Saturday, March 20, 2010
A Few Words From Thou
Thou, the prolific sludge fivesome from Baton Rogue L.A. has turned some heads as of late. 15 releases since their inception in 2007 and numerous presses from people's basements to big wigs like Southern Lord, Thou are just getting started. 2010 promises to deliver the long awaited Summit which will be the band's third full length. Bryan, the band's voice, was kind enough to share some words with the CJ crew in between recording their new album, playing around their stomping grounds, and preparing for a North Eastern tour that's got a lot of fans giddy as a school girl.
CJ:Let's get a brief history of Thou, previous incarnations, interesting backgrounds, etc.
B:The band was around for about two years before I joined. Back then, they had more of a post-rock, Isis / Pelican sound with sparse Acid Bath style vocals. I joined sometime after Tyrant was written and took over full vocal duties.
We're all from pretty typical working class backgrounds, and we're all deeply rooted in the DIY punk scene. We've had a few bands before Thou with and without each other. Everyone in the band generally has a few side bands happening, Mitch being the worst with four or five other bands. I met Andy through this amazing hardcore band he was in called We Need to Talk; in fact, the first Thou tour was one I had booked and was driving for WNTT, and they sort of conned me into joining the band, so Thou could hijack it.
CJ:From the depth of the lyrics, as well as the various quotes throughout your works you guys are obviously well read. How much do you find what you read, or watch (The Shooter excerpt is ace), play a role in your music? Have you ever read Manfred? There's a great quote with thou, at the end; just a heads up for more liner notes, haha.
B:We all read a lot. The other guys, especially Andy (who I believe is just a hair and a breath short of an English BA), all send me ideas, and I have a pile of notes that I use to generate themes and lyrics. I might pull a word or phrase from something and then write a whole song about it. Or we might have songs here and there that are basically mangled pieces of text from various places. For instance, I pulled a lot of stuff from the Bonnot Gang for "Hooves" and there are a few hidden quotes in some of the Tyrant LP lyrics from classic gothic horror novels like Dracula and Frankenstein.
I don't know how intelligent we seem now that you've outed us on that Shooter sample! Hahaha. Although to be honest, I didn't see that movie until a couple of years after we used it on "Smoke Pigs." Our old roadie Thomas Mudge had thrown that at us, and we went with it. He's also responsible for coining the whole "Smoke Pigs. Actualize it." and "Talk to Cops.." ideas and probably a slew of other stuff. He's our ghost writer and the almost singer for Barghest.
I haven't read much Byron, but I'll have to check out the Manfred poem. Who wouldn't be turned on by a guy defying religion to his dying breath? We generally stay away with being too cheeky with our quotes, though I couldn't help using that "thou" quote from We on the Kingdoms collection. It was just too good to pass up.
CJ:You're working on a new album I hear, how far along are you with it and can we get any info on it in regards to what to expect, release date, changes from previous works, release format, etc.
B:We just finished the recording of Summit at the Living Room Studio in Algiers, Louisiana. An old friend of mine Chris George built and runs the space with another great guy by the name of Daniel Majorie. It's basically an old church converted into a recording studio. It's pretty amazing! James Whitten, who recorded the all the non-full length songs up to now, acted as recording engineer and did an amazing job. We love James.
We're working on the mix and layout now, and we're shooting to have the record out this summer for our tour in June with Moloch. Southern Lord will be releasing the LP, Gilead Media will be doing the CD, and Broadcloak will be doing a short run of cassettes.
Thematically, this LP is a bit of a departure from our general misanthropic disposition. If folks can read between the lines a bit, they'll hopefully be able to see this as a very positive, life-affirming record: the imminent triumph of anarchists and other fringe revolutionaries over the repressive prison of civilization.
CJ:What are you listening to at the moment? Anything in particular really drive you in your own creation?
B:Fell Voices and Kowloon Walled City from the Bay Area in California; Skagos from Vancouver, Canada; Coffinworm from Indianapolis, Indiana; and Black Breath from Seattle, Washington; Mourne from Boston, Massachusetts.
The first three are probably the only ones having much of an influence on the music, since the rest of the guys who do the actual composing are more familiar with them. Lyrically, I draw more from hardcore bands like Catharsis, His Hero is Gone, Earth Crisis, etc.
