Thrice's Dustin Kensrue
has emerged from a two-year musical hiatus. Before reconvening the massively popular, post-hardcore outfit he fronts for a number of shows this summer, the 34 year-old musician recently released a new solo album called Carry The Fire
. It's an album that embraces a more classic sound, pairing road-ready, American rock and roll anthems with a few more-stripped down moments.
Recently Kensrue swung by our studio to play a trio of songs from the record. Through candid conversation and performances of "There's Something Dark", "Juggernaut", and "Back To Back", it's clear he gazed internally for a lot of the album's source material, taking inspiration from the darker places his heart and soul tend to roam. For without darkness, there is no light. Check out our profound session with Dustin and be sure to check out Carry The Fire
after you do.
- Darkness is often used as a symbol of evil, but it's equally apt at representing the unknown.
There's a fear attached to that kind of darkness, but it's of a different kind than the fear of evil.
My name is Dustin Kensrue.
I think most people have known my work, if they knew it at all, from Thrice.
But I've been taking a break from Thrice.
That break was really healthy for me creatively, to be able to explore inside of me.
And I believe that there is darkness in me, and I think in everyone.
And that idea of exploring what that means.
And I think it definitely weaves its way throughout the record.
This song's called "There's Something Dark Inside of Me.
" wretched tree.]
haunting all my love ]
I've been doing solo stuff with the record out, like, eight years ago and now the new one, "Carry the Fire.
" And for me, it's been really helpful, I think, to have things outside of Thrice.
Thrice is four people, just, everyone's ideas are valid and contending, and it ends up creating something really great.
But it's also super taxing at times.
So it's nice to be able to do something where it's like, I have this idea, and no one else has to agree with me, and it's just exactly what I want it to be right now.
mumbling in my mind.]
meant to find.]
what you've seen.]
One of, I think, my favorite songs from the record is "There's Something Dark Inside of Me.
" And the idea it's really struggling with is dealing with the tension, I think, between the way that we portray ourselves, that we want to be seen, and the way we at times actually experience what's going on inside of us.
So I call out your name.]
dark inside of me.]
We seem to have so many excuses to stop.
So many reasons to pull over and just be done with it.
The last couple years, I haven't been full-time creating music.
And I think that writing music is what I'm, I think, best at, and what I really enjoy doing.
So I'm super excited to get back into that full-time.
It can be tempting to isolate ourselves, to have no passions, to hide from everything that can hurt us.
The true work is somehow to start to learn to let go, to loosen our grip before we feel that noose tighten around our neck.
This record, really the product of the last eight years or so, between putting out my first solo record.
I really see this as the follow-up to that record, and it's in the same headspace that I'm approaching it.
And so I've just been storing up ideas, ideas, ideas.
And for me, it feels like a completion of a long process that I've been looking forward to for a while now.
What's interesting though, is the decision to keep going.
There is darkness.
There is also surely light.
This song is called "Juggernaut.
" the only one for me,]
devoted to you.]
never stop loving you.]
The song "Juggernaut" is one that I've had kicking around in my head for a long time.
I remember sound checking with it when we were on tour with Thrice.
And the concept, which is a little bit strange, is this idea of a juggernaut, this force that doesn't stop.
And it usually has some negative connotations, but I'm kind of flipping it in the song to say that that's the way that I want to love.
and I'll never stop loving you.]
Baby, I won't break a bet,]
ends is with you in my arms.]
It doesn't matter what gets thrown in the way of that, that I'm going to keep coming towards it, whether there's feelings of hopelessness at times, in the middle of hard times in a relationship, or selfishness and things like that.
So it's just saying, at the end of the day, like, I'm going to keep loving.
stop loving you.]
stop loving you.]
There's no shortage of ugliness around us.
No shortage of grief, of death, destruction.
There's no shortage of ugliness in our own hearts.
Greed, selfishness, hate.
Neither is there a shortage of beauty, of things which should cause us to stand in awe and wonder.
The term "carry the fire" is something from a Cormick McCarthy book called "The Road.
" Carrying the fire is holding onto goodness and truth and beauty in the midst of just chaos and darkness.
It's a metaphor I really liked, and one that I explore in different ways, I think, throughout the record.
What does it mean to carry the fire? Is it even worth asking? I believe it is.
I think there's a bit of burden to carry the fire.
I think there has to be.
But I think there's also a privilege and a joy in it.
This song is called "Back to Back.
" let me sit with you and wait.]
let me help you bear the weight.]
when the fire's gone out.]
you're filled with doubt,]
when our daughter's out too late.]
with you through the night.]
brash and blinding light,]
with you through the dawn]
on to share this fight.]
The song "Back to Back" is something that kind of came together later in the record out of a couple different ideas that I had.
Some of the songs, I had a vision for them for a long time, and this one was a couple of parts that I knew I really liked.
And the concept is relating to this idea of how to love someone in the midst of suffering, whatever that suffering might be.
And a lot of that being just being present with that person.
with you through the night.]
with its brash and blinding light,]
with you through the dawn.]
move on to share this fight.]
through the briar or the grain.]
darkness. In the fire, in the rain.]
walking with you...]
Not trying to offer all the right answers or say the right things, but just being with them.
So there's these images of walking through darkness, walking through thorns.
