In a year when extreme music once again continued to thrive and any genre or sub-genre you care to mention was overflowing with superlative releases from bands both established and new alike, Baton Rouge, Louisiana heavyweights Thou once again shook the ground with a set of releases that impressed not only due to the group’s sustained prolificacy in 2018, but also due to the sheer diversity of sounds and influences that can be heard throughout.
Each of their three 2018 EPs (not to mention fifth full-length Magus and a split release with Ragana) showcase entirely different facets of Thou’s hive mind, and whether enduring the esoteric, unbridled suffering of The House Primordial, wallowing in the acoustic, sorrowful melodies of Inconsolable or lingering somewhere in between (avec ‘90s grunge) with the stunning Rhea Sylvia, Thou clearly still have plenty of cards stashed up their collective sleeve.
With the band now confirmed as Artist in Residence at the prestigious Roadburn Festival in April with four individual sets planned over as many days to showcase both their creativity and their diversity, we recently caught up with bass guitarist Mitch Wells and vocalist Bryan Funck. We primarily discussed the band’s influences and offered them the opportunity to create a Thou-curated playlist that represents their musical indulgences.
Now it’s time for that Thou-curated playlist we just mentioned!
What bands got you into music early on, and more specifically what bands did you discover that introduced you to the more extreme genres?
Mitch Wells: We all come from very different places musically. Some of us grew up on Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, etc, and some of us were into 311, Fishbone and No Doubt (still are). We really started to find the early Thou sound, though, by ripping off bands like Isis, Pelican, Mastodon and Mare. Those bands sort of guided us through finding our niche… for better or worse.
Your three EP releases this year have all showcased very different sounds, which you’ve mentioned previously are intentionally different. What was your thought process around the creation of these EPs, and do they link to Magus in any way?
Wells: Magus was written and recorded before a few of the EPs, so there’s not really an influence in that sense. With all of our splits and EPs, we try to get a little bit out of our comfort zone and style and try to stretch our legs artistically. That sounds super corny, but it’s the best way I can think to describe it. Our full-lengths are more thought out and focused in a way that takes the album before it and (tries to) expand on it, and outdo it.
Bryan Funck: The creation of the EPs came about in different ways. We planned to do a split with Pygmy Lush where we tried to sound more like them, but that never happened so we made Inconsolable instead. The Rhea Sylvia EP was written by Matthew for a band he and Mitch were doing together. When Mitch moved away he recorded the songs acoustically and then Thou took them over and made them heavier. So these things just sort of happened organically, but also with very specific intent.
Have a listen to “Non-Entity,” off of the Rhea Sylvia EP.
The recent EPs, as well as Magus itself, see the return of Emily McWilliams on guest vocals plus other additional vocalists including more voice time for Matthew. To what extent do you think a different voice or vocal approach can shape a song?
Wells: A different vocal approach can completely change a song. Take 311 for instance. Sometimes Nick Hexum will be singing and the song is super chill, and then SA comes in and starts rapping and the song is now a rap song! Having Emily and Matthew and KC and Melissa on the records has turned our rap songs into super chill songs.
How much of your music would you say stems from musical influences as opposed to non-musical influences (whether art, literature, or emotions/state of mind)? Are there any specific works within art or literature that have inspired Thou over the years?
Wells: I think it’s inevitable that the music you listen to in your day to day life will somehow work its way into what you’re writing. Whether it’s song structure or interesting chord progressions, that kind of stuff just gets in subconsciously. So, in that way, I think we’re just as musically influenced as any other band. Things like art or literature have more of a lyrical impact on us. Bryan, our singer, reads a lot of fantasy novels which he pulls from regularly for lyrics. There’s also obviously a strong political side to our band. Whether it’s gender politics, identity politics or what have you, we are pretty outspoken about the things we believe in.
Specifically, though, EM Cioron, R Scott Bakker, Grant Morrison, Thomas Ligotti, The Duplass Brothers, Anonymous Content, Ellen Jane Rogers, Julia Margaret Cameron, Jim Croce, and Father Yod.
Check out the sick visuals on the music video for “The Changeling Prince” pulled from Magus.
What other artists or bands would you direct people to if they told you they were fans of one of your 2018 EPs?
Wells: We could list a million bands here, but we’ll try to keep it brief: Busman’s Holiday (favorite band), Emma Ruth Rundle, Amen Dunes, Dream Decay, Lingua Ignota, Blackwater Holylight, Special Interest, Miserable, The Body, False/Flase, Moloch, Cloud Rat, Full of Hell, Try The Pie, Spellling, Blood Incantation, Hell, Durian Durian, Tispur, Busman’s Holiday (again).
The band play Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, The Netherlands as the Artist in Residence between April 11th and 14th, 2019.