CJ:A continuation of the previous question, what kind of music outside of metal do you listen to, does it play a role in your music?
B:Right now, I'm hooked on Kid Cudi's Man on the Moon LP. I can't get enough of it. I also just grabbed the newest Mos Def record which is as solid as you'd expect.
As far as musical influences outside of metal, everyone in the band is pretty heavily into Pearl Jam and Fiona Apple. And there are three of us, myself included, who really like the Shins. I think that stylistically, we share a lot more with bands like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains than we do with Eyehategod or Crowbar. And we pretty much all like Nirvana, probably my number one band ever.
And I'm a huge Smiths fan--as you can see by some of the lines we bite!--but I'm pretty much the only one in the band who likes them, aside from our roadie and merch wizard Derek.
I just grabbed a pile of unreleased material from this old vegan straightedge band Culture. Chip who does the x Stuck in the Past x blog thankfully posted it. (Great blog, by the way for anyone who likes 90s hardcore.)
CJ:NOLA's a crucial and well known facet in the metal community and from your site I see there's quite a well organized scene in NOLA as well Baton Rogue, what's it like?
B:I think there's a lot of hype because of bands like Eyehategod (who are great!) or Soilent Green or Crowbar or whatever. But it's really the same as anywhere else in the world. I don't know if I would call New Orleans or Baton Rouge "well organized." It's more like controlled chaos that people who have some organizational skills have to float around in.
CJ:While your basis might be sludge, I hear significant influence from black metal, throughout the band's sound. Your vocals, which I am a huge fan of, work perfectly, yet aren't too common in sludge, and some of the riffs, atmosphere and even recent incorporation of blast beats seems to show a nod or two towards black metal. Specifically I'm thinking about the Leech split and the recent split with Salome. Personally I love this, is this conscious? It comes off very natural and I was just curious about the process, reminds me a bit of Fleshpress.
B: It's funny that you should bring up that Leech material because it was written before the Peasant stuff and with a lot of time separating it. But, yeah, we're pretty much all into black metal in some way. We're friends with bands like Leech, Fell Voices, Skagos, Altar of Plagues, Wolves in the Throne Room--and huge fans of their work--so that stuff is definitely starting to creep into our sound a bit. We've talked a little about writing an entire black metal record in the future, though it would more or less be our take on the genre, so it'll definitely be a bit off from the usual fare, I think. Matthew and Terry are also in a straight up, raw black metal band called Barghest, who I think are incredible. So there can sometimes be some crossover in what they do in that band and what makes it into some of our songs.
But other than the idea of doing that one record, we haven't consciously decided to write songs that are in that genre. For the most part, Andy or Matthew will have a few riffs, or the skeleton of a song, and we'll just go from there. If a part comes out sounding more black metal than is usual for us, it's just the logical development of the part.
And my vocals are what they are. I come from more of a hardcore background. I don't have any professional training or anything. They've just always been like that. Before Thou, I was in a couple of bands that were more punk or more 90s emo, Ebullition style, and the vocals were just as "black metal."
CJ: How important is a band's image, and all the various accessories that accompany the music to you?
B:We don't really have a band image. None of us really wear the punk rock or metal uniforms or whatever. And if we did, I would hope that our poor fashion sense wouldn't dictate our writing. We're not trying to fit into a particular scene or even appeal to anyone.
There may be a certain aesthetic that we try and maintain with the record artwork, but that's always dictated by the themes or emotions we're trying to express with the music, rather than a certain look for that look's sake.
CJ:You guys have racked up numerous splits now, what's the process like? Do you seek out bands? You have a knack for playing with some kickass bands.
B:We've just been really lucky so far to be approached by so many people whose music we liked. At this point we're not seeking out any more bands to do splits with. We have a few things in mind that might be on the back-burner for the next couple of years, since our main focus will be on writing the next two full lengths.
CJ:Well thanks a lot for your time and can't wait to check out new material from you guys and eventually see you on the stage. Any last words?
B:You're probably more likely to see us in front of the stage. That thing's just there for you to use to jump over us into a pile of your friends.
Thanks for the interview.
More information here. And thanks again to the guys at Thou, great stuff-keep your eyes peeled!