And that really is, I think, the essence of how you love someone well through something like that.
share this fight.]
to share this fight.]
on to share this fight.]
Hey, this is Dustin Kensrue, and you're waiting Baeble Music.
Its a rare singer/songwriter that can credibly display dual sides of his musical personality - one who can quite thoroughly and convincingly operate in opposite realms of popular music. With Please Come Home, Dustin Kensrue joins those elite musical ranks.
If, at the moment, he is known primarily as the voice of Thricea respected, conscious underground sensation, lauded for its virtuosity, power and creativity - Please Come Home stands to change all that. Indeed, with this batch of soul-searching acoustic songs, which range from the dark, philosophical and introspective to the tender, Kensrue is more likely to snare listeners more in tune with the work of Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Ryan Adams. Combining classic folk with earthy blues, melodic country and deep soul, Kensrue creates a unique aural landscape complementing his music versatility.
Built atop slabs of wisdom and hope, the songs avoid tilting towards the vacuous lighter fare of some singer/songwriters but stops short of the self-indulgent depression of others. It fights to shine lights into the abyss and delves into the dark places with one hand firmly holding onto faith, hope and love. At times stripped bare or awash in organ swirls or harmonica blasts, the discs eight songs are inhabited by sinners and saviors in tracks like Blood and Wine and Consider the Ravens. We find men who are morally confused and utterly lost in the title track Please Come Home, and in Pistol, hard-headed women whose love is like a rudder.
A lot of the material is a little more down to earth, which is one of things that I tried to do with these songs, says Kensrue. I get a little heady with the Thrice songs. And I like doing that - I think people like engaging in that - but I wanted these to be more folky, in the sense that this is music coming from a natural place.
Born, raised and still residing in the famously superficial Orange County, California, Kensrue is an anomaly in the regions musical scene, railing against the media and the masses for destroying womens self worth in I Knew You Before. As a teenager who carried his acoustic guitar with him everywhere, his music in both spirit and substance owed more to East Coast music. And certainly Please Come Home is no different. Chocked full of the warmth and introspection of records by the likes of such praised singer/songwriters as Grant Lee Phillips or early, stark David Gray, its songs are thoughtful and hardly light.
In slow-burning ballads or fast-moving strummers, he splays himself open, unafraid to leave himself emotionally naked in songs like the brave and honest I Believe, which deals with coming to grips with faith.
In a sense, the songs filling Please Come Home took root when Kensrue, before his days in Thrice, busked on streets corners in Southern California, playing for change and for the thrill of the interaction with an audience, no matter how small.
Recently he embarked on a pair of brief solo acoustic tours in the Northeast and Southwest (including sold-out engagements in New York, L.A., Philadelphia, San Diego and Orange County). The set was a mixture of new songs and covers, including a haunting rendition of the Counting Crows Round Here, and a daring acoustic stab at Imogen Heaps dark synthetic Hide and Seek.
When asked about the origins of this record, the singer says Please Come Home eventually took shape when he found himself writing songs that didnt necessarily fit within the Thrice context. On their latest U.S. tour, he and guitarist Teppei Teranishi committed to bringing these ideas to life once off the road. Co-producing the disc, they hunkered down in the studio with friend and guitar tech Chris Jones, who played drums, slide and electric guitar on Please Come Home. Teranishi handled the organ and piano duties, while Kensrue played all the acoustic guitars and bass on the disc, whose songs were written to be blueprints: Theyre structured, says the singer, so that they can be changed live, or effortlessly played with just an acoustic guitar.
I wanted these songs at their core to work in that street-corner sense - just a guy with his guitar a voice and a story to tell. In the end, even with the other instruments, it is still an acoustic guitar based record, he says. Its the foundation of each track, both musically and sonically, which I think is cool. On a lot of records, the acoustic gets E.Q.d really thin and becomes a glorified percussion instrument, but we tried to keep it pretty full and upfront.
With only eight songs, its a little bit of an old-school record, says Kensrue. But its like the old LPs I love - a lot of them only had like eight, maybe nine songs. I like shorter records, I feel like you really get a sense of the whole feeling of the record, and you can kind of grasp it all in one gulp. Advances in technology have allowed for a longer recording, and as a result, people like to try and fill that space. And I dont think its always necessary. Music shouldnt be about quantity. Im excited about it being shorter. It feels very complete to me.
Hailing from a small, landlocked city in the middle of Orange County, Kensrue was raised by a father with a beefy record collection, and a mother who sent young Dustin to piano lessons, though all he really wanted to play was guitar. If he loved The Beatles and Michael Jackson as a pre-teen, punk changed his course as a teenager.
With Thrice, its always an attempt to combine a lot of different feels and explore a lot of new territory - not that its not about writing good songs, but Please Come Home at its core is finding the heart of the song and playing it. Its definitely more down to earth and less complex in certain way...Ive started simplifying things and getting a little more subtle or elegant.
As an artist, I always want to be as real and honest as I can be in the songs, he continues. I feel like where powerful songs come fromtapping something thats inside of you, that actually means something to you, and getting that into the songI think you can hear when a song is not from that place. I try to be an artist who aspires to find hope even in dark places: If Im down, I dont want to bring people down to that place with me. Im looking for a way out."