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Thornhill | Jacob Charlton & Ethan McCann

17 May 2017 | 7:08 pm | Alex Sievers

The Thornhill vocalist & guitarist talk supporting Architects, the response to new single 'Temperer', future releases, being on triple j, & more!

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Melbourne up and comers Thornhill are currently one of the Australian heavy music scene's new breed of bands coming through right now. But this Victorian quintet isn't just gaining traction solely through the tokenistic nature of their youth or their band's overall short lifespan. Rather, and much more importantly, it's because of the strong quality of music the band releases. Such as their latest, banging single 'Temperer'. Since that song's release in March, and with their 2016 debut EP behind them and a sweet new single set to drop soon, the Eastern suburbs heavy outfit are indeed making waves in the Melbourne area. Now, while those waves are small, they're only growing in size with each new release Thornhill unveil and each new show the group smashes out. 

Simply put, In 2017, Thornhill are a band to watch, no fucking doubt!

Recently, I jumped on the phone with vocalist Jacob Charlton and guitarist Ethan McCann to talk about their recent support slot under Architects, the response to 'Temperer', future releases, being compared to some of our nation's best, being added to triple j, and of course, what their folks think of Thornhill. Check it out below!


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First off, and most recently in the world of Thornhill, you guys supported Architects at their second sold out Melbourne show On Thursday, May 4th. Really softball question here, but how was that for the band? As I myself went to the Wednesday show

Jacob: We also went to the first Wednesday show as we all bought tickets to it before we even knew we were going to enter in to support them. It was a sick show that first night, and when we rocked up the next day for our set, we were shitting our pants. It was our biggest show to date. We really worked towards that gig, in our general sound and performance and it was great to spin that to a wider audience.

Ethan: Performance more so, as we’re confident with our instruments and Jacob’s voice, but as a new band, our biggest struggle is making it a good show to watch. Making it entertaining for people.

Yeah, you always want to make a really good first impression. On the first Melbourne show, when Gravemind started their set, the venue was about a third full. Did you see a similar crowd turnout for your opening set?

Jacob: It was actually massive for us. From the start, I said the whole band thing of “Everyone on the sides and in the back, take a big step forward”, and then I couldn’t see any big gap or hole in the crowd.

Ethan: Yeah, and by our third or fourth song, it was packed. Just gnarly!

Great to hear! As when you have those huge bands come out, sometimes the crowd just rocks up halfway through the show, which can suck.

Jacob. Oh, we expected that, but it was actually the opposite. Easily the biggest crowd we’ve played to so far.

Cool! Hopefully, that’s the sign of things to come. And I think a great first step towards those greater things for Thornhill is having a track like ‘Temperer’. When I was sent that song, it blew me away and it’s such a step up from last year’s EP.

Jacob: Thank you so much man, that means a lot!

No worries! With ‘Temperer’, Ocean Grove’s Sam Bassal did the production on it. Did working with him easily bring those performances out of the band, and do you think you’d have the same result if you went with another producer/engineer or simply did it in-house?

Jacob: That’s a hard question…

Ethan: We definitely clicked with him from a producer standpoint very quickly. His songwriting experience helped us a lot with our song structures. As that’s probably our biggest downfall we feel. We have no problems smashing out individual sections, but when it comes to piecing it all together to make it a decent song, Sam helped a lot with that.  

Jacob: What was interesting for us was that we only went into the studio with one song. I actually got sick so I couldn’t track vocals while we there, so we tracked ‘Temperer’ from a previous idea Ethan and I had.

Ethan: Yeah, the next single was meant to be the lead track for us this year but we recorded ‘Temperer’ as well while we had the time. ‘Temperer’ was just the intro, the verse, the chorus, the build-up, the breakdown and that was it. But Sam suggested we add another chorus and add an outro, which we thought was a much better idea!

Rad, and I always here that about Sam and his writing ideas. But I also appreciate that you guys are aware that maybe your song structuring overall isn’t “there” yet. Cause I’ll tell you, not many bands can admit what parts they need to work on, so I really appreciate that honesty.

