[All photos: Keeahtay Lewis]
After a few festival dates last summer (starting with Atlanta’s Wrecking Ball fest), post-hardcore heroes Thursday have returned. It was announced earlier this week that the band—vocalist Geoff Rickly, guitarists Steve Pedulla and Tom Keeley, bassist Tim Payne, keyboardist Andrew Everding and drummer Tucker Rule—would embark on six weeks of dates starting March 28 with support from Basement, Touché Amoré, Wax Idols and Cities Aviv. Rickly peeled himself away from his parents’ PS2 to chat up Jason Pettigrew about what this tour means to him, from the set list to the opening acts to how he interacts with his bandmates. Spoiler alert: Rickly says the band haven’t written one note of new music, but they’re shining up some deep cuts for maximum psychic devastation.
This reunion tour was really jumpstarted by Thursday’s participation in the Wrecking Ball festival in Atlanta last year. The response was positive enough both in terms of crowd excitement and the philosophies of band life.
We thought that Wrecking Ball was going to be good, but when it turned out to be an overwhelming response [from fans] like, “Where’ve you been?” and “You’re the only band that gives me this reaction,” we realized that it’s not ready for us to kick in being a band again. But the fact that we never did one last U.S. tour—we should bring this on the road at least once. [The experience] was too good not to share a little more. So it was the Wrecking Ball experience and some other festival shows that kickstarted it.
But you didn’t amass a huge headline tour after those headline dates. Which conventional wisdom dictates as necessary if you want to ride the momentum.
The people that we work with wanted that immediately. “It’s working, you’re getting some offers, let’s go.” And it’s like, “Uh, no.” And then it’s like, “So when’s the new record?” And that’s like, “No, no, no, no, no.” We haven’t even tried to write a song. The attitude [in the band] is, “Let’s hang out together, play some stuff.” Nobody has ruled out more in the future, but we’re not going to get ahead of anything. Because we pretty much buried ourselves in it the last time that it didn’t end up being healthy for any of us.
Right now, I’ve been enjoying being in an older band. That feeling where it’s actually kind of special for us to play a show. That’s a feeling I like very much: Thursday killed itself from over-touring. It was something I tried to impress on the United Nations guys [Rickly’s hardcore band] that sometimes less truly can be more. Wait for the right opportunity, don’t rush it.
"It was my life. It was my passion. It was a lot of what I considered myself to be."
So you’re reconciling what the business side demands, the fans’ demands and your own personal experience of how a band of this stature really works.
Right. I spent so much [of my time in] Thursday trying to contravene business demands. It was all about trying to make it all work out in our favor. The business is the worst part! If you have to count on this to make a living or pull you out of a hole, you’re not going to enjoy it. It’s not going to be fun. So with Thursday, I’ve tried to take away any sense of business reliance. I know that hiring a manager will make us less money, but we’re not that good at the business stuff—let someone else do that. Let’s not worry about it: let’s go play music. Not trying to make a living at this has been very liberating.
There was a lot of that as well as this sense of… Let’s not kid ourselves: This is special because it’s rare. It’s not like we’re back to 100 percent where we were at the height of our career. Let’s slow it down, try to remember what it was that was special about the band. Even if we have to make mistakes. “Oh, that time we played too much old material.” That’s not what made the band special! Make it special, make it feel really good and let’s try to move some people and ourselves. If we can do that, I feel like maybe we can gain what we’ve lost in Thursday. I definitely have this overwhelming sense of loss at the end of Thursday: Not only was it ending because of personal stuff and it was too much, but somewhere along the way, something had been lost and I couldn’t put my finger on it exactly. But I felt it. It’s really hard. It was my life. It was my passion. It was a lot of what I considered myself to be.
So what was that very thing?
I’m not sure I exactly know. Let me see if I can figure it out. [Pauses.] It has something to do with the chemistry between us and the people that come to see us, the purity of the connection and not taking advantage of it. Not relying on it. Some kind of simplicity that was gone. That sounds way too easy. But there was something special about the approach that was more than “this is how we make a living.” Or whether people think we’re cool. Whatever. Let it go and love it.
"I didn’t want to have a tour that’s 30 white guys again, you know?"
It would’ve been very easy to do “Thursday’s Monsters Of Post-Hardcore Tour” with all your friends’ bands from 2005 as an undercard. But you chose a diverse lineup of support bands for this trek.
When I was still doing Collect Records, I felt it was important for me to be a champion of art that I thought was good, that’s relevant. I didn’t want to have a tour that’s 30 white guys again, you know? Everybody knows I’m friends with Touché Amoré, but Stage Four has moved me so many times, I need to be around that energy. They feel so much closer to what we’re trying to do as a band.
"The ideal fan is not because they like music—it’s because they need it. That’s what matters right now."
This tour seems like an exercise in doing things for the sake of doing them and nothing else. Managing expectations.
Thursday have never been ones to do things the right way as far as business is concerned. But I do think we thought about it a lot and now I have the attitude of this band feels important. Let’s go out there and do it while we still can. And if it is important, it will stand the test of time. If it doesn’t, let’s not be too concerned about it. I’m trying to leave it up to fate a little more than I usually do. I want [this tour] to mean something. When people say things like they were having such a terrible year, and they saw the tour announcement and thought, “Thank God this is coming.” I get what they’re saying: I get the same way about music. The ideal fan is not because they like music—it’s because they need it. That’s what matters right now.
"I can’t be as cynical as I used to be. I see it slipping away. And I do think it’s worth fighting for."
Where do you see Thursday fitting in the current cultural realm in America, especially in Washington, D.C.?
That’s a big part of why I wanted to do this right now. There’s a part of me that’s feels you’re ready to die because you believe in something being right—freedom, liberty, all these things—and someone’s making a mockery of it. Someone who truly has no belief in it, truly cynical, truly nihilistic about freedom and decency, all the things written into our founding documents. I can’t be as cynical as I used to be. I see it slipping away. And I do think it’s worth fighting for.
What’s the Sinclair Lewis line? “When fascism comes to America, it’ll be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” Only now it’ll have a black VISA card attached to it.
I guess he didn’t see how much money would be a part of it. [Sighs.] I didn’t either. alt