Thrice’s musical growth is one of the most natural and strongest evolutions you’ll find from most bands coming from alternative and punk. It’s always felt authentic and never phoned-in, making each Thrice record special. It’s why so many fans have widely different go-to albums or favourite eras from the group’s long-spanning career, yet always open for new material. Along with these great sonic developments, the quartet’s political statements have always been multi-dimensional; ensuring that while they have something honest to share, that it’s done in thoughtful, impactful ways. In the case of this month’s tenth record, the incredible ‘Palms’, it actually goes beyond political issues and into spirituality; about changes in personal beliefs that fuel this record’s theme and philosophical lyricism. Hearing right from the horse’s mouth about it, Thrice frontman Dustin Kensrue and I dived into all of these topics.
‘Palms’, and even with the last record too, really highlighted a particular factor of Thrice for me, and that’s that Thrice changed so naturally across your career and evolved at an organic pace. The records you’ve made in this decade are quite different to the material of the previous decade, but the difference isn’t a bad thing. I just think it’s great that you and the band had had the courage to evolve with your fans. What’s your take away on that, Dustin?
I think you can either have your creative venture come first as an artistic expression and then second as a business. Or as a business first and an artistic expression second. Based on those priorities, you get a few different results. For us, it’s always been about the art and expression first, then we try and figure out how to make a living on the back end of that. Progression means that we’re conscious to not make decisions with the art based on the business value, and that keeps us from making part two or three of ‘The Artist In The Ambulance’ or whatever. Creatively, in the long run, it’s great for the listeners as well. It has a mentality of it being authentic, and that would be lost if we tried to just re-create older things. We could easily stick to do the same thing but we’re just not going to.
I think it’s a matter of exposure too. When Thrice first started getting big (‘The Illusion Of Safety’/’The Artist In The Ambulance’/’Vheissu’), that’s when a lot of people first heard your music too. Yet both you and the audiences have aged at the same pace together from those points onward. As the music matured, so too did the fans, even if they still love the older records.
Yeah! That’s always really neat to see, as we see that comment quite a bit on our social media. I think it’s just the nature of the way a band and the listener can form a relationship where there trust and an exchange occurring. Like any relationship, we can influence each other, and sometimes we move on parallel paths in certain ways. I feel like that really happened with our band too.
Another interesting thing is where people draw the line with Thrice and politics. What I mean by that is when my guy, Jonty Cornford, reviewed ‘Palms’ for us, we had this one reply from a guy hoping that ‘Palms’ wouldn’t be just one big political statement like ‘To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere’ supposedly was. I found that comment really weird for a couple of reasons. One was that ‘Palms’ is a much more personal and spiritual record, and secondly… why couldn’t a Thrice album be political or have something to say? It seems like some people only ever want art or music to be one dimensional; that they just want it to be entertainment and only ever mere entertainment. I’d be really interested to get your thoughts on all this, mate!
Oh, I’ve actually been having a discussion with people on Twitter over the past day or so about not just this issue, but about the record in general. People saying “this is the worst thing we’ve done” and then others saying “it’s the best thing they’ve ever done“. For me, it’s more interesting, cause if you hate something straight up then maybe you’re not quite ready for it, but for the longtime fans to say they love it is a huge compliment for us. So, we’ve got all that going on – people loving the lyrics and others not liking them. And I’ve just been interacting with them all online lately.
But I personally think that part of it is that it’s not too political or too spiritual, it’s that certain people are really resonating with either the spiritual or political influences or ramifications of the new record. Whereas other people just aren’t, and it’s rubbing them the wrong way. I feel that any good art should be having some kind of effect on people rather than sitting there lifelessly. Some people will want to be healed from it, others will want to be challenged by it. I also think people tend to feel that politics and spirituality are completely divorced from each other. Everything is connected and nothing is ever truly separated from all other things. For me, with this new record, I was definitely not trying to make it partisan. Like I was trying to tow any kind of party line. I was just really trying to get underneath what makes a lot of these political issues occur.
Well, to go beneath the politics of it all and into the personal side, I find it very revealing and honest how you’ve spoken about this record is a matter of spiritual disconnection and then a reconnection in some ways. This idea of you finding universalism and not taking the Bible’s inerrancy as gospel, pardon the pun. I see a lot of that in songs like ‘Only Us’, ‘Beyond The Pines’, and ‘A Branch In The River’. So in terms of your own personal life, Dustin, what sparked that belief alteration in you; what changed in your life that reshaped these opinions and thus was reflected in this new record?
I’ve always been someone that’s okay with the idea of change. There’s a really good essay from Ralph Waldo Emerson called Self-Reliance, where he talks about people not wanting to change their minds and how they’re afraid. He said that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds“, and that’s always stuck with me. This idea that people are afraid to change their minds because that means they have to admit they were mistaken yesterday. So it takes humility to say that you once thought one way, but now you see it differently. I always try to remind myself in the back of my head that “I could be wrong about this“. So that’s the background of my changing my own beliefs. Looking into scripture lately, it opened up a lot of interesting things to me and other issues regarding the way I view scripture. That was really a key influence for me here, as I explore a whole bunch of philosophy as well.
Thanks for sharing, man. I think that the idea of humility you speak of is super important today. As with social media, people really don’t wanna admit they were wrong. That it’s viewed as a weakness or something.
Yeah! People really do perceive it as a weakness, but I think it’ll be seen as a strength and open-mindedness. Especially on social media, when I see something that gets me heated or if I jump to conclusions, I try to be very quick and apologise or fix whatever I screwed up rather than digging in and making it worse. There are people who have never quite been on the same page as us but hopefully they can see that our humulity comes through in our music. And I think that there’s been some success with that too!