When Thrice ended its three-year hiatus in 2015, the band didn’t write songs that were “reactive” to previous albums.
Few of the band’s 2000s efforts had more than a year between release dates. Now Thrice had a five-year gap to rethink things between 2011’s Major/Minor and 2016’s To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere. Vocalist Dustin Kensrue is quick to note the overall musical landscape hadn’t changed much in that time, but it has evolved throughout his act’s 18 years.
“It’s been changing a lot ever since we kind of started playing almost 20 years ago,” Kensrue says. “I feel like when we started, a bunch of changes were ramping up. We were trying to figure out how to keep doing it for a living without selling our souls.”
The hiatus gave the group a “fresh perspective and new appreciation,” he adds.
“Even though it was hard to take that break and have a bunch of live shows coming back, it was definitely rejuvenating and recharging,” he says.
During Thrice’s hiatus, the music industry hadn’t changed as much as one may expect, but the political landscape had. To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere was a partial reaction to recent events.
With songs like “Whistleblower” and “Death from Above” having obvious political undertones in the titles, the record’s lyrics delve even further into the current sociopolitical landscape, with lyrics approaching subjects like war, racism, drones and spying. Kensrue sings these lyrics on “Blood on the Sand,” the album’s second track:
“We panic at the sight of different-colored skin
And we’ve got a plan to justify each mess we’re in
But I’ve seen too much (of this fear and hate)
I’ve had enough (and I’m not afraid)
To take a stand, to make it right – this has to end,”
But in the 18 months that have passed since the release of Thrice’s ninth studio effort, the country has seen the confirmation of Donald Trump’s presidency and political unrest. This doesn’t make writing easy for Kensrue.
“I feel burdened to try to have the music that I make do something good in the world,” he says. “Whatever’s happening around is always on my mind and the current events are definitely heavy. My main hope would be that the music would be trying to bridge gaps. One of the main problems is that people are just not hearing each other. They can’t be addressed if we don’t hear each other.”
For Kensrue, who views art as a way to get past barriers, this is important.
“I think art, in general, serves a different form than an essay or a news article or a book,” he says. “It can get underneath some of the barriers and can get underneath some of the things that we block out.”
Now the band is bringing this new LP and a selection of songs from the quartet’s previous eight projects on a co-headlining tour with friends Circa Survive.
“We took them out on the road a long time ago,” Kensrue says. “Great guys; known them forever. We were looking for someone to kind of pair up with to finish out this touring cycle, and it worked out timing wise and definitely worked out people- and band-wise.”
The two bands will perform at Marquee Theatre Sunday, November 5, with Chon, and Balance and Composure. This tour is a return to Arizona for Thrice, who last stopped in the Valley for a July 9 show at Ak-Chin Pavilion.
With this new project still fresh in the bands’ and fans’ minds, Kensrue notes “The Long Defeat,” “The Window” and the album’s first single, “Black Honey,” are particularly fun choices to perform, and gauging by recent set lists, some of these songs will likely stay in the California band’s live repertoire.
Thrice w/Circa Survive, Marquee Theatre, 730 N. Mill Avenue, Tempe, 480.829.0607, luckymanonline.com, 5:30 p.m. Sunday, November 5, $29.99.