Post-hardcore icons Thrice recently signed to Epitaph and released the great new single "The Grey." Today, they put out a Daniel Carberry-directed video for that song and also announced that it'll be on their upcoming tenth album, Palms, which is due out September 14 via their new label home (pre-order). It's their second album since returning from hiatus in 2015, following 2016's To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere, and Palms has Thrice sounding even more rejuvenated than its predecessor did. "The Grey" is one of Thrice's heaviest songs in a while, sounding like a cross between The Artist in the Ambulance and the Fire EP, and there's other super heavy stuff like that on Palms too. There's also synth-fueled industrial rock, atmospheric ballads, a little folky influence, a guest vocal from Emma Ruth Rundle (who just announced her own new album), a song that literally features over one thousand backing vocalists, and more. Thrice co-produced the album with Eric Palmquist (who also produced To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere), and it was mixed by John Congleton (who's worked with St. Vincent, Angel Olsen, Cloud Nothings, Swans, and others).
I spoke to frontman Dustin Kensrue over the phone while he was on tour in Europe last month, and we discussed Thrice's new album, signing to Epitaph, their past major label days, how they've managed to keep the same lineup for nearly 20 years, and more. You can read on to see our chat and watch the new "The Grey" video below.
Thrice will be in the NYC-area this week for day one (7/12) of Long Island's Great South Bay Music Fest, the same day as The Front Bottoms, The Get Up Kids, and more (tickets). While they're in the area, Thrice are also doing an in-store signing and meet & greet at Patchogue, NY's Record Stop on Thursday (7/12) at 3 PM. More info on the flyer below.
They've got a bunch of other upcoming dates after that, all of which are listed at the bottom of this post. Palms artwork and tracklist below too.
BV: Congratulations on signing to Epitaph, and a great new album. This follows a handful of records with Vagrant -- what led to to you leaving that label? Was it just a contract being up, or something else?
Dustin Kensrue: Yeah, our contract was up, and we seriously considered staying. They did a great job with our records, and you know we've been there a while. But yeah, we met with Epitaph and it seemed like a really good fit for us, and it was a good time to try something new.
Speaking of record labels, you guys were one of the many punk/post-hardcore/etc bands during the early 2000s that were scooped up by a major label, when the majors were going for all of those kinds of bands. So many punk and alternative bands have stories of butting heads with majors -- could you talk about your experiences on one?
The team that we signed on with at Island, we felt that they really understood us, and that there was this understanding of, hey, we're not like, this hit-generating band, we were going to be a career band and make records. And they were on board with that, and obviously they were gonna want us to be really successful, but we were pretty well left alone. We had an A&R guy that we liked a lot, and we never had this pressure to give them a hit song or whatever. It was mostly a positive thing, but by the time we were working on The Alchemy Index, almost everybody who had been there when we came was gone. There was this new regime who didn’t understand why we were there. By the time we finished that record, they didn’t want to have anything to do with it, and we didn’t really want them to, so we got to keep the record, and they got to keep half the money. Which was about as well as I could've hoped it would've gone -- we spent a lot of time working on that record. So we later went to Vagrant, and they were happy to have us, not even having heard the record yet, they just kind of had the same vision as us and they were like “yeah, we’d love to make records with you guys, and we like what you’ve done, and we'll like what you're going to do.”
As you just touched on a bit, Thrice is a band that’s gone through so much over the years, from starting out as this small band, to the days where “All That’s Left” was all over MTV, to The Alchemy Index, to going on hiatus, to now returning with a second post-hiatus record. How would you compare your current mindset and goals for the band now to the ones you might have had 10 or 20 years ago?
They’re actually really similar, if not the same. We’ve always been a band that’s kind of looked to the next thing, without any super grand plan of what we want to accomplish. Generally, we’re concerned with what kind of record we want to make, and then tour on it. We’re definitely not the savviest business band, but we appreciate everything that comes along, because we’re not looking for some mile marker.
So let’s talk about the new record. There are parts of it that remind me of classic Thrice, then there’s other things, like that first track “Only Us,” which is almost like an industrial song, which sounds pretty new for Thrice. How did a song like that come about?
