Ah, Orange County. Home of surf, sand, bikinis, and… Thrice? I was a little shocked by that, I must admit, and when I was given the heads-up about this interview, I really didn’t know what to expect. When I got there (to Taste of Chaos ’06), Seth Cohen and Ryan Atwood were nowhere in sight, and instead I met Ed, who was very laid-back, very chill, very… not what I expected at all. Although it was a little chaotic (cause we were at Taste of Chaos… Get it?), he managed to find the time to sit down with me and chat about the band’s history, charities they’re involved in, and their latest album, Vheissu.
Thrice was formed six years ago in Orange County, California. How did you guys come together?
Eddie: We got together cause, actually Dustin and Teppei – two of our guitar players – knew each other from school, and I think I had met Teppei skateboarding. We all kind of shared similar interests in music and Riley, our drummer, he’s my brother, so when we decided to… actually, we got together and we were just kind of messing around with guitars one time and we were like, “Let’s just try to start something.” I ended up asking my brother and it just kind of evolved from there.
What’s the music scene like in Orange County?
Eddie: I guess it’s nice because a lot of musicians come through, but I think in any city where you have a lot of bands going through, I think that people tend to form scenes that become a little – or, actually really – lame. I don’t know. It was nice. I got to see a lot of bands and I experienced a lot of live music, but at the same time I got to experience a lot of people who were kind of elitist and stuff. I don’t know. There’s definitely a focus on being cool rather than really caring about music or actually being a good person I guess.
Okay. Your first two releases, Identity Crisis and The Illusion of Safety were both put out by Sub-City.
Then you signed with Island Records, and you’ve been with them ever since. Why did you guys switch to Island, and how has that affected the material that you guys put out?
Eddie: It hasn’t affected the material. The material we all write, so I don’t really know what you were getting at with that. [laughing] We were on Sub-City and we put out Identity Crisis by ourselves and then they bought the licensing for it and started putting it out. Then we recorded The Illusion of Safety and the record did pretty well. The label, I think they were using a lot of their resources and a lot of their time to promote the record and we felt that they were kind of neglecting other bands because they were focusing on us so much and how things were moving… we felt like maybe it was best to move on, especially since we were getting a lot of interest from labels. I think it worked out best for both of us because Sub-City had things in our contract with Island where it promotes their label, and they also got money, and now we’re able to record records on larger budgets so we can make records like we made this time – we worked with a guy named Steve Osborne. It’s made things a lot easier on everyone who works with us and the band just being able to make the records we always wanted to make and uh…. I don’t really know where I was going with that.
It’s okay. [laughing] 2003’s The Artist in the Ambulance – it brought you guys a lot of recognition, and with that recognition, you guys developed a huge fan base. What do you think drew people to that album in particular?
Eddie: I’m not quite sure. I think it had a lot to do with the timing, maybe, of the record. There was a lot of stuff in the press and things about the heavier, melodic music, and people just seemed excited about this music that they were promoting as this new thing but it’s kind of been around forever…
They were just realizing it at the time.
Eddie: Yeah. So bands that we draw influences from – bands like Fugazi or Refused or, I don’t know – all these different bands that have kind of heavier, melodic music or music with some kind of yells or screams or whatever you want to call it… this music all of a sudden got this big boost and we happened to be there at the time. Hopefully we made some decent songs, too, and that’s why people enjoyed it, but I think it has a lot to do with timing. I think the bands who influenced us can do it better than we can, and are amazing.
It was while touring to promote The Artist in the Ambulance that you guys wrote the material that would later be compiled to create Vheissu.
The result was a much more melodic and inspiring album than your previous work. What sort of approach did you take with this album, and how did that differ from the others?
Eddie: We kind of don’t really plan anything when we’re writing – we just let whatever we’re creating come out of us… but I think one of the mistakes that we made on Artist in the Ambulance that we didn’t make on this record was that we were kind of thinking about what sounds like Thrice music and what sounds like it can’t be Thrice music. This record, we didn’t.
You were very caught up in your own image, that sort of thing?
