interview by brian greenaway
I think its safe to say there are too many subdivisions of music these days. Just when you think youve got the differences between punk, hardcore, and emo all nailed down, someone will start classifying stuff as screamo, post-punk, alt-country, or emo-core. What gives? These arbitrary lines drawn in the sand of modern music often seem to hinder more than they help explain what the music itself sounds like.
Hailing from the cultural wasteland of Southern California, a foursome of young men (Dustin Kensrue, Eddie and Riley Breckenridge, and Teppei Teranishi) known as Thrice combine just about every category and sub-category of guitar-driven music into one dynamic, cohesive whole. Dont even worry about trying to label their sound. Identity Crisis, Thrices first release on Sub City Records, showcased the bands masterful ability to blend brutal hardcore beats with soaring melodic sensibilities. Their sophomore offering, The Illusion of Safety takes the intensity and sophistication of Identity Crisis and turns the heat up a bit. Well, okay, a lot.
Modern Fix recently caught up with frontman Dustin Kensrue for a little Q and A regarding the new album, the current state of hardcore/punk, and Frappuccinos.
Brian Greenaway: Where are we right now?
Dustin Kensrue: Orange County.
You see the movie?
DK: No, I havent seen it yet.
Thats disappointing. Whats the best thing about living in Southern California?
DK: The weather.
Whats the worst?
I knew you were going to say both of those.
DK: Yeah, theyre both pretty big. Seeing the rest of the United States makes me realize how much I love my weather. Its so nice. I dont ever wanna move.
Well, youre going to be seeing a lot more of the United States pretty soon, too.
DK: Yeah, weve got a lot of touring lined up right now. The Anti-Flag tour, Face to Face, Hot Rod Circuit. Were gonna be gone for a while.
What interests you guys besides making music? Do you skate or surf?
DK: Eddie and Teppei used to skate and surf a lot. Theyve both injured themselves but they still try to skate when they can. They both have had big knee surgeries.
Alright, enough chit-chat. Lets talk about your new record, The Illusion of Safety. How is this one different from Identity Crisis?
DK: I think its just a more mature effort. There was some stuff on Identity Crisis that, while its not necessarily bad, it just sounds like a younger band did it and I think weve grown a lot since we recorded it. Weve still got a long way to go, but its a growing process, and Im really proud of this record. And I think I will be for a while. Im very pleased. It comes out on the fifth of February. Were playing a free in-store down here at the Virgin Megastore.
What is the process like when you go into the studio? Do you have something in mind of what you want to do or does it just sort of happen?
DK: Its just a lot different now than it was before. Weve learned so much recording with Brian McTernan. Everythings just been a lot more fluid and less forced than in the past. Weve got a tendency to force things because wed be like I can make this work like some kind of transition or whatever and we could do it, but was it really necessary? Probably not.
A lot of songs from Identity Crisis like A Torch to End All Torches and Under Par really seem to capture a lot of the depression and solitude felt by todays youth. Are these issues you can personally relate to, or just generalized societal problems?
DK: Um, thats a good question. I think its a little of both. I think a lot of societal stuff affects the individual, too. I see things that are bothering me or I feel things that are bothering me and it pretty much ends up being the same thing, you know?
Is that what led you guys to donate a portion of your proceeds to kidsmatter.org and the Crittenton Services for Children and Families?
DK: Well, every release that comes out on Sub City Records has a charity that the band chooses to work with. That was one of the main reasons we decided to sign with them. The owner of Sub City had some different contacts that hed made and he shared some of them with us and we were interested in working with Crittenton because they were local and we kind of wanted to help the people in our own area. Crittenton Services is basically a home for abused and neglected kids. It provides them with counseling and a place to stay. We went down there and played acoustically for the kids a while ago. That was really fun.
What should people expect when they go and see you guys play live?
DK: Expect us to put all our heart and all of our energy into the show. One of the coolest things about our shows is the diversity of the guys and girls in the crowd. Therell be a guy with a mohawk standing next to some emo kid. I like seeing that because it tells me that people are there because they like the music, not because it fits into some particular scene or stereotype.
Do you have any plans for videos?
DK: Yeah, thats something were going to deal with when we get back from the Anti-Flag Tour. Well probably do one for Betrayal is a Symptom.
Whats up with the web site [www.thrice.net]? Once its all the way up its going to be one of the most comprehensive sites around.