We were consciously trying to leave our palette really broad. The last record was, I think maybe our most cohesive record, and it was still varied but it had something that really pulled it all together. We consciously wanted this one to be a bit more wild and scattered, I think. That song just came from me messing around with arpeggiated synths on a computer, and singing along with that. And I was like, "that sounds cool, it feels cool, it's got a cool energy" -- something about the tone itself, which was the original tone I demoed it with, it seemed to create the right mood for the melody. So yeah, we just went with it, and choosing to start the record with it was a conscious decision, knowing it’s a bit left-of-center for us, and that it would be a bit surprising... hopefully in a good way."
It definitely kicks the record off with like, “whoa, this is Thrice?”
Yeah, and I like how that song kind of keeps surprising you as it goes. It starts in a way feeling a bit different, but then it has those classic Thrice elements as it continues.
Another song on the record that stood out to me, “Just Breathe,” has these really great vocal harmonies with Emma Ruth Rundle. She’s awesome, how did you guys end up working with her?
I heard her music maybe a year and a half or two years ago, and I definitely dug it. We were almost done with the record, and we were singing that song, and it's kind of supposed to have two voices, two different characters singing the song almost -- the main character and this voice from the side kind of coming in and speaking to that character. So I thought it would be cool if we could have an actual other voice to differentiate between the characters a little bit. We had to be done with it in a couple days, and there were a couple names that we had who we hit up, and she was not on tour, and other people were, so it worked out. It was a very short list of people and the fact that she was able to do it was amazing.
The song “The Dark” has, according to the liner notes, vocals by “over one thousand friends from all over the world on their smartphones and computers.” Can you elaborate a little on that?
When I was writing that song, it's pretty broad, because I think a lot of different people in different situations could identify with what’s happening in the song, and I wanted to write it that way, instead of having it be focused on one specific issue. On a lot of the record, we were trying to be very inclusive, and I started thinking about how it'd be great to actually feature different people’s voices on here, and kind of let their stories be part of the song. But it seemed like it'd be too small to just get a few people from the LA area, and we wanted to go beyond that. So we had the idea to have people record it on their iPhones. We talked to the producer about it, asking if it was plausible, and he said “yeah, that’s great!” So we threw an open call out there for a few days, and had over a thousand submissions, and thankfully our producer had an intern at the time, who put them all in and mixed them all down. It sounds really great, I would never have thought it was recorded on phones. It was really cool that all these people wanted to participate.
So, with all the different sounds on this album, could you talk about a few bands or musicians that inspired this specific album?
One that I’ve noted recently in a couple interviews, is -- guitar-wise, and bass too -- the band No Knife. I can’t always point towards one band that's influenced us in general over time, but that band... some of the guitar and bass work that they do, I can see some of that on this record on songs like "Just Breathe," a lot of those, kind of weaving guitar parts. And then on "My Soul," Ed kind of wrote the core of that song and Teppei kind of helped see it through in a band context, and I think he'd been listening to a bunch of Beach House at the time. There's definitely some kind of Fugazi-ish elements in like, "A Branch in the River." Probably some Radiohead in "Blood on Blood," just the way that song kind of moves, and the way the guitar is pushing into that drum beat.
Since you revisited The Alchemy Index for a tour last year, I was wondering if we could talk a little about that record.
When you made that record, that was pretty wild at the time for bands making this type of music that and operating at this level. There were a few other bands around then taking this kind of sound in directions you wouldn't normally hear on Warped Tour or whatever, like Thursday -- who you guys had a pretty parallel career with -- and I know they've talked about feeling the need to break out and not be associated with that scene. Was that a thing for you too, or was it a little different for you guys?
Yeah, it felt weird to us, being grouped with a certain scene or sound, which wasn't something that we sought out. Looking at it from our perspective, it was hard to see many similarities between some of the bands that were being grouped together, other than A), they didn’t come out of a mainstream kind of place, and B), they were heavy and melodic. You know? I mean, Thursday is a good example, where I think we're a very, very different kind of band, but we were on the same label [Island], and all this stuff was happening around the same time, so it was like "yeah you guys are together, you're both screamo or whatever" (laughs). But yeah, it was always kind of frustrating whenever we were lumped into something, but not to the point where it was really influencing the music. If we were reacting to anything in the music, it was usually just to ourselves.
