With news that Thrice are most likely returning in the year to come, what better time to revisit this interview in support of their last album, which I felt was crucially underrated. Seriously, go back and give it a spin. Yellow Belly alone is one of the best songs they ever did. I liked this interview a lot, particularly the interruption from Teppei’s kid. I love it when I’m interviewing a parent and the kid somehow gets involved. It’s happened a couple of times and I think it’s the cutest. Anyways, this was a feature article; so a different approach to how I normally did things at Hysteria; and I was glad I got to shake it up as I was getting sick of transcripts. I think it shows in this story.
– DJY, February 2015
“It’s over there, on top of the jacuzzi!” Not exactly what one expects to hear in the middle of an interview, but it’s clearly a matter of importance which requires Thrice guitarist Teppei Teranishi to break from the interview in his Washington home. Turns out that it was his four-year-old son inquiring as to the whereabouts of a lost toy. It’s all but a fleeting moment in an extensive discussion with the 31-year-old, but it also serves as a left-of-centre reminder that Thrice are not the young men who formed the band in high school, coming up with their band name out of desperation and sticking with it when they developed a local reputation.
The band’s line-up – also consisting of vocalist/guitarist Dustin Kenrue, bassist Eddie Breckenridge and his brother Riley on drums – may have never changed throughout their history, but the musicians themselves certainly have. Their latest offering, Major/Minor, is the sound of a band confident in their own abilities, surrounding themselves in familiarity and returning to record in their home studio for the third consecutive record… “Well, sort of,” interjects Teranishi, unsure whether his correction is accurate or not.
“I never know whether to count The Alchemy Index as one or two albums,” he says, referring to the band’s ambitious four-disc concept album split recorded over five months and split across two releases. “I guess, technically, we’ve done two records where we’ve worked in our home studios. The next one was [2009’s] Beggars, which we had mixed by a guy called Dave Schiffman – and this time around we got Dave to produce and engineer the album.”
Recorded between Los Angeles’ Red Bull Studios and the aforementioned home studio, Teranishi agrees that having someone like Schiffman, who knew exactly what the band wanted to get out of their studio time, was an invaluable resource in the recording of Major/Minor. “It definitely helped,” he affirms. “We actually worked with him on [2003’s] Vheissu, where he was an engineer. Ever since then, he’s been a really close friend – whenever I had questions about recording or whatever, I’d always go and ask him. Working with him on this record definitely helped in keeping things concise.”
In what’s become typical of new Thrice material, Major/Minor sounds little like its predecessors. Often it defies description, but if pressed one could certainly note that it takes minor aspects of the band’s previous records – notably Vheissu and Beggars – and takes them in ambitious and bold new directions. Typical Thrice, you might be thinking…although Teppei himself isn’t entirely sure that’s the case. Even if it is, it’s certainly not intentional on their behalf.
“It’s never really an intentional thing,” he says after considering the direction taken on Major/Minor. “We’ve kind of always just done what was natural or normal to us at the time – we never tried to push anything. I think that’s actually why our records have all ended up sounding so different, y’know? Every time we make a record, I feel like part of it is always a reaction against the last thing that we did. I don’t know if it’s our short attention spans or whatever, but that’s the way it’s always been.”
“It was like with The Alchemy Index,” he continues, elaborating on his statement with an example from the top of his head. “It was quite a heavy record, very moody; and there was a lot of thought that went into it. So when we came out with Beggars, it was kind of a reaction to all of that. It was a lot more organic and natural in the recording process – and, in that respect, I think the transition between Beggars and this record is the least jarring transition we’ve ever made. Obviously, I think it’s completely different – I don’t think it’s the same at all. But I do think that it picks up where Beggars left off; and that the progression is much easier to note.”
Of course, it’s easy to note progression when the first track on your latest record is better than every track on your last album combined – in this instance, the snarling, grandiose driving rock of “Yellow Belly.” The song was built from the riff up as Teranishi jammed with the Breckenridges while Kensrue was away. He points to the song as something that perhaps best defines where Thrice are in 2011.
“It’s pretty energetic, and it’s got a pretty solid groove to it, I think,” he says on the song. “That’s something that I think is recurrent in the new material, that it’s really groove-based at its core. Actually, the album title – Major/Minor – actually came from “Yellow Belly.” That was the working title for the song because it flip-flopped between major and minor on the root notes of the song, giving it sort of a strange feel. As we got to writing more and more, I began to feel that it was something that we were doing on a lot of the songs, and it just began to make sense that’s what we’d call the album.”
The band are currently preparing for an extensive U.S. tour alongside Michigan kids La Dispute, but before we wrap our interview, Teppei gives a small hope to fans that were left disappointed by the band’s controversially pulled Australian tour as a part of the now-cancelled Soundwave Revolution. The plan, at this stage, is to tour Australia in the new year with a new promoter – although nothing is set in stone yet.
“We don’t know exactly when,” he says, “but we honestly will make sure that we get to Australia as soon as possible – it’s honestly one of our favourite places to play.” In the meantime, repeated listens of Major/Minor will just have to suffice – and, given the album’s lasting replay value, it should just be able to tide us over.