Thou interview (05/2019)
|With:||Bryan Funck, Adam Bartlett|
|Conducted by:||RaduP (in person)|
Roadburn Festival is a pretty big opportunity not only to see a lot of really great bands, a lot of which doing some special set, but also to fill some interview quotas as well. This being my first Roadburn, I decided to strike straight at the artists in residence themselves, Thou, who were to perform four sets, one for each day. We met up before the DYI Panel, attended, and looked for some quiet secluded place afterwards to start recording the interview. Adam from Gilead Media joined us, but more in the position of interviewee than interviewer, so some credit has to go his way, especially since I mistook him for someone else just a few days later when I saw him. Sorry, Adam.
The four Roadburn sets
Radu: The moment I start recording there's already somebody talking down there.
How excited are you to see the crowd stand still with their arms crossed, staring at you?
Adam: Uh… Yeah, I'm pretty excited about that, I guess.
Bryan: Usually when I get bored with people, that's when usually I turn around, not facing the audience, or I start taunting them or making fun of them between songs, but, yeah, it's a little bit of a bummer to see… Seems like the older we get, the more tame our crowd gets. Not that I want it to get violent or weird, but… it'd be nice to have a little energy out there.
Radu: On the first day of Roadburn, there was a metalcore band that played and they kept asking the crowd to move and get violent, but guess what they did.
Bryan: Stood still.
Bryan: Yeah. What band was it?
Radu: Great Grief.
Radu: Great Grief.
Bryan: I don't know 'em.
Radu: From Iceland.
Adam: I don't know a lot of the bands…
Bryan: I wanna go to Iceland, though.
Radu: They were great.
Thou seems to have broken the demographic barrier of just sludge fans and has appealed to music fans outside of the usual bunch. Why do you think that is?
Adam: Uh… Why do you think that is?
Bryan: Yeah, you tell me, I don't know. We've been trying for years to do that with varying degrees of failure, I think. Yeah, I don't know. I feel like that's part of what keeps pushing us to do different takes on the genre is… I mean, primarily our interests are varied interests in all sorts of music and cultural things, but, yeah, trying to expand from just having a metal crust-type person at the show… I guess just a person that's just solely that person is what we're trying to… We hope that we are somewhat balanced individuals and we like to see more balanced individuals at the shows.
Adam: Well, that was a big part of why you put out so many records last year with a huge variety of different types of labels, wasn't it?
Bryan: Yeah, that's always sort of a driving force, too, is working with a bunch of different labels. 'Cause if we were just gonna go with, like, the easiest and our best friends' stuff, Gilead [Media] would be putting out… we'd be putting out 90% of this stuff with Adam [of Gilead] or Lindsay from Robotic Empire. There's tons of labels that we have absolutely no complaints about working with and love working with and are gonna continue to do stuff with, but we still try to take chances on other stuff to see where it'll push us, who else will start coming to shows… Thou's a weird thing, 'cause it's always been about finding new and exciting opportunities and trying to take those opportunities.
Radu: For a band so prolific, the period between 2015 and 2018 was really quiet. How so?
Bryan: Two of our guys were living in California, so it was just real hard. Basically when we starting writing Magus, Andy was living in Oakland, California, and Mitch was living in Glendale, California, which is like the opposite side of the country from the rest of us. I was still in New Orleans and a couple of our guys were still in Baton Rouge, so it was just really difficult to get together and write, and I think for us, even though we've put out a lot of stuff and we've done a lot of stuff, we are still somewhat of a lazy band, and I think that there's certain things that we need to motivate ourselves to do things. One of those things is having something on our plate and having a deadline, and at the time I think we didn't have anything on the plate. We had a rough idea, "Oh, we're gonna start writing the next full-length at some point, we wanna do all these other little EPs." It was just an interesting idea we had, but we didn't have anyone looking at their watch saying, "Hey, we need this."
Adam: "What are you waiting for, right? Give it to us."
Bryan: Because we were so dispersed, we just had an open thing, no deadline, and we're all pretty poor financially, so getting together was very difficult and not having a weekly practice schedule where we could work on something and we were sort of like, "I'm gonna see these other people this week; I better have something to show for it." coming into practice - not having that, I think, slowed us down quite a bit.
Adam: But do you think that was beneficial, having that time where everyone was doing their own shit?
Bryan: It's always hard to say… it's hard to say. I don't know. If we had all been together, maybe it wouldn't have been what it is, but it could have been something else that would have been cool. For us, music-wise, we're not going to put something out that we don't care about or we don't think it is good. There's tons of stuff that we've recorded that we've scrapped, 'cause we thought it was garbage or it didn't meet a certain quality level. Before even that, there's tons of stuff in the writing of the songs and the writing of the riffs that Andy and Matthew - there's stuff that ten years ago would've been a Thou song, but now they don't even bring it to practice. They write something that could be something that people would really like, but for them, if it doesn't meet a certain standard, it doesn't even get to the practice space.
