Thrice and Manchester Orchestra: My two picks for Albums of the Year
The week of finals at USD last semester was welcomed with a series of holiday concerts hosted by local radio stations. Two of the most popular shows included acts that found success in 2009 as well as acts looking to once again see stardom in the new year. FM 94.9’s Holiday Hootenanny provided locals with indie staples from Phoenix, Spoon, Vampire Weekend, White Rabbits and a certain act that stormed onto commercial radio with their sophomore album Mean Everything to Nothing.
As a band, 2009 proved to be a year of growth for Manchester Orchestra. After 2006’s I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child had alternative news sources and underground bloggers going crazy, mainstream America didn’t really seem to catch on to the band (on this side of the pond) until after the album had begun to fade away. Yet the bar to their sophomore album was set high as more people discovered Manchester Orchestra and longed for new material.
In April of last year, the band’s new album was released to glowing reviews in notable news sources such as IGN and Alternative Press. Fans too seemed to love the album. It’s now easy to say that through solid music and a nonstop tour schedule, Manchester Orchestra is beginning to see the success they deserve after years of hard work.
Before their most recent show in San Diego, I had a chance to sit down with Chris Freeman, the keyboardist and percussionist of the band, and Jeremiah Edmond, the band’s drummer, to ask them some questions about their history and pathway toward this success.
One unique thing that Manchester Orchestra has done that is unique in the whole process is establishing its own record label. The band named this label Favorite
Gentlemen and subsequently released their EPs and first full length under this entity.
Lead singer Andy Hull and Jeremiah Edmond continue to run this label on a daily basis and after the band signed to Sony for their latest album, they worked out a distribution deal with and received money to sign other artists to this label. In fact, Favorite Gentlemen has grown so much recently that shortly after my interview, Jeremiah announced that he would be leaving the band to spend more time running the label. (Manchester Orchestra fans, don’t be worried at this news. Brand New’s drum tech Ben Homola and the Colour Revolt’s Len Clark are signed on to drum for the band’s next tour.)
With a show date already announced for March 7 at the House of Blues in San Diego, Manchester Orchestra will make their fourth visit to our city in less than a year. The band has been known to put on high energy, light and smoke-filled shows that leave the audience caught within the music. The aural experience is further deepened when Chris sets aside his keys to act as a second drummer for the band. The use of two percussion units is something that Jeremiah says came naturally for the band. Chris joined to play keys for the band but had a history playing drums. One of the band’s more famous songs, “Where Have You Been?,” actually has drums that were written by Chris. When recording the newest album, Chris’ drums were added at times to create a more full sound and to add variety.
Very close friends of Manchester Orchestra are the guys from the Southern California band, Thrice. These two bands were noted in the alternative music scene to have highly anticipated albums, perhaps even the top two of the year. As Thrice was in town for 91X’s Wrex The Halls holiday show, I was also able to catch up with Eddie Breckenridge, the bassist from Thrice to talk about what 2009 meant to him.
As Thrice had just played with Manchester Orchestra back east at a special show organized by mutual friends Brand New, I made sure to get Breckenridge’s take on the whole thing. Breckenridge told me that although the show was a logistical nightmare, everyone had an amazing time.
It seems as though it isn’t well-crafted, driving, yet lyrical rock that you hear about when talking about Thrice, it’s the band’s overall passion for giving back. Up until their most recent album, a portion of each album’s sales were set aside to be donated to the band’s charity of choice. For this album, the guys in Thrice wanted to give back to charity in a different way. For all of the dates on their most recent tour, San Diego-based charity Invisible Children served as a guest of Thrice’s, spreading information and selling merchandise to the fans.
Thrice’s most recent release, Beggars, retains the sound of Thrice that fans love while having a more upbeat and raw sound. The album itself is filled with amazing imagery and songwriting, as seen in all the other Thrice albums. Vagrant Records worked with Thrice to help the band build their own recording studio in the guitarist Teppei’s garage. This allowed the band to record on their own schedule while being able to spend more time with their families. The final result of Beggars is a modern day masterpiece, as the album lives up to the hype while driving the genre back to the mature and well developed place where it used to be.
Aired Audio Segment on Thrice:
Aired Audio Segment on Manchester Orchestra:
(Please Note for Man Orch Interview- It was done backstage in what was a quiet area until the White Rabbits started their sound check and Vampire Weekend walked by deep in conversation. I’m truly sorry about the background noise.)