for greater change and community, in “Robot Soft Exorcism” is quite touching and really special. Do you think that concept, the title and theme of the lyrics originally coming from David Dark, will fly over people’s heads? Do you think the song was also maybe a little “left field” for some people musically? Personally I really dug all of the time signatures, synths and differing sections.
“It’s possible people won’t get it, but we can’t control that. We just have to do what feels true to us and hope people relate. I don’t think Robot Soft Exorcism is too left field at all. If you’re familiar with what we started incorporating way back in the time of Vheissu or Alchemy Index, we experimented using odd time signatures and electronic ideas mixed with guitar rock. It’s something we’ve always loved. Even before we built the confidence to try and pull it off live, we were huge fans of music that did so.”
One of the more curious pieces of info from this albums original press release was that you set yourselves goals. Other than the use of jazz chords, one goal was using the Fibonacci sequence in a riff. Which song received that mathematical treatment and are you ready for any Tool comparisons when the album drops?
“Nah… I doubt people will hear it. The riffy guitar part in Northern Lights was a part that was Fibonacci inspired. That song is far, far away from any Tool song.”
So what was it like for the band solely self-producing this record? The end result seems to show a very “free” sounding album. Palms was done with Eric Palmquist but the last Thrice album to be solely done in-house was Beggars way back in 2009 with Teppei [Teranishi, guitars] leading.
Working with Eric Palmquist was a great experience. He has a lot of great ideas and we worked well together. I will say that recording ourselves is stressful, but also very freeing in many ways that you just don’t get with outside production. We end up presenting on the record in a way that has not been filtered through one specific person (the producer). The songs become a literal manifestation of the bands collaborative efforts. Producers, for better or worse have to put their identity in the recording because it is a representation of their work too.
I’m not sure if it’s down to the mixing or just the songwriting nature of these new ten songs, but your bass playing is so prominent and essential to these ten songs. Not that it hasn’t been previously, but the tone and playing really stands out!
“Yeah, I’m not sure how that has shifted. There wasn’t any push to have the bass more prominently featured or anything, I just think the mixing of the last two records have pushed my bass more to the front. I’ve had people compliment me a lot for the tone of my bass live, but never so much on records until Palms and Horizons/East. I think Scott Evans, who mixed the record really did an outstanding job of finding space for all of our tones without smothering one another. I really think it’s the best sounding record we’ve ever made by a mile.”
Excluding “Scavengers” and “Soft Robot Exorcism,” what’s your favourite song off of Horizons/East? What song(s) are you most interested for people to hear? I loved “Northern Lights” a lot!
“That’s a hard one. I really like how dynamic Dandelion Wine ended up. That outro is one of the heaviest things we’ve ever made and the verses are some of the prettiest/mellowest. I also really like how Still Life turned out and The Color of The Sky. I’m really happy with this record the fact that it’s hard to choose is a good sign.”
Lastly, Eddie, Thrice’s debut album “Identity Crisis” turned 20 last year. How do you personally view that record now? How do you think its aged and held up?
“20 years… Wild! Identity Crisis is fun to listen back to. I don’t know if I’d say it holds up, but it definitely is an awesome picture of a couple friends trying to experiment creating music together. I’d have a blast playing that music still, but I think the same experimentation that was going on back then is alive and well now with our new music. We’ve always been about trying to smash genres and dynamics together. It really is a dream still working with these guys and there is no shortage of new ideas. Truly grateful for them and everyone out there that still supports us and shares in our joy of music.”
THRICE’S 11TH ALBUM HORIZONS / EAST RELEASES SEPTEMBER 17TH VIA EPITAPH RECORDS