Jacob: Aw, thanks. That’s something we’ll be bringing to some new material.

Ethan: What we’re writing now, we’re really focusing on song structures instead of writing various sections and stringing them together as they come to our head.

For sure, make the songs more cohesive. Prior to this interview, your manager, Matt (Van Dupen, Set The Score’s guitarist) also sent me the next Thornhill single, which was much faster and heavier. So are these two songs coming from a new EP or maybe even a new full-length?

Jacob: Nope!

Ethan: They’re just butt-naked releases. It was meant to be a double single but ‘Temperer’ has taken off so well, so we’ll space them out. We’ll probably do an EP later this year, but this was just us testing the waters.

Jacob: We're not really ready for an album, either.

Ethan: Plus, albums stick to your name more than an EP ever would. Most of us, looking back on it, we aren’t super proud on our first EP. So we 100% want to be ready for an album but also the sound of that album.

Right on, and such a good point about albums sticking to your band’s name – a bad EP gets forgotten about easily, in most cases. Also, do you think that ‘Temperer’ has “tested the waters” and paid off? Cause I’d say so!

Jacob: Bloody beyond any expectation, dude.

Ethan: When we released it, we were very self-doubtful. We dropped it thinking “Whatever, it's not that great.” But it got picked up really well and I guess we nailed it on the head.

Jacob: It also definitely covers what we want to be doing in the future; it’s the foundation for what we’ll be working towards.

Ethan: When we recorded our first EP, we were younger and we wrote it throughout Year 12 and then recorded what we had when school ended. For lack of a better term, our tastes since then have changed and matured a bit; we’re sure of what we want to do now instead of throwing five tracks out there.

I get that. When I place the ‘13’ EP next to ‘Temperer’ and this new single, these two songs stand out far more than that EP. They're just an honest step up. Though, I do remember when triple j  Unearthed or the ABC posted on their Facebook about your song’s release they said something like, “If you’re a fan of Karnivool, you should check this out.” How did you feel about that comparison?

Jacob: It was pretty funny, as I don’t think anyone in our band had heard Karnivool prior to that coming out. [Laughs].

Ethan: Our bassist, Nick [Sjogren] likes Karnivool but he didn’t have a big hand in writing ‘Temperer’. When people said we sounded like Karnivool, we went and checked them out, and we can definitely see the similar sound now.

Yeah, there’s a bit of Karnivool in there, as unintentional as it may be. One comment I did see also said something like “It’s Refused meets Karnivool”, and I don’t think that person has ever heard Refused before…

Ethan: Oh dude, we don’t even know who Refused are!


Ethan: Yeah, our manager, Matt, always hits up with these bands, asking if we know them, and we never do.

Jacob: Our up to date musical knowledge of bands sucks.

Well, go listen to Refused once this is done!

Ethan: And one thing about Karnivool, though, Josh [Smith] from Northlane hit me up after he heard our music and said he heard a lot of Karnivool, a lot of Tesseract, but also a lot of Northlane in us. But that he still really liked it, which was mad. I actually said to him that I’ve only heard one Karnivool song and maybe two Tesseract songs! 

[Laughs] At least Northlane are actually listening to your music. But what did Josh say to that?

Ethan: He just didn’t reply after that [laughs]. But yeah, hearing kind words come from Josh was so mind-blowing, to be honest.

Jacob: It was pretty surreal for us. I even have one of their vinyl’s on my wall, so it kinda freaked me out.

Nice! While those comparisons are good to get, do you also think that such comparisons to other bigger bands mean that Thornhill can’t really be its own thing; that art can’t find its own footing?

Jacob: Yeah, that’s the hard thing. That’s just music, you can’t ever really make something original. Everything’s being done in so many ways, that you can only hope you do it well with your own influences. It hasn’t been annoying for us yet. When we get told that we sound like this or that band, we end up being fans of though bands.

Ethan: We’re also not afraid to admit that. I hate seeing a band drop a new song or a music video and they palm it all off as their own, but it’s the same thing. Like, just call it and own up to it. Northlane is a massive influence on this band and myself instrumentally. Their mixing of heavy music with alternative music really draws me in, as I don’t listen to that many heavy bands.

