Thrice won’t make nice
The band sees The Alchemy Index as a challenge to its fans perceptions
As proud as he is of The Alchemy Index, Thrice’s Eddie Breckenridge isn’t going to pretend that toiling on the four-part opus was entirely enjoyable.
“Although this record was a really cool project and I loved making it, it was limiting in ways,” the bassist admits, reached at home in Irvine, California. “You had to keep things within the constraints of this concept that we had. Thinking back, I’m like, ”˜Oh, man, what could we have done if we’d merged all these different vibes together?’, which is kind of what our music has done in the past.”
Helping erase whatever regrets Breckenridge might have about Alchemy is the fact that the project has confirmed Thrice as one of the most adventurous acts ever to crawl out of the hardcore ghetto. In the tradition of landmarks like the Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come and Brand New’s The Devil and God Are Raging Inside of Me, the disc operates on the premise that rules aren’t made to be broken as much as totally ignored. As Thrice’s disciples are well aware, Alchemy is basically four EPs released as two albums. Vols. I & II: Fire & Water hit the streets last October. Vols. III & IV: Air & Earth are scheduled for release on April 15. The songs in each suite were created to reflect the element they’re grouped under. Fire thus finds Thrice cranking the amps until they smoke, particularly on the marauding modern-rocker “Burn the Fleet”. At the same time, though, the band hasn’t forgotten the importance of experimenting: “The Messenger” counterbalances scorched-earth guitar with depth-charge electronic squelches, while “The Flame Deluge” offsets screamed-raw vocals with sing-the-sorrow strings and spectral piano.
Water takes a dramatically meditative tack. All soft-flutter percussion and delicate washes of guitar, “Open Water” suggests that Thrice has spent time in the chill-out tent with Lemon Jelly. Later on, the slow-building “Night Diving” makes the perfect backdrop for bong-hazed sunrises.
Breckenridge stresses that the sonic exploring on The Alchemy Index doesn’t stop with the first two volumes.
“The Earth record has a real jazzy, blues, folk kind of vibe,” he reveals. “The majority of it is actually all acoustic instruments recorded in a single room in a house. We just moved all the furniture, set up the microphones, and tried to make it as raw as possible. Like if you mess up on a guitar part, you keep it so it has that old-school-blues feeling. And then the Air record is a lot of ethereal stuff.”¦It’s lighter in mood, even though it has some heavier elements as well as some acoustic elements. Air is the record that sounds most like all of the elements combined.”
Ultimately, The Alchemy Index is the sound of Thrice challenging its fans, something that won’t surprise anyone who checked out 2005’s boundary-exploding Vheissu. Breckenridge acknowledges that desire to push in new directions, confessing that the band—which includes his brother Riley on drums, singer-guitarist Dustin Kensrue, and guitarist Teppei Teranishi—initially worried that the songs they had written didn’t sound enough like Thrice.
“This concept was created to see what we could do to break down people’s views of what our band is,” he says. “In reality, this project was going to be a band side project. We were thinking about putting it out under a pseudonym.”¦This is a concept record pretty much, and sometimes people just don’t get those kind of records. But in the end, we decided we had to do what was correct for the band. We figured that we wanted people to take this journey with us, which is why we decided we had to put it out as Thrice.”
The band’s big accomplishment is that it’s waded into prog-rock territory without coming across as more self-indulgent than, say, the Mars Volta. What you hear is a group determined to evolve, but not to the point where it’s forgotten where it came from.
“Some of my favourite bands of all time are the ones that have changed and grown a bunch,” Breckenridge says. “Bands like the Beatles and Radiohead. I’m not in any way comparing us to those bands”¦but I definitely look up to them. They’ve done whatever they wanted, and that’s awesome.”
Thrice’s determination to do the same hasn’t come without a price. Figuring that radio wouldn’t exactly be making a place for Thrice between Nickelback and Three Days Grace, the band’s former label, Universal, decided it was time to part ways with the group; The Alchemy Index is released on Vagrant, which knows something about marketing left-field acts. That the suits at Universal didn’t hear a single doesn’t surprise Breckenridge.
“If you look at something like The Dark Side of the Moon, that was a huge, huge album,” he says. “If someone were to try to put that record out now, I don’t think that a major label would even touch it. Labels”¦aren’t willing to step out and push a band that isn’t doing the hot thing.”¦Maybe the days of putting out records like The Dark Side of the Moon and hoping that a broad audience would understand or accept it or get excited about it are dead.”
Thanks to The Alchemy Index, Thrice has never been more alive or hyped about where it’s going next, Breckenridge reports. And whatever regrets he might have about the way the disc came together are more than tempered by the sense of freedom that he and his bandmates feel today.
“I’m really excited about what we’re going to be able to do in the future because of what we learned from this project,” he says. “Even playing live now, our sets definitely have their ups and downs in terms of moods, aggressiveness, and a vibe.”¦As for our fans, I hope they enjoy it, because what we are doing is definitely eclectic.”
Thrice plays the Croatian Cultural Centre tonight (February 7).
In + out
Eddie Breckenridge sounds off on the things that enquiring minds want to know.
On moving beyond fast-and-loud: “We haven’t been listening to as much heavy music as we have been in the past. We still love it, but it’s not really on our playlists as much as it used to be.”
On seminal influences: “There are bands that influenced us hugely. Cave In was a band that we listened to a bunch when we started. We’ll reference them and people will be like, ”˜Who are you talking about?’ That makes me realize that a lot of people don’t know where we are coming from. There are bands like that that I wish everyone knew, just because they are so important to me.”
On moving forward: “I think that we were more concerned about people’s reactions to our music in the past. Definitely when we made our last record, Vheissu, that was a big change as far as us progressing. But the key to our band—and anyone making music—is that you have to do what makes you happy.