Eddie: Well, this record we didn’t care. I wouldn’t say we were caught up in our own image, we were just more worried of what the fans and people who were with us for a long time would actually think of us. Artist and the Ambulance I think is a good representation of where we were at the time, but there were definitely songs that we made that we were like, “Uh… we can’t put that on the record.” It was sad, and limiting, and for Vheissu we didn’t do that, and it’s one of the most freeing feelings we’ve had as a band. I think what we can do in the future is limitless, and I think that has a lot to do with us not applying these stigmas on ourselves that we have to be a certain kind of band. A lot of bands do that and it’s limiting as an artist. If you see a painter, you’ll see a painter goes through phases where their paintings change and they try all these new things. I want our music to be always growing and similar to that, y’know?
Okay. You already mentioned that, for the last record, you worked with Steve Osborne.
Eddie: For Vheissu, yes.
Yeah. From what I gather from the website, the reason you went with him was because you wanted somebody with a softer edge to emphasize the more melodic side. What made you pick Steve Osborne in particular?
Eddie: He worked with a lot of bands that we really liked. He worked with the Doves and he worked with Peter Gabriel. He did some stuff with Massive Attack and some stuff with U2, so he had an amazing resumé, but also his approach on music was much better than a lot of producers that we talked to. We were planning on working with somebody different than Brian McTernan, who had done The Illusion of Safety and The Artist in the Ambulance, but Steve… we would ask him how he does stuff and he would be like, “I don’t have a plan on how I do stuff. I let each song be its own individual thing and I like to work on each song as an art form and not have this cookie-cutter way of recording the song,” and that seemed perfect for us because that’s exactly how we write music and how our focus was for this album. He was amazing.
Would you consider working with him on a future album?
Eddie: Yeah, I’d totally work with him again. I’m also interested in seeing what other people can do. It seems like each time you work with a different producer, you learn this whole other way of doing it and it educates the band a lot. I’d definitely work with him again, but I’m not opposed to working with someone else, too.
Thrice is involved in a lot of charities, foundations, stuff like that – for example, a portion of the proceeds from Vheissu goes towards 826 Valencia. What’s that program all about?
Eddie: That program was developed by a guy named Dave Eggers who actually writes amazing books, and he created it to educate young people and expand on their creative writing skills. We wanted to do it because we’re all huge fans of a book that he wrote called “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”, and he also did the artwork on our record. I don’t know, it seems awesome. I always love doing stuff for kids, and it’s for young kids or high school kids, just helping make writing more like an artwork rather than homework. And Dave’s a great guy, so it’s perfect.
In terms of helping out kids, you guys are also involved in Invisible Children, which, if I’m not mistaken, is devoted to raising awareness and helping child soldiers in Northern Uganda, right?
Okay. What sorts of things have you done to help out this foundation?
Eddie: Invisible Children, we try to promote a lot of awareness about it. We’ve done benefit shows… we haven’t done anything where it’s directly related to the record yet, but maybe in the future. Dustin was actually going to go out to Uganda and go visit, which is crazy, but it ended up not working out…. That was over our winter break, and I think we ended up having a tour conflict with it, but it’s crazy. If you ever have a chance, check out invisiblechildren.com .com? .org?
I think it’s .org actually; it’s listed on MySpace.
Eddie: Okay, yeah. If you get a chance to watch the video, it’s unreal. It’s almost impossible not to be affected by watching that DVD.
Okay. So, you guys wrap up Taste of Chaos on April 18, then you guys go on a European tour at the end of April. Who else is going with you on that tour?
Eddie: There’s a band called The Valley Arena… we actually played a show with them at a high school – not them, the band, but two of the guys in the band who were in a different band at the time. Teppei, our guitar player, actually found their band on MySpace or something and was listening to it. We all love it, so we asked them if they wanted to go out and they were cool with it, so we’re going to do that.
Right on. And what do you guys have planned once you get back from Europe?
Eddie: We’re actually planning to have some time off this summer since we’re not doing any of the major tours, which is Ozzfest and Warped Tour. We’re going to take some time off and do some writing. I know our record didn’t come out that long ago, but it’s always good to be writing so we’re going to try that. Be normal human beings for a while. It’s hard being on the road as much as we are.