You Only Live Thrice

OC’s post-hardcore icons get elemental with their new eps

"You don't think about the repercussions," says Thrice guitarist Teppei Teranishi, referring to a post his band made on their website a few years ago after performing at a large radio festival in Texas.

"We were just saying about how bad all the music was: It was horrible," adds vocalist/guitarist Dustin Kensrue, who's seated directly across the table at an Orange Circle café. "We weren't trying to be ungrateful. It wasn't supposed to be a reflection of their station as much as on modern rock music, I guess."

For better or worse, that was the position the Irvine post-hardcore quartet placed themselves in while still linked to major label Island Records. And their words eventually found the sponsoring radio station rolling out the unwelcome mat.

It was a decisive time in the band's history: With decent airplay and videos in rotation, should they have befriended radio execs in an effort to scale the ranks? No, says Kensrue, "we were never interested. At a certain level, you have to do it, but I don't think we're cut out to do it. We're not good at selling ourselves."

Fortunately, Thrice doesn't have to do much in terms of self-sales these days. In many ways, the band—which also includes brothers Eddie and Riley Breckenridge on bass and drums, respectively—has come full circle, returning to a local indie label (previously on Hopeless, now on Vagrant), locally recording their new EPs collectively dubbed The Alchemy Index (the first installments hit stores Tuesday), and entirely on their own (they're self-produced and -engineered).

Such changes have allowed Thrice—which launched nearly 10 years ago at Irvine High School; the band cut their stage teeth in venues such as the original Santa Ana Koo's Art Cafe and Chain Reaction—to unleash their most diverse, in-depth listening experience to date. It's a set of four EPs totaling 24 songs, released in pairs and divided by elements (subtitled Air, Earth, Water and Fire). It's a hefty undertaking, but for a band that already had four full-lengths under their belt, it was a challenge they couldn't resist.

Conceived while the band was still under its Island contract, The Alchemy Index began as a concept of soundscapes, with a few structured songs in between. But rather than make some sort of limited release, the band pursued their ideas further, fleshing out the material into actual songs, categorizing the tracks based on each song's direction: heavy hardcore into Fire, electronic ideas into Water, acoustic cuts into Earth and a mix of the three landing in Air.

The band had tracked its previous three albums on the East Coast, and the local, convenient recording location (Riley Breckenridge's Orange home) made for a smoother effort, both operationally and personally. Teranishi and Kensrue became fathers (or fathers-to-be) during the process. Teranishi's son is now 3 months old, and Kensrue has a 9-month-old daughter.

"We worked a 9-to-5 thing every day instead of doing something two months solid," says Kensrue. "It was spread out through a long time so we could be with our families. We got to live a somewhat normal life when we were recording, which is cool."

"Plus, you're able to get inspired by life," Teranishi adds. "When you're so isolated, it's kind of hard."

However, isolation could also be used to describe the band's sentiments about their involvement in the local scene. Teranishi was raised on a diet of local punk acts, but, he says, he's always felt like an outsider on his own turf, and Kensrue asserts that Thrice never really associated themselves as hailing from any type of local-music clique.

"We always got along better with East Coast bands," Kensrue says. "There's just a different ethic and aesthetic, too." In fact, during their earlier days on Island, Thrice was closely linked to New Jersey label mates Thursday, appearing together on magazine covers, seven-inch singles and concert tours.

Interestingly, both bands parted ways with the major this year, and Thrice landed with LA-based Vagrant. Kensrue says the label inked the deal without even hearing a note of the new EPs, and it will release Vols. Iand II this month, with Vols. IIIand IV (Earth and Air) to follow in April 2008, giving fans plenty of time to soak in the band's latest wares. In fact, according to Teranishi, they'll be getting pretty much everything Thrice has to offer at the moment.

"That's the interesting thing with this," Teranishi says. "We got to push so far in every direction, from a rootsy, stripped-down area to full electronics, and it kind of blows the doors wide open as far as our future."

"Every time we're finished with a record, we're itching to do another one," adds Kensrue. "But there's a lot of music and a lot of different stuff. I feel like I can just hang and play this music for a while, and then see what happens."

Still, Teranishi feels pretty confident that the band will start penning some new goods while on tour, which starts this month. But with the wide precedent set by The Alchemy Index, it's anyone's guess as to what'll be Thrice's next musical move—especially to those in Thrice.

"I have absolutely no idea what we're going to sound like after this. Seriously, I have no idea," Teranishi says. "And that's really exciting in a way."

 
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