So yeah, I don't know. When we started working on Magus, it was basically like every couple of months we'd have a fest or something we were all meeting up for, or a show or something, so we would go with a couple extra days and just go in a practice space, or borrow somebody's practice space, wherever we were, and try to get something out of it. But it was really slow going.
Adam: There was a couple of years where I know you were doing that pretty regularly.
Bryan: All that stuff eventually made it to be Magus, but it took us, what, like two years to get four or five songs?
Adam: So did all the EP stuff come after Magus was pretty much -
Bryan: Yeah, yeah. Basically the original idea was that we were going to write - and it was even going to be these three, we were going to write an acoustic record and a full-on drone record. That was our idea. We were going to write those two records and then take a step back and evaluate what we did and see what we could pull off of that and what we already had in the back of our head, and that would be the full-length, but what happened was everybody moved and we were slowly… we just went straight into Magus when we started getting together and it was very slow, and at some point, the few of us that were still in Louisiana basically started just working on Matthew's songs, which was the Rhea Silvia stuff. Those are just his songs, and they were pretty much all fully written, so the three of us learned those, kind of mangled them into Thou songs, recorded basically everything, and at some point when Andy and Mitch came into town to play a show or something we just got 'em in the studio - well, we taught 'em all the songs in the practice space in a couple of days, they kind of figured out what they were gonna do, and we got 'em in the studio, which was just down the block from our practice space at the time -
Andy: Was it James's old - that big high-rise thing?
Bryan: Yeah. They just sat there and learned it, recorded their parts, and so we had that EP, but that's just Matthew's stuff, so it was already written. For whatever reason, we jumped into Magus right away. Andy just had a couple ideas for stuff he wanted to do and so we jumped into it. But the first year or two of writing Magus was basically Andy having his songs he was working on and it wasn't until pretty much the very end where Matthew just had a spurt of creativity and came up with another four songs or whatever.
Andy: Oh, really?
Andy: That's kind of rare, for the way you guys write songs, isn't it, for Matthew to just knock out a bunch of stuff like that?
Bryan: Nah, that's -
Andy: That's what he does?
Bryan: That's what he does. Usually what it is… Andy spends a lot of time working on stuff and he'll come up with stuff maybe a little bit faster, because he spends a bit more time at home working on stuff, and sometimes they'll both have a couple of riffs and usually those couple of riffs they have just work together, because -
Andy: They've been playing together, like, 15 years, right?
Bryan: Yeah, longer than that.
Bryan: Matthew, on the other hand, he goes through these spurts where he'll be, "I've got three songs. Here they are." And they're awesome. Usually don't need a ton of work, other than Andy's little bit of melodic touch to it. Did I answer - what was the question? Why were we so quiet during that time?
Bryan: Yeah, everybody was kind of all over the place, and also we were getting a little burnt out…
Andy: Yeah, it was pretty nonstop from, like, 2008 through…
Bryan: It just started getting a little hectic, and I think, too, when people were moving… Things were kind of winding down a little bit for us, it seemed. Even when we were recording, finishing Heathen and stuff, which was right before Mitch was moving, we weren't really sure what we were gonna do, if that was gonna be the last stuff we were gonna do or what.
Radu: Thankfully it wasn't.
Radu: You have had an EP of Black Sabbath covers and you've done a set of nothing but Nirvana covers. Why haven't you put both of these in one jar and recorded an album of Nirvana covers?
Bryan: Well, the Sabbath stuff is on a record - that's one of the first records we put out, actually, is that Sabbath record. I hope we don't get sued for this, but, yeah, the Sabbath thing's been out; we just never repressed it because the recording - not the recording, but the playing on the recording is so bad.
Adam: Dude, that record's fun.
Adam: No, that record's super fun. *laughs*
Bryan: Every now and then we talk about it. I think if we ever did a Kickstarter or something, we talked about doing a press of the Sabbath thing. If we did a Kickstarter, it wouldn't be a "just give us money" type thing. It would be a "we're going to do some stuff and we're gonna charge a more premium rate for that stuff because we need money to buy a van" essentially, and the Sabbath thing was one of the things that was sort of on the table for that.
Adam: Keep it exclusive.
Bryan: Yeah. The Nirvana stuff, a chunk of it's on that split with Hirs.
Adam: Where are those songs - a lot of those are from the Robo releases, aren't they, or are they all different Nirvana -
Bryan: Not this stuff.
Adam: I still want a copy of that.
