To take stock of Thrice's discography is to witness the dramatic evolution of a band perpetually committed to pushing their own creative boundaries, taking their music to new and breathtaking heights of expression and challenging fans to explore each startling soundscape the group conjures, while simultaneously promoting social awareness and change. From the raw power and technical onslaught of early records Identity Crisis and The Illusion of Safety, to the perfect marriage of fury and melody on The Artist In The Ambulance, to the bold, mesmerizing experimentation of Vheissu, Thrice has always been a band on the cutting edge, running well ahead of their peers. That divide is about to widen still further.
The California-based quartet, who've also been busy of late making high-profile main stage appearances at the Coachella, Reading & Leeds and Bamboozle festivals, have followed the New Pantheon Award-nominated Vheissu's radical metamorphosis with The Alchemy Index, a four-volume collection spread between two releases comprised of four EPs, each devoted to one of the classical elements in nature-fire, water, earth and air-with each EP sonically and thematically tailored to evoke the atmosphere inherent in its corresponding element. This fall marks the release of the first two volumes of the series-Fire & Water-while Earth & Air are scheduled for a spring debut. For Thrice, it's the realization of a year-long process of writing and recording, which was done primarily in the band's own studio and engineered by guitarist Teppei Teranishi, without the assistance of an outside producer.
"We're kind of doing something that's the opposite of what a producer is supposed to do on a record-which is make everything make sense and kind of fit together-whereas this project is all about taking things apart and pushing them one way," says Teranishi. "We really wanted to try doing things our way this time around, and make this record sound the way we want it to sound, not the way it's "supposed" to sound."
"Dustin [Kensrue] came up with the idea of using the elements, and separating all of the feels that we normally come up with," adds bassist Eddie Breckenridge. "That was scary at first, because part of what our sound is, is that combination and the experiment of mixing different feels, but this is actually helping us push each feel in a further direction."
Thrice fans will likely find the thundering strains of Fire to be the most familiar of the four EPs, with the kind of blistering riffs and captivating melodies the band has built a career upon. From the opening bombast of "Firebreather" to the towering, unforgettable "Burn the Fleet," with its Elliot Smith meets Isis vibe, Fire exhibits a Thrice who still know how to punish with decibels, and with greater force and impact than ever before.
"I'm really happy on how ["Burn The Fleet"] came out," says drummer Riley Breckenridge, who also resides in the house that holds the band's studio. "It's really melancholy, yet crushing."
Water, on the other hand, offers some of the most subdued textures the band have explored to date, and makes extensive use of a palette of electronic sounds, particularly for rhythms and synthesized effects. Haunting and beautiful, Water is an aural aquatic voyage as serene as it is somber, with the shimmering bliss of "Open Water" naturally coexisting with the dark, moody "The Whaler" and the groundbreaking and evocative instrumental track, "Night Diving."
"For ["Night Diving"], we ended up making this whole plot outline of what's happening in the song, even though there are no lyrics. That was how we decided on the different movements-when they'd come up, and when they'd come down," Kensrue says. "It's the story of this guy diving at night, and the things that he encounters. That was a pretty interesting way to write a song; we definitely had never done anything like that before."
Kensrue also took the elemental theme to an entirely different level by composing an original sonnet for each EP, set to music, yet organized in the traditional English structure and rhythmic fashion. These passages ("The Flame Deluge" on Fire; and "Kings Upon The Main" for Water) offer powerful sentiments that serve as thought-provoking closers for each EP's respective journey.
"Each sonnet is written from the point of view of the personified element, speaking to mankind, and lamenting our various failings," explains Kensrue. "The Fire sonnet deals with fire being resentful and ashamed of the way that it's been used in destruction and war, while the Water sonnet deals with man's pride, and the futility and idiocy of that pride, come face to face with the power of the sea."
Although completed, the Earth & Air installments of the series will emerge in the spring, after listeners have had a chance to fully absorb the first half of the Alchemy Index's massive, multi-layered complexity. A milestone offering from a band with so much still left to explore, the success of this seemingly daunting effort hints at the potential for even more challenging, yet wholly unpredictable, creations in the future.
"From here, we can kind of go anywhere," Kensrue adds. "I don't think anyone really knows what will be next."
On The Alchemy Index, Thrice destroyed the rock rulebook and created their most engrossing and accomplished work to date...The true evolution of a band.
--interview courtesy of www.alchemyindex.com