[caption id="attachment_1086539" align="alignnone" width="700"]Thornhill 13 EP Thornhill's debut EP, '13'.[/caption]

Ah, the days of 2012-2014 where every band got compared to Northlane. Dark times. Now, Ethan, as you said, that band is a big influence on you, but Jacob, there’s been a big step up in your vocals on these new songs. Have you been taking lessons, up-keeping practice, or drawing from wider influences?

Jacob: I don’t know why but when I went into the studio first, I hated singing and metalcore together. I just had such a hate for it. Don’t know why. But when I sang on ‘Outcast’, it came out well and I figured if it sounded good and people dug it, I should do it more. With ‘Temperer’, I don’t really know where my influence comes from as I mainly listen to rap. I’m not sure where I get my sound from. I also haven’t had any lessons; this was just the direction we wanted. I mean, Ethan stepped up writing-wise, so I thought I should step vocally. I had the time to sit down and write the lyrics to these two songs as we didn’t go back into the studio for nearly two months after writing them. So I got to perfect them, something I didn’t have for the EP.

Ethan: But also, having a really musical background for you helps, like you playing the piano and knowing melodies and such.

Jacob: Yeah, I was actually in the Australian Boys Choir for six years when I was younger.

Oh, cool. I was also in choir in primary school but I ditched that for drumming, which I thought was much cooler.

Jacob: Me too man! My voice broke and I had to bail on that, and I had to teach myself how to sing again. I do think that musical theory is much better now because of that, actually.

You mentioned how you guys rushed the EP last year, but the band also came out of the gate well with your first show being supporting Hellions in Melbourne. My brother, Matty, went along to that show and said for your first show, that wasn’t bad.

Jacob: Oh dude, we saw that, thank him for that. But we were so bad! I had a throat infection that day. I don’t remember any of that set.

Ethan: Me either. It was just adrenaline!

Oh, I bet! Still, a solid first show all things considered. Do you think that that show helped you guys get a leg up of sorts? 

Jacob: For sure. It was a good bill for a band’s first show; it was a real, decent show for a big headlining band. It wasn’t just some Freeza show or anything like that.

Ethan: Yeah, and we nearly sold all of our shirts too!

Jacob: That’s right! We sold over 30 shirts on our first show too. Which was so cool to see strangers buying our merch and wearing our shirts. Our manager told us that we wouldn’t sell any shirts and that we shouldn’t have ordered 50 but we sold nearly 40 on the first show. So…no worries at all!

Good job, good hustle!

Jacob: [Laughs] thanks, man. But we’re so humble for all of these things, as we don’t know anyone that’s been given these opportunities as they start off. Having a manager before we start off was a good thing. Like, it was only a couple years ago for that we would go to local shows to bands like Void Of Vision play, and now we're really close mates with them.

Ethan: We do owe Matt a lot for our band’s achievements so far. We’re still a new band, but Matt plays the older brother card and he comes across more professional to us. He’s straight-forward and really helps us in getting on good bills.

I adore his band, Set The Score, and it’s great to hear that he’s been of help to you guys. Because you always read those articles or stories about how small bands shouldn’t need managers or how they get fucked around by such people.

Ethan: We also knew Matt well before him coming on board; he wasn’t just some random guy.

Which is usually good! So – and I think I know the answer here – but do you guys see this band more as a business yet?

Jacob: Well… you have to get something back for it be a business.

Ethan: [Laughs].

Jacob: But I don’t think it will ever be like that. It’s just pure joy, pure excitement for us. I think that will stick with us for a few more years yet.

I hope it does, as some bands sadly loose that. But as for Thornhill as a band, you’ve only been together for one year, correct?

Jacob: Less than one actually! We played our first show on 30th of July 2016.

Wow…not even a full year and you’re already supporting Architects? Nice.

Ethan: That was like our seventh show overall too!

Fuck me [laughs]. So, have you guys seen or heard much negativity towards Thornhill as of yet?