Bryan: A few years back we did a Halloween set in L.A. -
Adam: Oh, yeah, I saw pictures of that.
Bryan: That was one of the sets we were doing, we were doing Nirvana, and one of them on that tour was just a warm-up set for that, but rather than relearn the ten or so Nirvana covers that we already knew, we decided we were gonna do a bunch of new ones, so we learned, I don't know, eight or ten new ones that we hadn't recorded. Then when we were doing the Rhea Silvia recording, we basically recorded - it was right after that tour and we were like, "Let's just record all the Nirvana stuff while it's fresh, while we still know it, in case Robotic or whatever still needs it." Then when we were gonna go on tour with Hirs, come to find out they love Nirvana and Jenna ["JP" Pup, vocalist], she was in some kind of Nirvana cover band at some point. "Rovana" or something.
Bryan: It was some ridiculous name, I can't remember what. But they were like, "Why don't we just do a split of all Nirvana covers?" And so we're like, "Oh, we got, like, six of 'em recorded we can just throw on here that would be perfect."
Radu: Those were the three Nirvana cover albums?
Bryan: No, those are other songs. Those Robotic Empire tributes are other songs, and there's also -
Adam: You have one on each Robotic Empire release they've done, too, right?
Bryan: Yeah, yeah. There was a weird, sort of organic, longstanding tradition we had where any time Robotic Empire put out a record for us we'd have to have a Nirvana cover on it. I think it happened once and then it happened again some kind of way, so we were like, "Well, from now on, this is the standard."
Photo by Teddie Taylor
Radu: Bleach is going to be exactly 30 years old in about two months. Stop wasting your time and cover it.
Bryan: The whole thing?
Radu: The whole thing. I need to hear your version of "Paper Cuts".
Bryan: Yeah, I've been pushing for that.
Adam: That and "School", man.
Bryan: We do - "School" is on the Hirs split.
Adam: Oh, is that on there? Fuckin' awesome.
Bryan: Yeah, we've been talking about the Bleach stuff for a while. It's just so hard because we only have so much time to work on stuff and we've done so many covers at this point that it's like -
Adam: How many Nirvana songs do you NOT know?
Bryan: I mean, there's still a ton we don't know.
Adam: Well, not counting all the demo - like, album songs.
Bryan: There's still… we probably -
Adam: It's probably only, like, ten.
Bryan: We still have a good bit of track, a lot of gas left in the tank for Nirvana covers. Yeah, I would love to do Bleach. We had talked about doing another Halloween cover set or something and Bleach is one of the things that came up. Yeah, I don't know. Maybe we should just learn 'em all and record 'em all so it's just done. It's done, we don't have to deal with it…
Bryan: I don't know. I keep pushing to rerecord the Sabbath stuff, 'cause the lineup is so different from back then. We could do a better recording.
Adam: Yeah, but the original Sabbath tracks on the Sabbath albums sound so shitty that it, like -
Bryan: But shitty in a good way.
Adam: Dude, I like that. I like the way that EP sounds. It's like the shit with the Leech split. The Leech split sounds grimy as fuck.
Bryan: Yeah, but it's not the recording, the recording is fine. The playing, the playing is a little… we fuck up "Lord Of This World", we fuck up "Into The Void", there's a bunch of shit we just, like, mess up, and not in a good way. It's just, "Oh, they just played this part twice as long for no reason. It's a cover band, who gives a shit?"
Bryan: But Robotic is gonna put all the stuff out digitally soon. They're doing a collection of all the Nirvana covers in one thing and they're doing a collection of all the not-Nirvana covers in one thing.
Adam: In your digital collections?
Bryan: I don't know if we could put it on Bandcamp -
Radu: Not the Nirvana covers.
Bryan: Maybe we could just take all the samples off the Hirs split - you know, 'cause Hirs use so many samples on their songs, so I was thinking, "Oh, they're gonna do it again on the split", which they didn't really, but I was like, "We gotta load OUR end up with samples", so our side of it's got, like, samples before and after every track. It's awesome. I love it. And I think for Robotic Empire they had to take 'em all off, unfortunately.
Radu: How do you think the music landscape would be and how would music critics retroactively look at Nirvana if they never made it that big?
Bryan: I think they'd still be a hugely popular cultish band, the way punk bands are.
Adam: Well, all the other bands from that genre and period that were adjacent to Nirvana are all still - Melvins, Earth, all that shit's still hugely influential, just not -
Radu: Just not mainstream influential.
Adam: Right, right, yeah, but the mainstream influence Nirvana has had is great, but… Is that creating any real art, or is it just selling shirts at fucking Walmart?
