Artist Interview: Thrice’s Eddie Breckenridge
Thrice are currently on tour with Circa Survive, and working on a follow-up to their critically acclaimed album Beggars, which has been delayed recently due to some illnesses in the band members’ families. Before taking the stage at SOMA, their bassist, Eddie Breckenridge, sat down to talk with me about the new album, dealing with a leaked album, and what inspires him.
You guys are currently working on a new album. How much progress has been made on that?
We’ve been writing for a while now, but there’s just been crazy things going on. My dad passed away almost two months ago… I still can’t even really process that.
I did read about that, and I won’t dig into that because I’m sure it’s tough. But since you have all been writing separately for this album, has that affected your writing process at all?
I don’t really think it has affected it as much as I thought it would. I think… it’s just been a rough year. Dustin’s been having a rough year with his dad, it’s just been rough all around. I feel like a lot of the music we’ve been writing hasn’t really been dealing with what’s going on, it’s been more of an escape. It has a more energetic vibe. I’ve definitely written some mellow stuff, and dark, but they’ve either not been used or turned around into something that’s a better fit. Not necessarily into something upbeat, but just less sad, if that makes sense. The biggest effect has just been the delay. We took some time off, and rightfully so. All in all we’re about three quarters of the way through the writing process before going in and recording. We have about 11 songs, but none of them are completely finished yet.
You guys have always made an effort to switch up your sound from album to album. Will you be continuing that pattern despite the critical acclaim of Beggars?
I don’t think it will be some shocking transition or anything, but we do try to change our sound between records. Right now the songs don’t sound [like Beggars]. It will have a similar vibe as far as how it’s recorded… but I don’t know. I can’t really say right now.
On the topic of switching up your sound between albums, has there ever been any fear of alienating fans of a certain album by changing your sound on the next one?
I think usually the fear sets in after we finish… Not that we don’t think about what people think, but we’re pretty good at ignoring outside influence when we’re in the writing process and then it catches up to us after. I think when we did Vheissu was when afterward we were really psyched because it was more towards what we like to listen to, and I feel like we held back on Artist In The Ambulance which was really the only time we held back. Then when we finished Vheissu we were like… Uh-oh, this sounds different, what are people going to think? But at the same time, it feels good, because if we ever started writing towards other people’s opinions I feel like the creative drive would be lost. The creativity would be based more on other peoples’ expectation rather than what is possible, which would be a bummer.
With each album you’ve done, a certain amount of proceeds have gone to a charity. How did that idea come about?
It actually wasn’t our idea to start with. We did Identity Crisis ourselves, with money we borrowed from Dustin’s dad, then ended up having to pay him off and put it out through a local record store. Then the record label Hopeless came out to one of our shows and wanted to sign us. Then they told us about this other label Sub City that they were working on, and told us if we wanted we could donate 5% of our record sales to a charity of our choice. And it’s like… one, if you don’t do it you’re kind of a bum, and two, it’s just a really awesome thing to do. Like some of the other bands on the label that we were into were doing it, so we decided we wanted to do that. Then when we ended up signing to Island, that was actually one of the points we wouldn’t let go, that the label had to be alright with that in order for us to sign with them. With Beggars I’m not sure if that happened, but it’s definitely something we try to do, and we’ve worked with Invisible Children a lot.
Speaking of Beggars, that’s actually an album that was leaked really early. How did that affect you guys, and will it impact your process with this record?
Well we couldn’t really do anything about what happened. Basically what happened was as soon as we got the album back from being mastered, Vagrant put it on their back end, and somebody got access to that and leaked it to the internet. So we literally had no way of controlling that. It really sucked for us, because when that happens it’s harder to set up things like a record release show, or anything like that. So it’s just a bummer, like when you get somebody a Christmas present and they walk into your room and see it. We dealt with it, put it up on iTunes as soon as we could… It was just a bummer, but it is what it is.
Now you guys have often been labeled a Christian band because of Dustin’s lyrics. How many of you guys are actually Christians?
I couldn’t really say… I mean, I know Dustin is, obviously. All of us at one point have been to church. I don’t want to say anybody really is or isn’t because that can change at any point. I know that I, myself have issues with certain things, but I feel like it would be bad to state your position to where it would be considered your permanent position. Because if you’re truly seeking some sense of truth and you find something that might change that, then you’d be stuck in a weird position.
Yeah there’s definitely a tendency where once somebody makes a claim, they’re automatically put under scrutiny so they can be caught doing something that contradicts that.
It’s just a hard thing for a band to be labeled as something like that… I mean I have friends that are Jewish in bands that aren’t considered Jewish bands, even if they might have songs that deal with spirituality.
On the topic of songs, how does the band support Dustin’s lyrics?
I mean, there have definitely been times where we’ve asked him can he please write some songs that more people can relate to, and he does try to make it vague. Clearly some of the songs you can’t really make more vague than they are. It isn’t really a bummer though, because you need the singer to be singing about stuff that he’s passionate about. I think that’s hugely important in a band. I can’t imagine being in a band where somebody else would write the lyrics for the singer. It’s still possible for that to really be a great thing, but I think that’s how we treat the process. And not every song is about that, and there are plenty of songs that are widely relatable.
On a separate note, you guys are playing the Musink festival while on tour. As a fan of tattoos, I was curious if you have any, or would want one.
I’m actually the only person in the band that doesn’t have tattoos… hopefully I don’t get beat up (laughs). I’ve wanted tattoos, but I’m so crazy in my brain that I really like certain things, and then I really hate them like six months later. So that has been my reasoning to not get tattoos. I’ve definitely wanted tattoos that I would still love to have, but I don’t know. I just haven’t gotten any yet.
Switching topics again, you guys have been together for about 13 years now, and consider each other family. If any member of Thrice couldn’t do it anymore, would the band still continue?
No. I feel like I will always make music, but I would never carry on the band name because I have this issue with using things… I feel like I would be continuing on something that I only had made 25% of. So I would much rather just start a whole new band, even if it was only three of us, or some of us with an added member. It’s important for the entity to be what it is.
And after being a musician for so long, what have you learned about yourself as an artist, and is there anything you still want to improve?
Definitely want to improve in lots of areas… that’s a hard question. I guess I’ve learned that the practice of art is infinite, and that makes it kind of scary in a way, because if you run out of options or start repeating in some way, then you’ve lost perspective of that infinite creative expanse. I just want to constantly be inspired, and I hope that people continue to make music, whether it becomes less and less popular, or it becomes more popular. I’m extremely grateful that people continue to make amazing music that sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard, and that’s what I’m most inspired by. Like I can go listen to something that’s kind of pop, but that’s not going to make me want to go home and write music. So I guess in the end, I’ve just been humbled by music and art.