Irvine’s favorite post-hardcore band is back in the spotlight. Thrice, who began in 1998, and includes the same four original members will release their tenth record, Palms, Sept. 14th.
Now signed to Epitaph Records, the group is looking to push the boundaries with the LA-based indie label’s support. Speaking with guitarist/singer Dustin Kensrue and drummer Riley Breckenridge, The Weekly found out the meaning behind the album’s artwork, their writing process, and what it’s like playing for an obsessed hometown crowd.
OC Weekly (Michael Silver): Last we spoke you guys were in San Diego supporting Rise Against and Deftones. What was your takeaway from that tour?
Riley Breckenridge: It was awesome, we’ve been friends with those guys for close to a decade. Getting to share our music with people who haven’t heard our music before was cool. The bonus was playing 30-35 minutes each night. We’re used to 90-minute sets so it was cool, giving us a chance to spend time on the road writing for Palms.
The band released To be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere in 2016. Is it fair to say after the group’s hiatus, you’ve returned with a new energy and direction?
RB: For sure. We took the break because some people were feeling a little burnt out on the ‘write a record and tour for a year or two’ cycle that we did for 15 years. Coming back we talked about how much touring we wanted to do, the rate at which we wanted to put out records, and how we organize band communication. Everyone was refreshed from the hiatus; we missed this.
Palms has a plethora of sounds featuring synths and heavy bass lines, starting with the opening track “Only Us.” Was this a conscious effort while recording or did it come about organically?
Dustin Kensrue: Not specifically, but being open to whatever came. Depending on the record we’re trying to take influences that are coming in and shift them a certain way. Other times like this record, we’re just trying to let everything stay where it started in a sense. Whatever the initial demo was, we say ‘Let’s keep more of that in there,’ and that’s built off the initial demo I did for this track with synths.
RB: I wouldn’t say it was conscious, we kind of head into every record telling each member, ‘Write whatever comes naturally to you.’ Part of the writing process is taking those ideas, some which may be from left field, and getting them to a place we all feel good about.
There weren’t any constraints on what instruments you could use or what kind of vibes to go for on a song. It reminds me of Vheissu in a lot of ways. That was more premeditated, like ‘We’re going to do some weirder stuff.’ I think we might have subconsciously drawn from that experience.
— THRICE (@Thrice) July 10, 2018
Can you talk about the open hand imagery of the album and the dream you had that led to the record’s message?
DK: The dream wasn’t necessarily the thing; it was more when I woke up. I had this idea of a poem and an open hand being a metaphor. I started writing a giant list of things. I also saw the poem (written around the album cover art) with the bars logo that we’ve had in a variety of different forms.
I noticed female backing vocals on “Just Breath,” is this the first time the band included a feminine element?
DK: It’s not a first; we haven’t had much backing singing in general. Some of my favorite stuff is Teppei yelling. The girl featured on this song is Emma Ruth Rundle, a singer/songwriter who has a record coming out the same day as ours. It’s really dark, folk like sounding. It was really last minute and I thought it would be cool to get the point across, that there are two voices on the song.
Overall this is your 10th album. Have you had a chance to reflect on that milestone and look at your body of work?
RB: Not really, not like I’ve sat down and listened to our previous stuff unless we’re getting ready to tour. The number ten definitely sticks out and it’s insane that we’ve been a band for this long, putting out that many records. I’m proud of how consistent we’ve been, even with the hiatus.
I’m super grateful that people have been interested in us, to allow us to do this for as long as we have. We’re really enjoying the rebirth of Thrice and a huge part of that is how supportive the fans have been.
DK: Ten albums and twenty years. I can’t really see it from the outside, you know? I know what it would seem like from the outside, remembering bands I loved hitting 10-year milestones touring with them, thinking ‘Gosh, that’s crazy.’ Definitely proud of what we’ve achieved and I think the fact that it’s the same four guys is really cool.
Additional tracks that stand out from Palms include “Everything Belongs” and “My Soul.” There is a sense of vulnerability to them lyrically. What influenced your writing?
DK: The way I describe the poem metaphor is like a hub on a wheel for the record. All the songs are spokes coming off in different ways representing compassion, connection, or vulnerability. “My Soul” is one that is the main connection to the theme. Writing for me, being vulnerable is something I’ve been pushing since the last record, to let that through more.
How did the band end up signing with Epitaph Records? Was there a mutual connection?
DK: We’ve been listening to bands on the label since we were kids. We never had a serious discussion with them in the past. We were looking for someone excited to work with us, like ‘Hey, who wants to be in business for a while?’ Our contract was up and we seriously considered re-signing but wanted to see what else was out there.
Epitaph was interested and we said ‘Yeah let’s talk,’ and it seemed like a really good fit and vibe for us; so far it’s been great. Kind of a parallel with the label and us would be we’ve both evolved quite a bit, but kept some kind of core identity. Especially for a label to have that core and evolve, it’s rare for labels to have identities much at all anymore. They’re kind of like the only larger indie that isn’t bought up or tied up to a major.
The House of Blues Anaheim show in November is already sold out. What are the best and worst parts of playing a hometown show?
RB: The best part is being close to home and able to recharge, being around your wife and kids for a minute. Hometown crowds are always incredibly enthusiastic and fun to play a show when they’re enjoying themselves.
The hardest thing is staying focused with friends and family at the show, it’s a lot to balance. If we’re playing in Cleveland or something, and I don’t know anybody, all I have to worry about that day is doing press responsibilities, warming up, and playing the show.
At home you’re getting calls about guest lists and trying to juggle all these people. You can’t really hang out with any of them because you have to float around and be social, and then you’re like ‘Dang I totally forgot to warm up or I’m off my schedule.’ At the end of the day, we’re so lucky to be able to do this.
Thrice play the House of Blues in San Diego (Sept. 20-21), House of Blues Anaheim (Nov. 17), and The Wiltern in Los Angeles (Nov. 18).
Michael Silver is a journalist and photographer based in Southern California. He covers music, sports, technology, and streetwear. Tips & pitches: firstname.lastname@example.org