On an unseasonably delightful fall evening, I stood with Thrice drummer Riley Breckenridge behind St. Louis’ Pageant nightclub for a conversation about the band’s music and all things elemental—before the band went inside to play the middle spot between headliner Brand New and mewithoutyou.
Specifically, we discussed Fire & Water, the two six-song discs from the band’s new conceptual four disc set, The Alchemy Index (Vagrant). (Volumes 3 and 4, Earth & Air, are due in April.)
Of the band’s expansive project, Breckenridge admits, “We wanted to do something different and challenge ourselves. There is a stigma to concept records, that they’re prog-rock or super nerdy. We thought it would be an interesting way to approach the writing and recording process, do something we’d never done before.”
As for the remaining volumes in The Alchemy Index, Breckenridge says we can expect Earth to be “stripped down, acoustic. There’s folksy, bluesy, jazzy stuff on there, on conventional instruments.”
Meanwhile, the Air disc is all over the place: there’s acoustic stuff, uptempo high energy stuff, and some really mellow, ambient stuff. “There’s an undercurrent that’s real up-lifting; there’s an ambiance that’s real ‘airy’ for lack of a better word.”
For a while, Christian music fans have been intrigued by the lyrics of singer Dustin Kensrue (who explicitly expressed his faith on a solo disc, Please Come Home, released early ’07.) For instance, on Fire, Kensrue quotes Isaiah in the song “The Messenger”; and in “King’s Upon the Main” on Water, he offers this couplet: “But grace can still be found within the gale/With fear and reverence, raise your ragged sail.”
At the time of the solo release, Kensrue discouraged the idea that his songs have less spirituality in the context of Thrice, but rather are implied by the more intense context. “That’s not the way I write songs,” he told HM Magazine. “It’s a little hard to separate it in any meaningful way and make a clear distinction because there’s such a different vibe musically. I think it’s a lot more of a case of matching the lyrics to the feel of the songs.”
Acknowledging that not all the members of Thrice think exactly as Kensrue does, Breckenridge says that he and the other members of the band—his brother Edward, on bass, and guitarist Teppei Teranishi—are more than comfortable that “Dustin writes 100 percent of the lyrics.
“Not only because he’s a gifted lyricist, but he’s singing about things that matter to him, and that matters to me. I’m glad that he feels confident in what he’s saying and what he’s been putting out there. Even if I don’t agree 100 percent, it definitely makes me think. And I think that’s the goal of his lyrics, to make you question why you believe what you believe, how you go about finding answers to some of life’s harder questions.”
Further, says Breckenridge, “In the scene we came out of, there’s a lot of angst and ‘woe is me’ in the songs. I think it’s cool that Dustin’s lyrics have been so hopeful.”
Breckenridge says that Thrice hopes to follow the release of Earth & Air with a deluxe four-disc package that includes extensive liner notes and other goodies for Thrice’s hardcore fans.
— Brian Quincy Newcomb is the Rev. Dr. Brian Q. Newcomb, pastor of Christ Church UCC of Maplewood, Mo., just left of St. Louis…and just left of about everybody, for that matter.