Thrice is one of those bands that was never content to stick to one genre.
Emerging out of the early-2000s Orange County scene, they broke out as an energetic punk/alternative band with straightforward song structure but quickly morphed into a genre-bending ensemble unafraid of slowing it down and embracing experimentation and melody.
Recently, the band reconvened after a hiatus for a 2016 tour and new album, their first since 2011’s Major/Minor.
Drummer Riley Breckenridge shared some thoughts about the band’s career, break and new activity in a quick chat with us.
When you had more downtime you used to do more ambient music, but is there no time for that no?
Riley Breckenridge: Yeah, I mean I have a lot of stuff that would definitely work for that project. Some of it, once Thrice started kicking around again I started to filter into new Thrice stuff…but it all comes down to time, you know? Writing the new record ate up a lot of my time, I was spending a lot of time…working a real job, doing the Thrice stuff in addition to that, finding a couple of hours a day or night to work on the ambient stuff just wasn’t happening.
And then you throw a pregnant wife into the mix and then a child into the mix…I had free time and had ideas floating around and now it’s like there’s just no free time. It’s crazy.
You mentioned Thrice’s hiatus a few years ago, when Dustin (Kensrue, lead vocalist who has a new solo LP out soon) took time off for his spiritual music.
As is the case, those ‘farewells’ are never permanent so you’re all back together, have a tour coming up and are working on another record. How would you say the new music fits in with Thrice’s past material?
Riley Breckenridge: I think it’s a logical progression, I would guess. But it definitely draws from the last maybe four records we’ve done, there are elements of Vheissu that I can point to on this record, elements of the Alchemy Index, Beggars, Major/Minor. If you heard those records and then heard the new one you’d be like, ‘oh I can see this being the same band.’
It’s not like a total left-turn but it’s cool. We’re all really excited about it. It was a unique writing experience. In the past, we all lived in the same city and when it came time to write a record we said, ‘okay, we’re going to do a 9-5, five days a week thing and get in the studio and bang these songs out, however long it takes.’
This time, we had a pretty clear-cut timeline. Once we started doing reunion shows last year we talked about making music again and it was a resounding ‘yes’ from everybody. We got the timeline set up, but we had some geographical constraints. Dustin was living up in the Pacific Northwest, Teppei was up there outside Seattle as well so a lot of it was done virtually to begin with, sharing files and building stuff up in Logic or Garage Band, whatever.
Passing song ideas back and forth, slowly developing them to a point where Dustin ended up moving down to Orange County, we had Teppei fly in a couple times before or after the one-off shows and we’d write for a week like we used to then we’d all go back to our homes for more file-sharing.
The writing process was unique in that regard. I’m excited for people to hear it, hopefully that should start happening…fairly soon? We finished recording, finished mixing, finished mastering…I think last week. I’m not allowed to share the release date but we’re getting all our assets together to make sure we have a decent roll-out for the record. People should get a taste pretty soon.
Thrice fans are extremely passionate about the difference between early-era songs like Deadbolt and the late-era music. You guys celebrate that on the road, when you blend in the really old songs with the newer ones. What’s it like blending the old stuff with the newer stuff?
Riley Breckenridge: You can definitely tell there’s a shift in the crowd when we play that song. Blending old material and new material is…it’s always been tough, it’s gotten tougher the more records we put out. Not only because stylistically stuff is different and you don’t want to seem totally schizophrenic but also when we started playing, we were playing in standard tuning. Then we experimented with Drop-D, that moved to standard, Drop-C and then we started experimenting with Drop-A, baritone guitars in B-standard.
So the real challenge now is putting together a set that ebbs and flows properly, and also a set that ebbs and flows with energy and dynamics. Figuring out a set where the guys aren’t changing guitars every song, or tuning between every song. So we’re kind of slaves to, ‘alright, we’re going to revisit some old stuff in D-standard or Drop-D, so let’s build a block of three older songs, play those, then swap guitars and move on.’
So that’s kind of limiting, either way, which can be kind of frustrating but it’s our own fault. We did this to ourselves. (laughs)
Building a setlist before a tour is always a challenge. Are we playing enough old stuff? Are we playing enough new stuff? Are we featuring this new record enough? Are we ignoring a certain record? If you pay attention to stuff online you’ll see people like, ‘oh man, only one song from this record?’ Well, yeah, that’s all we can fit in. We weren’t going to play for three hours.
We don’t talk a lot on stage, so you’re getting 90 minutes of music from start to finish, but it’s tough to build a setlist that doesn’t feel like it’s too long and drags. It’s tough to build a setlist that feels like it flows.
Should we prepare 20 songs for tour? 40 songs for tour? I don’t want to say that it’s my least favorite part of preparing for a tour, but…it’s up there. You want to make everybody happy, but you know that you can’t…but you still try anyway.