Bryan: Yeah. I see more of their influence on the underground level than on the -
Adam: Yeah. Real influence, creative influence.
Bryan: Yeah, creative influence. Noise rock, essentially.
Radu: A lot of people look at Nirvana and they just see "Smells Like Teen Spirit"…
Bryan: Right, right.
Adam: And that fuckin' yellow face shirt.
Bryan: Which is probably -
Radu: Kurt being depressed, and depressed teens…
Bryan: Yeah, I think if anything, the mainstream influence is more negative than creative.
Radu: I think the best thing that Nirvana had done was bring the grunge revolution, which killed thrash metal and glam metal -
Radu: Which was like a necessary sacrifice.
Adam: Yeah, it was time to end.
Bryan: Yeah, I don't know. I mean, all that grunge stuff is what got me into punk or led me into finding punk, so there is something to be said about that.
Adam: That's what the mainstream culture totally overlooks, is how Nirvana came from punk and Melvins came from punk…
Radu: They just see "About A Girl" and that's the only Bleach song they know. They haven't ever listened to "Negative Creep" or…
Bryan: Yeah. But that's sort of the thing with any mainstream band, is that people who are only interested in mainstream culture, they're not gonna do the digging for other things. I think that had an influence on me in terms of… I reappropriate a lot of things into Thou: lyrics, pictures, different texts, and I rarely cite where it comes from because I want people to, like…
Bryan: Dig and look for - I'm trying to weed out the people that just want things handed to them. I want people that are gonna see something and be interested in it and do a little bit of research on it and figure out what it is and -
Adam: There's a reward for their work.
Bryan: Right, and then see all the little avenues and stuff. I don't know. I go back and forth on all this stuff, how much I want to pull the curtain back and say, "Oh, it's this and this and that."
Bryan during the secret Misfits covers set (photo by Teddie Taylor)
Radu: So you're saying that I SHOULD read your lyrics.
Bryan: Sure, yeah. I mean, maybe. I don't know.
Adam: *laughs* You'll have to Google some of the lyrics.
Bryan: You gotta dig through the bad lyrics to -
Adam: I feel like half the time I text you and I'm like, "Fuck, I really like this one line", you're like, "Oh yeah, I stole that from this."
Bryan: Yeah. That's kind of how I write songs, too, is I'll -
Adam: No, I love it. I love that something can be a really iconic line, like something from Summit, you know, "the stone that starts the avalanche" and all that stuff.
Bryan: Yeah, and that's from a fantasy novel.
Adam: Yeah, and it's such an iconic part of the album, it's so anthemic in the record, and it's just something that was influenced and listened to.
Bryan: Yeah, but also, it's like, I probably wouldn't have written… If I didn't have that line, which is not about what the song… Where I pulled it from isn't about what I wrote that song about, but that line struck me in a certain way and it pushed me to write the whole rest of that song. Maybe including it is sort of a creative faux pas with some people, but I don't give a fuck. I listen to hip-hop and stuff, and rappers -
Adam: The flow of evolution of the idea, yeah.
Bryan: Rappers steal each other's lines and pull stuff, and I'm into stuff like [can't figure out what he's talking about here - sounds like the Situationists and crimethink] and stuff where… I don't know. That, to me, is cool, and I don't care if it's… Whatever.
Radu: Some grindcore bands like Pig Destroyer and Agoraphic Nosebleed have made records where they embraced the sludge sound. Do you think Thou, or any other sludge band, should do the exact opposite and do a grindcore record?
Bryan: I don't know. We did a split with that band Cower years ago, that are like a hardcore band, or were, more of a powerviolence-y hardcore band, and we've covered a couple of their songs, but -
Adam: That was that "Let Me Out" song that was on that, right?
Bryan: "Get Me Out", yeah, yeah.
Adam: Fuck. Yeah, that song's sick.
Bryan: We just did another Cower cover. But yeah, we try, when we're doing a split, we actually try to move people around. Andy was gonna play drums, 'cause Andy, one of our guitar players, used to play drums in a… not grind, but fast hardcore band, grindish, grindy, hardcore band called We Need To Talk, and so we moved him to drums and we moved the drummer to bass and we were gonna have two basses and a guitar and drums and we were gonna try to write these hardcore songs, but they did not come out very good so we scrapped it, but… I don't know, maybe we'll look at that again. Now Tyler's in the band and he's a much faster drummer. We've been talking about the next Thou thing as maybe being an EP of, like, I don't want to say faster grindcore stuff, but…
Adam: More like the old mid-tempo stuff?
Bryan: Mid-tempo, short rockers… "Bonehead" stuff, we call it. But we'll see. I don't know. It's an interesting thing. Since the start of Thou, we've tried to incorporate black metal elements, whatever stuff is interesting to us, wherever the song goes. We're not necessarily trying to write…
Radu: A certain genre.