Jacob: No, we’ve been very lucky on that front so far, but we’re ready for when it comes! I mean, ‘Temperer’ has one dislike on YouTube.

Well, all downhill from here guys! Just quickly, are you planning for any music videos to come from these two songs?

Jacob: They’ll be a music video for the next single, which we’ll be getting back soon actually.

Ethan: Unexpectedly, ‘Temperer’ has self-sustained itself quite well, and it’s even been picked up by triple j and doing well on Spotify, which has been great.

Jacob: The new single, as you know, is much heavier so we should bring back the “metal” audience with it.

Ethan: I am kind of anxious about this new song’s release because of how well ‘Temperer’ was received. There are expectations now.

Jacob: We actually played it for the first time live when we supported Architects, and I could tell people wanted to sing along. I thought maybe it will do well, the breakdown did well live as well, so we’re staying positive about it.

Ethan: The bottom line for us now is what we enjoy playing, and that’s what we’ll write. This next EP may be a bit of both ‘Temperer’ and the new song.

Sounds good. Now, one thing you mentioned before was the addition of ‘Temperer’ to triple j. Have you heard that surreal moment yet when you hear it on the radio for the first time yet?

Jacob: Oh dude, my dad was on a job recently with the radio on and he heard us – he was shitting himself by being stoked! That was probably one of the coolest moments of my life.

Ethan: I was coming home from work one day, around 5pm or so, and ‘Temperer’ started playing. Was so cool!

[caption id="attachment_1092669" align="alignnone" width="760"]PC: Andrew Bromley. PC: Andrew Bromley.[/caption]

That’s very cool. Also, just curious, what do you guys do outside of the band for work?

Ethan: I work in a pizza kitchen part time as a chef. Whereas our bassist works as a pizza delivery guy and our drummer works at IGA.

Jacob: And as for me, I work in a fancy-pants restaurant making people nice food.

Ethan: We’re still really young, so these are like our first jobs more or less!

So, do you ever show co-workers Thornhill or do you just tell them they can now hear you on triple j?

Jacob: [Laughs]. Yeah, now I can say to them that we’re on the radio if they want to suss out but I’m not showing them. I’d love it but I’d also really hate it if our music came on during work, I’d feel like such a tosser.

[Laughs]. So, while it's still early days for the band, what do your parents think about it?

Jacob: I had some family at Architects, like my mum and my nan, which was also nice. Then the morning after when I woke up and spoke with them, they were like "Oh, you probably could do more of this or that", and I was like "I knew there was a reason I don't want you to come along".

Ethan: Your nan does love the heavy parts.

Jacob: She does. It's funny, my mum still asks me if I'm the one who sings in the band. She always asks me "Is that your voice singing" [Laughs]. But to go a bit deeper here, for quite a few years, we haven't really been super confident blokes, but we're very sure that this band is what we want to do. For instance, I've stopped doing uni, Ethan's about to stop doing uni.

Ethan: It's getting to the point where the parents are realising that this is becoming a real thing. We aren't just playing covers at the local pub; this band is doing something.

Jacob: If I tell them that I'm not going to uni but that I'm going with the guys to write for Thornhill, they're cool with it. It's so cool to see that it's not just a fad or that it might happen, but that it is happening.

Ethan: It's a real confidence boost to have that parental support for our music, for sure.

In all seriousness, that's so great to hear! Not all bands on the local level have that early on. 

Jacob: It really is! Not to say that I'm good at this, but my family know that I work hard enough at this to be good at it and to be better at it. We want to be able to tour and write music for as long as possible! We don't want to bite off more than we can chew but we also want to have high expectations of ourselves. Laughs]

And I think that you guys could definitely achieve that, I really do. I think that bookends this interview very well, dudes. Ethan, Jacob - thank you so much for your time today guys and I'll hopefully catch you at the next Thornhill show!

Jacob: Fuck yeah, thank you so much, man!

Ethan: Yeah, cheers for this interview mate!

Thornhill's 'Temperer' is out now, and you can purchase it here. (You should - it's fucking killer). Keep your eyes and ears open for when the band's next single, whenever it drops...