Back to the new album, is there a moment on it that you’re especially proud of or surprised with yourself?
I think the cool thing about being in a band that's super democratic, where everyone’s writing, is that there are moments when someone will spin something in a different way that you wouldn’t have ever taken it, and it’s awesome just to be a part of it. I remember for “The Dark,” I had that one guitar part and melody that starts it, and I had another idea but didn't really know where they were going, and Teppei made a demo where the drums and bass come in really heavy over that guitar part, and I was like, "this is a song now, it's a really cool song now," not just random parts. I’m pretty proud of the general, larger concept that I think I pulled off lyrically, and specifically, lyrically, I think “Beyond the Pines” is my favorite on the record. I like that song a lot.
You describe Thrice as having a “democratic” songwriting process, and I think one of the really fascinating things about Thrice is that you’ve had the same lineup for nearly 20 years now, which is very rare for a band. What’s your secret?
The hiatus was one of the keys I think. We'd been going for so long and so hard that it just wasn't sustainable, and coming back after that has been definitely the healthiest spot that we've been in as a band, both creatively and on the road. It probably helps that we’re all pretty mellow. I can imagine for certain bands, it'd be hard to not get pulled apart in various ways due to bigger personalities. And that's not to say -- we're all difficult to work with in certain ways (laughs), but there’s definitely a shared, kind of, “chillness” in band, and the way we understand each other’s personal space. A lot of it is more luck than anything. But at a certain point, because we're so democratic and it's such a group process, it's hard to imagine it being anything else other than the four of us. Pretty early on, it felt like Thrice is the four of us. There's no way to subdivide it and be like, oh Thrice is "Dustin and whoever's with him" or "Teppei and whoever's with him" -- there's never ever been a point where that was a possibility or something that would be desired.
A Branch In The River
Hold Up A Light
Blood On Blood
Beyond The Pines
Thrice -- 2018 Tour Dates
Jul 12 Great South Bay Music Festival Patchogue, NY
Jul 28 Marquee Ballroom Halifax, Canada
Aug 24 Teatro Odisseia Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Aug 25 Fabrique Sao Paulo, Brazil
Aug 26 Hermes Bar Curitiba, Brazil
Aug 28 Uniclub Abasto, Argentina
Aug 29 Espacio San Diego Santiago, Chile
Sept 20 San Diego, CA - House of Blues
Sept 21 San Diego, CA - House of Blues
Sept 22 Tempe, AZ - Marquee Theatre
Sept 24 Austin, TX - Emo’s
Sept 25 Houston, TX - House of Blues
Sept 27 Fort Lauderdale, FL - Revolution Live
Sept 28 Orlando, FL - House of Blues
Sept 29 Atlanta, GA - The Buckhead Theatre
Sept 30 Charleston, SC - The Music Farm
Oct 02 Raleigh, NC - The Ritz
Oct 03 Richmond, VA - The National
Oct 04 Silver Spring, MD - The Fillmore
Oct 06 Philadelphia, PA - Electric Factory
Oct 07 Boston, MA - House of Blues
Oct 09 Detroit, MI - St. Andrew’s Hall
Oct 10 Cleveland, OH - House of Blues
Oct 12 Chicago, IL - House of Blues
Oct 13 St. Louis, MO - The Pageant
Oct 14 Nashville, TN - Marathon Music Works
Nov 02 San Francisco, CA - The Regency Ballroom
Nov 03 Portland, OR - Roseland Theater
Nov 04 Seattle, WA - Showbox SoDo
Nov 06 Salt Lake City, UT - The Complex
Nov 07 Denver, CO – Music Summit Hall
Nov 09 Milwaukee, WI - The Rave
Nov 10 Cincinnati, OH - Bogart’s
Nov 11 Lawrence, KS - The Granda
Nov 13 Dallas, TX - House of Blues
Nov 14 Albuquerque, NM - El Rey Theater
Nov 16 Las Vegas, NV - House of Blues
Nov 17 Anaheim, CA - House of Blues
Nov 18 Los Angeles, CA - The Wiltern
9/20 - 11/18: with The Bronx and Teenage Wrist