Bryan: Yeah, we're not trying to write, like, a sludge song or a doom song. They have a riff and it sounds a certain way or it sounds good a certain way, so the song goes where the song goes. We've never really tried to fit within a certain genre. I think maybe when they started they were trying to be more of a post-rock band, when Thou first started, but I think they got away from that before I even joined.
Radu: What is it about the Louisiana area that made it so prone to having such a large role in sludge metal?
Adam: The ubiquitous interview question for Thou. *laughs*
Radu: This is not a "how did Louisiana influence you", but -
Bryan: Yeah, I don't know…
Radu: What Louisiana did to make it such an important place for sludge metal in the first place.
Bryan: I think -
Radu: Was it just that one or two bands happened to start there?
Bryan: Well, what do you think - what bands are the important bands? Crowbar and Eyehategod?
Radu: Maybe, yeah.
Adam: So there's three.
Bryan: Are we the third one? Who's the third one?
Adam: Well, at this point.
Radu: At this point, yeah.
Adam: I mean, you guys have been a band for -
Bryan: Well, all those other bands, you know -
Adam: You're a different generation, but -
Bryan: I guess Soilent Green isn't still together, but Goatwhore still plays and Flesh Parade still plays… I guess… Is that all the old bands that are still around? I can't remember. Oh, Exhorder just got back together. They're doing a new record. Exhorder's doing a new record.
Radu: I could do some research right now, but I don't have any wifi.
Bryan: Nah, it's cool.
Adam: It's - I get what you're asking, though, because you look at the Richmond, Virginia area in the late '90s, early 2000s -
Adam: That fuckin' - yeah, all the screamo, hardcore shit coming out of there was next level.
Radu: Or Florida with death metal.
Adam: Yeah, yeah.
Radu: There's so many bands coming from one place for one genre that's important.
Bryan: Well, I guess maybe -
Adam: 'Cause you guys aren't even - you're not "metal dudes".
Radu: How come?
Adam: I don't think it would be because you guys - none of you were just part of the slimy, sludgy metal scene.
Bryan: Yeah. I don't know why. I don't know. Eyehategod just came out of the punk scene, too. Crowbar… They're more metal types.
Radu: They're more doom than hardcore.
Bryan: I mean just the dudes are more metal dudes.
Adam: Metal guys, yeah.
Bryan: Eyehategod, definitely - at least, most of them to me strike me more as punk dudes, the same as us. We're just playing a certain kind of music and just continued to play that kind of music because they like it, not because they were trying to fit certain genre boundaries or whatever. Yeah, I don't know. I don't know that there's so much more, whatever, from Louisiana than anywhere else. I think aesthetically and culturally maybe there are things that fit a certain mythology that people wrap around sludge and doom, but I'm not… Me and probably the rest of the guys from Thou, at least, aren't these scummy, sludgy metal dudes…
Adam (and Emma in the back) during the secret Misfits covers set (photo by Sally Townsend)
Radu: Yeah, you actually shower.
Bryan: Yeah… or, I mean, just in terms of we're not wastoids or… we're relatively well-adjusted. Maybe we're a little prickish… ding-dongs… But I don't know.
I kind of got involved with Thou just because I was a punk promoter looking for more heavier bands I could put on shows because a lot of the stuff I was doing was hardcore and heavier stuff, 'cause that's what I like, but I wasn't trying to start a metal band or be in a metal band. I just thought it was an interesting band. I don't know why there's bands like that from Louisiana.
And it's also… It's Louisiana, but it's New Orleans and the outlying areas, it's not really -
Radu: Like Baton Rouge and…
Bryan: Yeah. Baton Rouge is a little ways away, but, like, Crowbar and Eyehategod, are they really from New Orleans or from Metairie in the suburbs? I'm from Metairie in the suburbs. It's not really, you know, the French Quarter or Bourbon Street or anything, so it's kinda -
Adam: It doesn't represent New Orleans culture.
Bryan: Yeah. There is cultural stuff that's in there, but I don't know how much of that had an impact on - I think it's just sort of kismet, the stars lining up and people, the right people, finding each other and things working out. But it could really happen anywhere.
Adam: I mean, you have a band like Corrupted that's not even from the United States and are one of the most influential sludge bands that there's ever been.
Bryan: Yeah. Or Primitive Man from Denver -
Adam: Denver, yeah.
Bryan: Or all those bands from Salem, Oregon.
Adam: Yeah, yeah.
Bryan: Salem, Oregon's just like a fucking nothing bullshit northwest town. There's nothing there, you know what I mean?
Radu: Maybe that's why it started there.