DK: Yeah, a friend of ours is doing it and hes done an awesome job. Were in the process of adding a lot of stuff to it, and its going to be set up to where we can update it from anywhere.
Who helped you guys get started? Did you have support from your families or was it more of a do it yourself sort of thing?
DK: We definitely had support from our familiesmy dad, especially. He loaned us money to help us do our first recording, and then later loaned us money to get a new van. We also have a practice space thats an empty office where he works. Its been a huge help. Weve been really lucky to have his support.
Do you guys have any day jobs or anything?
DK: Yeah, I do. I work at Starbucks. When Im home.
Whats your least favorite thing to make?
DK: Frappuccinos. Theyre annoying. I dont know why. After a while you just start to develop a subtle hatred for Frappuccinos and the people who order them. Well, you dont really hate them, but youre just like, Why are you ordering this?
Hey, its okayyou can hate them. Speaking of hate, do you ever find it hard to reconcile the aggressive nature of punk and hardcore in general with your pro-social message?
DK: Not really, because I think youve gotta shake people up a little bit. Thats not always the case, of course, and its important to remember that there are lots of different ways to get a message across and make it potent. One way is aggression. Another way is to be subtle, keep it under the surface and make people scratch their heads a little bit.
As the Ruin Falls off of Identity Crisis is adapted from a poem by The Chronicles of Narnia author and biblical scholar C.S. Lewis. What role does religion play in Thrice?
DK: Yeah, some of us are Christians, but in no way is Thrice a Christian band. Someone was making a good analogy the other day that if a Christian paints an abstract picture of a tomato, is that a Christian painting? Obviously not. Its an abstract painting done by a person who calls himself a Christian.
What do you guys do to relieve stress when youre on the road?
DK: Eddie and Teppei knit and crochet pretty much constantlylike every chance they have. I read and Riley reads. Riley reads a lot of dark satire stuff, like David Eggers and some new guyI forgot the name. I read a lot of C.S. Lewishe was one of the smartest men who ever lived in my opinion and The Screwtape Letters is one of my favorite books. Im reading a book called V right now by Thomas Pynchon. Riley and I both have laptops and we kind of dork out on video games. Ive been playing Diablo II. Youre this dude fighting a bunch of beasts. I can waste hours on that thing.
Okay, youre on the Survivor Island and youre there representing your kind of music. There are a bunch of other performers there representing all the other genres of music as well. Who do you try to vote out?
DK: You know, I really like most kinds of music. I think you can make any kind of music bad and I think you can make any kind of music good. Like technoI think theres some awesome techno and I think theres some terrible techno. I think if people dislike an entire kind of music, then theyre really missing out on something. Theres someone in every genre whos doing what theyre doing right. Every kind of music has its own positive and negative qualities. Like in hardcore you end up sacrificing some dynamics since its so aggressive, you know? Or maybe in techno you might end up with a really good beat but it sort of lacks a soul, if that makes sense.
Does anything really bother you about the hardcore/punk scene in general?
DK: Just that it is such a scene. I think theres too much of a group think mentality. Rather than people being individuals and coming together because they like music, its people being a part of a group just because they like being part of a group. In the hardcore scene it often ends up manifesting itself as violence. Kids are all in a group and theres another group they dont like and people cant seem to accept that different people and groups might like different things.
Would you say this groupthink ethos has evolved recently or is it something thats always been around?
DK: It seems in the past a lot of hardcore and punk was more of a reaction against the mainstream and that kept things unified. But now, its sort of opened up more and the group isnt threatened, so people try to make these weird barriers where there doesnt need to be any.
What CDs do you have in your collection that might surprise the rest of us?
DK: Um, Im really into Michael Jackson. Super disappointed by his new album, though. Um, let me thinkI can never think of answers to questions like that.
How about your favorite 80s band?
DK: Well, were coving Send Me an Angel by Real Life, but I cant say its them cause thats the only song by them Ive ever heard.
If you could open for any one band what would it be?
DK: Radiohead for sure.
When do you think youll no longer be the up-and-coming-band-Thrice, but youll just be everyone-already-knows-who-we-are-and-we-rock-Thrice?
DK: I dont know. I hope theres always room for growth and Id be happy to devote all of my time to it and not have to work another job, you know? Thats the point where Id just be very content to write music and enjoy doing it.
Anyone youd like to thank?
DK: Just people who are supporting us. People who are sharing our music with their friends. That makes all the differencewe really appreciate that.