For the flannel-clad, bearded punk who gets sentimentally festive around the holiday season and just can’t get enough from his Chuck Ragan, Tim Barry or Matt Pyror playlists, let’s give thanks to DUSTIN KENSRUE. This week, the Thrice frontman digitally released This Good Night Is Still Everywhere, a Christmas-themed full-length ideal for the merry times–as long as you don’t mind exploring the theological and occasionally somber side of the holiday, as Brian Shultz talks about with Kensrue in this exclusive conversation.
You’ve previously talked about how This Good Night Is Still Everywhere was inspired by your love of Christmas music. Can you elaborate on that?
I’ve loved Christmas music since I was a kid. For me, it’s a huge part of the season and everything that goes along with it–both the secular side, which is decorations and the festivities that go along with that, and also from the religious side of me being a Christian and growing up in church and singing these songs. I kind of tried to encapsulate both of those loves on the record, and so I divided it into two halves: The first half being more the fun kind of Christmas-y songs, and the second half trying to find ones that I liked theologically and [melodically] and stuff like that.
So it’s almost like a conceptual progression from The Alchemy Index–by providing two contrasting halves on one release.
Yeah, I guess so. When I started trying to figure out what I wanted to put on there, it started dividing itself in my mind. It seemed like it could be more enjoyable to listen to–going in kind of a progression that way rather than bouncing back and forth, but I don’t know. Maybe I’m just really into splitting things up right now.
How did you tie in the two original songs, the title track and "This Is War," into the rest of the album?
I did one for each half and then closed each half with the original song. So the first half was the title track. The title’s loosely based on–well, it’s part of a line from a [Charles] Bukowski poem. It’s a song just talking about him late at night–it’s like 4 in the morning and he’s listening to classical music on the radio. It’s talking about how he knew when the good day came around that there’s gonna be a bunch of crappy things going on and it wouldn’t be peaceful. But he’s just dwelling in that moment and at night. A long time ago I had the idea to [use that] as a basis for a Christmas [song]. I really liked the idea [in that original line]–treasuring that moment there.
The "This Is War" track I had closing out the other half of the album, dealing with thoughts that–I don’t know. I think some Christmas stories are put into these very pacified terms. If you’re looking at it theologically what’s happening, this act of war–God entering the world and bringing light and mercy and all these things… Darkness… I thought it was interesting to look at it [that way].
You had Teppei Teranishi mix it–as he did The Alchemy Index and your last solo album, Please Come Home–so I’m guessing you find his skills a big help in that department.
I really like his mixes as they’re very natural. For me, it was especially nice, because I spend a long time recording. Hving him agree to do it, so I don’t have to worry about it, is a big relief.
Do you think there’s a lack of earthy, folk-inspired Christmas music?
I don’t know. There’s so much out there that it’s tough to sift through, and I rarely come across newer Christmas music that I’m really excited about–even covers. But I guess I wish there was folk-inspired Christmas music out there. I’m always kind of on the lookout for stuff. The cool thing about iTunes, though, is you can check a lot of stuff out and you can buy individual songs. Because a lot of comps that are put out are filled with a lot of fluff and I end up liking two songs and putting those on my playlist. Making this record, I was grabbing bits and pieces from different collections.
Do you think you’ll do any live shows in support of the album?
Yeah. I’m going to be doing a benefit show on Dec. 19 in L.A. for Invisible Children. So I’ll be playing some of those songs there for sure.
Are you having proceeds go to a particular charity from the release of the album again?
You know, actually, I haven’t planned anything like that because [this] was all thrown together last minute. So I’m not sure what I’ll be doing with that.
How much material have you written for the next proper solo album?
None of [the songs are] finished, but I have a bunch of ideas, [maybe] half the songs, but I have no idea when I’d be putting it out just because we’re starting in on the new Thrice record, and that’s a long process–getting that together and touring on it–so it seems like there’s never a good time for me to put out solo stuff. [Laughs.] But I definitely am going to, at some point, and I’m excited about it.
Do you think you’d want to take it in a different musical direction than Please Come Home?
It definitely won’t sound close to the same. I think it probably won’t be as stripped down, just because of bass and drums the whole time. I think it’ll be a little broader in the dynamics. I’m not entirely sure how it’ll end up sounding.
As far as the Thrice plans, how is writing going for that?
It’s going good. We’re actually working on some stuff right now. We’re in the initial phases, just trading bits and pieces/demos back and forth and messing with them. When we get home it’ll be cool-[we’ll] start getting into [it] and lay some stuff down.
So you have solid recording plans?
Nothing as solid anymore, now that we’re doing things on our own. But we have general plans to start recording some time in the new year.
I’m guessing you don’t have any more grand concepts in mind.
No, I think it’s gonna be more of a [shorter record]-not, like, 24 songs or something like that. It seems like a refreshing option at this point to be able to see it all at once rather than [immersing] yourself in that big of a project. [But] I really can’t say what it’s gonna sound like. [Laughs.] I think we’re almost as much in the dark about that as anyone else.
Well, I think if you were to ask the average fan, they would guess a stylistic mix of the four EPs.
Yeah, [but] I don’t even know what that would look like. [Laughs.] If it was a mix of those, it’d be a broad outfit of what’s there.
Is Vagrant gonna put it out or are you exploring options?
That is unclear at this point. We’re free agents right now. So there’s definitely a chance that we’ll put it out with Vagrant again, but our options are up [in the air] right now.
Will you go back to a major label?
Probably not. I’d say… Yeah. I’d say probably not. [Laughs.] alt