Bryan: And then there's Hell (USA) and Mizmor and Leech and ostensibly Blood Incantation, Velnias, Spectral Voice, and all those bands that kind of come out of our mania, so I don't know. I think it's less to do with the geography and more to do with the right people finding each other and sort of feeding off of each other. I mean, Thou probably wouldn't have existed if it wasn't for Eyehategod or Crowbar, stuff like that, because those are bands that had a really deep influence on Matthew and Andy and the way they tend towards writing heavy music, but at the same time, it's like, if there wasn't Nirvana, which is a band from a million miles away, it also wouldn't have sounded the same, because all that grunge stuff also had a big influence on all of us approach to writing songs.
Radu: And all those wouldn't have happened without Black Flag.
Bryan: Right. So it's all kind of interconnected.
Radu: And now another one of your favorite questions.
You have collaborated with *dramatic pause* The Body -
Radu: …quite a few times. How is making a collaborative record different from a solo one? Do you get jealous when The Body collaborate with someone else?
Adam: *laughs* Cheatin' on you!
Bryan: Yeah, cheating on us. Nah, I mean, we tend to talk shit on the internet, but it's just for fun. Uh… Yeah, I don't know. It's different. I don't know. The collaboration stuff's weird, because we've done it with The Body and the thing we're working on with Emma, and both of those things were very different and the approach to them was a bit different in figuring out each other and how we play and write music is a strange thing. We've also, Thou as a band, we've collaborated with Emily McWilliams, my partner, who's been on stuff - almost since I joined Thou, she's been on Thou records. She was pretty instrumental in terms of making Inconsolable into a record that was anything at all. It probably would've just been an instrumental record if we hadn't brought her in, so she's had a huge impact in terms of some of the songwriting stuff.
Adam: Yeah, I was gonna say, you guys have always, always welcomed collaborators, even on covers, like having friends play and sing on stuff. Even though those weren't straight-up collaborative songwriting experiences, Thou has always been about collaboration on some level.
Bryan: Yeah, and that for us goes back to why we work with so many different labels. We like working with a certain label because - like, we don't like working with Gilead because it's Gilead or whatever. That's cool, but we love Adam, so it's like, how can we just do something with Adam because we like Adam and want to work with Adam? How can we do something with Robotic because we love Lindsay and want to do something with Lindsey? How can we do this or that? If we do a split with a band, even if it's not a thing where we're writing together, it's a way for us to get a little closer to those people in some sort of way.
Adam: Fostering relationships through the art.
Bryan: Yeah. I don't know if that answers the question. How is it different writing with them versus writing on our own? I think they have a more primitive look… Their approach to writing music is a bit more primitive than us in terms of… It's just kind of banging out a thing, whereas we're OCD in terms of every little part. "Oh, this part that happens twice, we can't play the riff the same exact way both times…" It's goofy stuff like that, where it's, like, us trying to figure out the nuances in these long-winded songs. I thought it was fun writing shorter things with them. It definitely -
Adam: I thought you all were good at finding the middle ground between those two approaches.
Bryan: Yeah, a little bit. I mean, it's a little bit of us trying to force them into our world and a bit of us trying to get into their world. I think that their approach to the studio stuff and the recording of the record and being able to use the studio almost as another instrument in terms of the writing has had a deep impact on us. Me and Andy definitely spend a lot more time since - we were already sort of on that trajectory, but I think after doing this couple of records with them it definitely had a big impact on us. We can do this and that in the studio and really push things, and then coming out of that, do we want to take this thing that we did in the studio and restructure the song when we play it live into something that's more like that or some bastardization of that or whatever…
Definitely me, I have a lot more thoughts when it comes to figuring out ways to do certain things in the studio that would definitely not have occurred to me ten years ago, that you can do this or that trick -
Adam: Before you just go in and knock out vocals, and now you're more like, "Well, how can we -"
Bryan: Yeah, how can we make it more interesting?
Adam: Layer things or bring stuff up.
Bryan: Yeah, yeah. I feel like if we went back, we could rerecord songs and albums and make 'em all… We could've made them a lot better.
Adam: I remember when you first sent over the stuff for Summit that had vocals on it, I feel like even then there was some low vocals that were really low in the mix or something that even to this day, people come to me, like, "Did Brian do those really -" Like even back then I think people were starting to catch on that you were doing more with vocals and experimenting more with dynamics.
Bryan: Yeah. And James Whitten, the guy that's recorded almost all of our stuff, has had a huge impact on the way we approach things in the studio. Back when we were still just a five-piece, we referred to him as the sixth member.
Adam: I've always thought of him like that since I met him and saw how you guys work together.
