It's been five years since Thrice's last LP, Major/Minor, but the California alt-rockers have officially ended their hiatus with the announcement of their upcoming album, To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere, as well as a new, major tour. With just one track off the album available and Thrice's well-known reputation for creating a dynamic sound, there's only been a small taste of what's to come with the whole record.
Thrice frontman Dustin Kensrue took time to talk to us about how it felt re-emerging from the hiatus alongside bandmates in his original musical outfit and the trajectory Thrice is taking in the future to reignite their versatile sound. Having spent more recent years as a solo acoustic act, Kensrue's singer-songwriter abilities have been at the forefront of his latest tracks, and the way he crafts his music has been put to the test in a totally different way than anything he was accustomed to alongside fellow bandmates. After years of each musician working on independent projects, it's safe to say that Thrice's latest has picked up sonic influences along the way.
"Everyone in the band has always been picking up new influences, even during the times before the hiatus when we were constantly practicing together. There's been a lot going on with everyone, but for me I've been doing a lot of solo work, and through that, I've definitely taken a different approach to songwriting, where it's more that I'm writing from the bottom up rather than from the back end. I think that really comes out in songs like 'Blood on the Sand.' I guess, as the one who writes the lyrics and the melodies to all of our songs, that's definitely changed my approach."
"Blood on the Sand" can be interpreted as a timely track during a period in which heated controversy about violence seems to be at the forefront of political debates, newsrooms, and American culture at large. There's a pretty strong connection with this, and it begs the question of whether the aim of this album is to draw from these influences.
"I would definitely say that we've drawn a lot of our influence from the current state of politics, but I also like to personalize things when I write, and I've always written that way. I'd say on the new album that half of the songs are like 'Blood on the Sand,' and bring out that much more hard-hitting political dialogue, especially given that it's an election year, but I'd also say that we try to write beyond the politics of issues. Maybe it's more that we're writing about something broader, like society...culture even. I feel that my writing is about the way I take in what's going on within society, and the importance I feel about certain issues leads me to doing my own personal research on them, which often translates into a song. One of the political issues we talk about in this album is the song 'Whistleblower,' which is [partially] about Edward Snowden [ed note: the song also wades into more personal waters as well...so, not entirely political], and then there's the song 'Black Honey,' which delves into the political as well."
There's definitely influence in this album that comes from a deeply personal place, and even certain moments within my life, but I feel that there's a factor in there where it's about how deeply personal things find a way to interact with something broader."
In the past, Thrice's songs and album concepts have often had references to literary works, biblical texts, and even science fiction concepts. To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere, however, has a nature about it that is much more go-for-the-throat, channeling human experience and immediacy in the themes.
"I think that, mostly due to the fact that I've been moving all over the place, I haven't really been able to get much reading done, or at least not as much as I would like to. I'd say that this is actually the least literary-influenced album I've worked on...We initially tried to take an approach to this record to work on a more stringent concept album, but as things pieced together we realized it wasn't going to work out that way. I really like doing the more conceptual records, and the next record is definitely going to delve into a more stringent concept, once we can take our time and really find the right way of doing it."
To prevent even a small sense of burnout, the band's members decided that for this album, things would be taken with more focus and time to carefully craft music in a way that helps each bandmate to act more freely, thanks to spending less time in grueling, daily 8-hour studio shifts, and more time arranging instrumentals online to produce the finished pieces, with enough jamming in between to suffice.
"I would honestly say that there were more benefits and upsides to the way we recorded this album than there were disadvantages. Being able to work independently from one another definitely helped each member of the band be more creative, and we still had all of the moments we needed to jam together and get everything set. The way we worked on this album definitely beats spending eight hours a day, every day, in the studio, because then it becomes a grind and that takes all the fun away from it. And producing music needs to continue being fun. For our work in the future we're definitely going to stick to doing every other day in the studio, because it has gotten so tedious in the past that we were writing music exhausted and that took a lot away from the experience."
Kensrue also discussed his enthusiasm for the upcoming tour dates, and the importance of his presence during live performances. At heart, he's clearly engaged more than most when it comes to witnessing music in person.
"I guess the word I would use for it is 'dynamic.' We're going to have a lot of variety on tour and combine some crowd-pleasers with songs from older albums that we've never even played live before. I'm really excited for lots of the new material as well. The song 'Hurricane' has a guitar part that I can't wait to play live. When people go to see a Thrice show, I don't want there to be a typical Thrice set. I want all of our shows to give a different experience."
To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere is due out May 27th, and watch our classic session with the band below.