By Alex Distefano
By Daniel Kohn
By Aimee Murillo
By Nick Schou
By Nate Jackson
By Nate Jackson
By Dave Lieberman
By Daniel Kohn
Twelve years is a full career for most public figures. An athlete is either preparing to retire, hanging on in a desperate effort to avoid “has-been” status or long gone.
By year 12, actors—unless they really break through—are hunting for any role worth their salt. Remember when Jean-Claude Van Damme could carry a blockbuster?
Musicians might have the shortest tenure of all. It’s hard to believe Limp Bizkit once held the title of biggest rock band in the world.
The perishable nature of the human body and its ever-waning ability to continually please a large segment of the population is what makes careers in these fields so fleeting. For this reason, when an actor, band or athlete exhibits staying power, there is an instant desire for us fans to keep rooting and supporting. As our lives develop new obstacles, they are the constant we can always turn to.
The Irvine quartet survived early oddball status as melodic prog punks caught in Orange County’s hardcore web (2001’s Identity Crisis). Then there were the Illusion of Safety (2002) days that had every major label in a not-yet-declining music industry wooing them as if they were LeBron James. That effort was followed up by 2003’s major-label debut, The Artist In the Ambulance, which had the band regularly on KROQ and MTV. From there, Thrice followed with four astonishingly varied efforts—Vheissu, the Alchemy Indexes and Beggars—leading to an exit from the major-label realm and going back to their indie roots.
Quite the vocational path for an outfit that never really chased stardom or, for that matter, imagined themselves playing music for a living.
“The idea of a career playing music seemed really implausible to me when we first started out,” singer Dustin Kensrue says. “I don’t necessarily think about what would have happened if things didn’t turn out this way, but I know we all feel fortunate to be doing this. Making music is pure, regardless of the reason you’re creating it. If you’re creating something from nothing, then that’s pure. . . . We feel lucky to be doing that.”
Now in the role of the veteran act, Thrice can walk down whatever road they want. Long gone are the early days of falling in with the Warped Tour set. The dynamic Thrice have challenged themselves and their audiences with everything from dramatic Tom-Waitsian tracks (The Alchemy Index–Earth) to textured chill-out numbers (The Alchemy Index–Air) and straight-up rockers (Beggars). The band’s unyielding rebellion against repetition and predictability is a key driver behind their loyal, global following. But the greatest benefit to their multigenre approach may be internal growth.
There is quite a difference mentally and emotionally between a 20-year-old and someone in his mid-30s. It’s this collective personal growth that has revealed itself in the band’s music.
“I think we have always obviously had a connection to our music, but it’s definitely stronger now than it’s ever been,” Kensrue says. “There are songs that have persisted over the years, but what we are writing now is only possible because of the time and experiences we’ve had leading up to this.”
Those experiences–beyond the cultural insights and global perspectives of touring the world for the better part of a decade—have included marriage, children, loss of a parent and enough real-life moments to realize how privileged they are to do what they love. Yes, touring while away from loved ones—especially wives with two children under the age of 4, as both Kensrue and guitarist Teppei Teranishi have—has become more difficult, but life gets more difficult for everyone as they age.
“It’s hard, but you have to learn to roll with it,” Kensrue says. “You have to adapt while trying to make it as easy on everyone as possible. . . . We have great, supportive families.”
As Thrice continue into their second decade, Kensrue is noncommittal when asked if he expects the band to be around for another 10 years. Still, he says, he couldn’t imagine another scenario.
“I think, over our past two records, we’ve really learned how to work together and bring out the best in one another,” he says. “I can’t think of a reason why we’d ever want to stop doing this.”
Neither can any of us.
This article appeared in print as "Long Live Thrice: Irvine’s prog-punk sons are now in their 12th year—and have withstood life changes as well as they’ve mastered musical time changes."