Bryan: He's not quite as heavy-handed or as much of - like, The Body's got Seth Manchester, who does a lot of the work with them -
Adam: Produces them, almost.
Bryan: Yeah, more of a producer, right, in the studio, and directs the songs in a certain way. He's not so much that, but he's more of…
Adam: He brings out the best possible version of you guys.
Bryan: Yeah. At this point -
Bryan: He knows what we want to sound like and he can help us get to that point. He knows the little things we want to do and he helps get that. Usually before we go into the studio we spend a lot of time with our stuff, so when we get there we kind of know what it's going to sound like. Me and Andy already have ideas going into the studio of things we're going to add in at this point, but… yeah.
With The Body it was a lot more… The songs were rougher and when we got to the studio it was more about fully realizing -
Adam: Like writing in the studio, almost?
Bryan: Yeah, not writing, but just figuring things out, figuring out what stuff needed to sound like.
Adam: Because you did that first collab the week before you recorded Heathen, didn't you?
Bryan: Yeah, yeah. That's why it was -
Adam: So you guys kind of wrote in the studio, sort of?
Bryan: Eh… I mean, we still… Yes and no. Yes and no.
Adam: Fine-tuned it, at least. Maybe.
Bryan: All that stuff, that stuff… The first one's a little rough.
Does that answer your - I don't know if that's…
Radu: I think it overly answered it. *laughs*
Bryan: Sorry. *laughs*
Radu: Man, I'm gonna have so much trouble transcribing this [unless my generous, benevolent, handsome editor-in-chief does it for me].
Adam: Yeah, have fun.
Radu: It's gonna take me at least two days.
So how did the collaboration with Emma Ruth Rundle start?
Bryan: We kind of knew of her music and a few of us liked it, and we played with her at Northwest Terror Fest and loved her live set, so we basically asked if she wanted to try to do something with us. Before that we were trying to get her to tour with us, and then the thought - I think right when we did that, Terror Fest, was right after we had done Inconsolable, the quieter record, so the thought was, "Maybe we could do some quieter stuff with her", and then as we started digging into it, we were like, "Maybe it doesn't need to be quiet; maybe it just needs to be… whatever." So… yeah.
Radu: What can we expect from the upcoming record?
Bryan: Uh… I don't… Come see the thing tonight and you tell me.
Radu: Well, I haven't seen it yet. That's why I'm asking!
Bryan: It's still in the rougher stages, it's still a work in progress, but it's a bit more grungy than I expected it to be. It's maybe more in line with the Rhea Silvia stuff.
Radu: Okay. More in line?
Bryan: Yeah, well, just in terms of, like, the song structures are very -
Adam: Well, she's a chorus-verse songwriter, so that kind of makes sense.
Bryan: Yeah, so I think we did stuff like that, ABAB style. There's still a ways to go. And it's also the first thing we have that KC, their guitar player, wrote a song for it that basically start-to-finish is fucking awesome. That's also more of a grunge - [at this point, Bryan spies an acquaintance and pauses to exchange a few words before returning to his thoughts.]
Yeah, so I don't know. Maybe more like the Rhea Silvia stuff.
Bryan: In terms of Thou, I don't know how to phrase it. In terms of… It's like if you had some moron screaming over her stuff.
Radu: That would be great.
Adam: I feel like - honestly, I really like when Emma plays solo; like, the in-store was cool, but when she's playing with a full band and it's loud, I think that is the perfect setting for her. I'm excited to see - I haven't heard any of it.
Bryan: No offense to everybody playing, I love all the people she plays with, but I like the quieter stuff. That was more - in terms of what I like about -
Radu: More intimate.
Bryan: Well, just in terms of what I like about her music, I think with the band stuff it's not quite as dynamic as the records, because the records sort of play off that more quiet, fragile version, which is what I like. That's what I liked about - like Marriages, I thought was… Those kind of post-rock, quieter, loud/quiet dynamics is what drew me to it. Maybe the -
Radu: How much time do we have?
Bryan: Well, whatever. I just gotta go do the video thing.
Bryan: So the Thou stuff maybe, hopefully, plays off that a little bit more. We'll see.
Adam: Is Matthew gonna be doing some singing on the Rundle collab stuff?
Bryan: He hasn't yet, no.
Bryan: Maybe. We've been talking about getting him on more stuff, but he's kind of a hard…
Radu: You've had the trilogy of the Summit, Heathen, and Magus albums in mind for a really long time. Can you tell us a bit more about the concept behind these three?
Bryan: It was basically just something that kind of… Because we were talking about doing three records with Southern Lord, I wanted those three records to be interlinked. It's basically about… I don't know. Anarchist culture, outsider culture, and dismantling society… Summit was sort of that as the thesis and the broader view of our goal, and then the other two records were taking two polar opposite aspects -
Bryan: Of how that would happen or the type of person it would take to make that happen. One a more introspective and one more hands-on, direct-action-type thing. Summit's sort of the balancing act of those two things within the person.
Bryan: I don't know. That's roughly what it's…
Adam: The overarching idea.
Radu: Are you ever going to resume the Fiona Apple tribute and the Pygymy Lush split?
Bryan: I would love to do the Fiona Apple thing. Andy gets pissed every time I bring it up.
Radu: Then you should bring it up more.
Bryan: Yeah, I don't know. Well, other people should maybe bring it up to him, not me, because I'm not the one, but I don't know. We learned, like, four or five Fiona Apple songs right after we did Summit, they just didn't sound good.
Radu: Not much different from most Thou songs.
Bryan: Yeah, exactly. Covers for us are a weird thing because if people aren't really gung-ho about them, they don't always put the time it takes to really dissect the original song and get the right components there for the cover, and I think that's probably why we do so many Nirvana covers. It's easy to just bang out a Nirvana cover and it sounds decent and it's fun to play. It has all the things we like and it's easy to do. It's relatively easy, whereas some of the Alice In Chains stuff we did or whatever, it's harder to get the nuances of what makes the song cool and then translate that into the Thou rendition of it. People don't always want to spend as much time on a cover song as they would an actual Thou song.
Bryan: And now it's even more difficult because we have so many people in the band that like - like and dislike - very different things that it's difficult to get all the people on the same page. Usually if it's Andy or Matthew [who] are real gung-ho about something, since they're the primary writers and learners, they'll figure it out, but if it's something like the Fiona Apple thing where it's me - and we all love Fiona Apple, but it's me being like, "We could do this if we really spend some time on it", They don't want to spend time on it.
Radu: Should I be worried that I'm not familiar with a lot of names you've name-dropped in previous interviews?
Bryan: Like who? Who aren't you familiar with?
Radu: Most of them.
Radu: You think I remember them if I haven't -
Bryan: In terms of bands, or - I mean, I don't know. Isn't that the fun of liking a band or something -
Radu: Yeah, getting to know all the stuff that they're into.
Bryan: Yeah. That's how I got into music, different bands, is buying a hardcore record and -
Adam: Reading the liner notes.
Bryan: Reading the "thanks" list and then digging into every - you know, "Earth Crisis likes this band? Let me check this out." Or in the early days, when I used to order records from various distributions, where I had no idea -
Adam: You had a whole fucking catalogue of random shit.
Bryan: Yeah, you get the catalogue and it says, "sounds like such-and-such", and I'll go, "Oh, this band sounds like this other band I like? I need to check this out."
Adam: Or even just "that artwork looks cool, it reminds me of this other band, so I'll buy it."
Bryan: Yeah, there's definitely stuff I've bought even these days where it just looked kind of interesting and I went, "I want to check this out." Nah, you shouldn't be discouraged. I think you should dig into all that stuff. Or not.
The four records that Thou released in 2018
Radu: Do you think that if Thou continue to experiment with different styles and genres, the reception and interest for your more conventionally sludge albums will suffer?
Bryan: I don't know. I always think about that, if people are gonna be mad that we're a metal band if they got into us as an acoustic band or something, but I feel like the other stuff gets a little buried. The newer, more experimental for us stuff gets a little bit buried.
Adam: [The] House Primordial seemed to get kind of glossed over a little bit by other people.
Bryan: Part of that's just because it was on Raw Sugar [Records] or whatever, but -
Adam: I saw a lot of press for it, it just -
Radu: A lot of people did think that it wasn't your record.
Bryan: I love that. I love that.
Bryan: And that was -
Adam: There were people that were fucking pissed on Twitter. It was awesome.
Bryan: I love that. I love that. It was great. But that was the point of how we wanted to roll out the records like that, and if I had had my way and could've gotten the record labels on board, we wouldn't have had some grand pronouncement that outlined what we were doing. We would've just rolled a new album out every month until Magus came out, and people would've been confused and pissed -
Bryan: And that's the fun of it. We're not a band to explain things to people or whatever. We're a band to be creative and put music out, so you can either come along for the ride or not. We don't care.
Adam: The process is half the fun with Thou.
Radu: And then the people would be pissed off after Magus came out that after a month, no new one.
Bryan: Well, yeah. That… whatever. We would've had to keep going then, I guess.
Radu: Just keep coming out with a new one every month?
Radu: Any last things you want to add to your readers?
Radu: I think that's enough. Thank you very much.
Thanks again to SSUS for helping set up the interview and transcribing it!
||Posted on 01.05.2019 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.|
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