When AP checks in with Geoff Rickly, he’s coming out of (wait for it) a gym. When this writer teases him about having gone health-goth, the frontman for acclaimed post-hardcore outfit Thursday casually turns the dig into a reality check. “I was health-goth, but now I’m just trying to get in shape for Thursday, which is the most demanding thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he says. “It is physically the most demanding thing I have ever done. Getting back in shape to do this is just beating the crap out of me. [Rickly’s hardcore band] United Nations could have the potential to be more physically exerting, but I don’t have to sing—I can do what I want. I can leave out whole parts of songs if I’m tired.”
When reminded that during the Smiths’ 1986 American tour, Morrissey never sang the title of the song, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out,” Rickly pauses. “Ahhhh, I like that. That’s because he didn’t believe in America having boundless hope. He was like, ‘Nope, the light goes out. Fuck you guys.’”
All kidding aside, the recent announcement that Thursday would reconvene for a performance at Wrecking Ball festival in Atlanta, Georgia, this coming August was the kind of event to put the scene at large on notice. In the five years since their fragmented hiatus, the sextet—Rickly, guitarists Steve Pedulla and Tom Keeley, bassist Tim Payne, keyboardist Andrew Everding and drummer Tucker Rule—have become the stuff of underground rock legend, fueled by younger listeners only tangentially aware of the band’s accomplishments to the neo-grizzled 30-somethings refusing to buy any new records since Thursday’s last work, 2011’s No Devolución.
Right now, Rickly’s life is overflowing with responsibilities. He’s currently opening a New York office for the U.K.-based publicity company currently representing Thursday in the hopes to launch international media campaigns for various bands (“I’m not going to be a publicist; I’m just going to run the office”). He’s also going through the legal proceedings to formally dissolve his label Collect Records (“Certain circumstances made it so that all future investors got driven away, and I made all of the contracts so artist-friendly, nobody had to stay if they didn’t want to. Two bands said, ‘We’re fine here,’ and the other 15 were like, ‘No’”), plus he’s searching for a new label for his other band, No Devotion. (“I feel terrible putting those guys through another scandal, as if they didn’t have enough. I’m not giving up; I hope nobody else is.”) But as the other members of Thursday have carved out new lives for themselves (from retail, movies/TV production, studio session work, castle building), they decided the time was right to reconvene at Wrecking Ball in Atlanta the weekend of August 12 to 14. AP chatted up Rickly about the climate of reunions, the terms that made the Wrecking Ball appearance happen and how he really doesn’t know what their future holds. “We haven’t practiced since we broke up. There’s a lot to learn still.”
“The music kept getting better in my opinion, but the spirit behind what we were trying to accomplish levelled out and it became a regular old day job.”
Thursday have had a couple offers to regroup in the past few years. What made things different now? Straight up: Was the price right?
GEOFF RICKLY: There’s no difference between this price and the other offers we’ve had. Actually, it’s been insanely consistent: We haven’t had an offer for more or less of what we’d prefer. Wrecking Ball has determined what we’re worth and they’re not willing to talk about anything else. The difference is that we’ve spent time together, we’ve all hung out together and talked about it. We actually said no to Wrecking Ball four times; then they changed the terms about what we would be allowed to do around the show. We’re working with an Atlanta non-profit which is a women-of-color reproductive justice collective. We’re really interested in meeting with them, inviting them to the show, seeing if we can get them to table at the show. We really wanted to do things that we felt were right for us. We have this feeling that one of the things that went wrong with Thursday around the Taste Of Chaos time was that we got away from being a band for the people, who cared about social issues and the people who came to the shows and got into the groove of “this is what we do for a living, we’ll take the right offer.” For me, that’s what really went wrong for Thursday, and that’s why I began to resent the band by the end of it. The music kept getting better in my opinion, but the spirit behind what we were trying to accomplish levelled out and it became a regular old day job.
What Wrecking Ball did was provide us with several opportunities that will become evident in the coming weeks. I didn’t want our first show back to be some impersonal festival offer. I want it to be an up-close and personal DIY kind of show. There’s some interesting details to come out soon that I’ll want people to see, and I think it is going to be a regular fixture of our shows from now on. We have our own mission statement that’s internal right now; after we play our first dates, it will become public. I told our booking agent, Tim Borror, “The reason we’re not doing Wrecking Ball is because X, Y and Z.” And he said, “So if I can make those things happen, you’ll take the offer?”
Thursday had terms. The way you’re describing it to me, it was as if the band’s van was a cubicle. The music being made was great, but apart from the 90 minutes onstage…
Exactly. That’s where we had gotten to be. You hit the nail on the head. The other 22-and-a-half hours in the day were worse than [a day job]. I didn’t get to go home and hang out with my family and friends, be with my lady or eat a real meal.
Do the terms that Wrecking Ball organizers created for you mean Thursday can be the ideologically solid band they used to be and continue to function to be an active gigging band again? Will there be more dates?
Well, we don’t have anything else planned yet. We don’t have the door closed to anything. Personally, I’m not dropping everything; United Nations are playing fests this year. I’ll have other stuff going on.
So after the Wrecking Ball performance, Thursday are not going back into the ether?
It’s not going into the ether, but it’s also not going to be [adopts television huckster voice] “We’re back!” But then again, it’s not going to be, “Screw you, this is your only chance to see us.” We have no plans, and we’re not making plans to tour.
Is the chance of making new music off the table?
I don’t know. We haven’t even written anything or tried to get in a room and play yet. I’m not against it. We have differing ideas about that right now. We’ve sort of talked about it. We haven’t reached an agreement yet. We’ve watched lots of other people get back together in the last couple of years and we didn’t like a lot of what we’d seen in reunions. [Stridently.] “No, we don’t want to make a record! That band reformed and released that record and ruined their legacy!” Then there’s, “Yeah, but we’re going to write stuff that we like, so…” We’re going back and forth right now.
Thursday’s first album, Waiting, was released in 1998. That’s pushing two decades. A few days ago, I was watching that documentary Bastards Of Young, seeing how all the bands at the time were functioning before the world of major labels and big touring took it out of the DIY realm. Yet it seems that community surrounding the music wants bands to be in a state of arrested development or frozen in amber. In the ’90s, we thought Nirvana’s success was going to herald a sea change of consciousness regarding the underground, but that didn’t stop Bush from selling records. You come from the next generation who thought, “Ha-ha! That shit won’t happen to us.”
[Laughs.] Totally, dude.
There are respected bands playing rib cook-offs and county fair gigs now. Is the concept of reunions simply inevitable, hypocritical or motivated by something else? Or should new bands heed the “wait until it happens to you, fucker” warning? Are we the people we once despised?
Absolutely. I’m definitely at the point where I’m so glad that the internet wasn’t around when I said all the stupid shit about not trusting 30-year-olds. Because I don’t have to answer for those quotes, my hypocrisy is nice and covered up. But I definitely said all that stuff. I remember saying about the grunge bands, “Fuck them anyway. Who trusts 30-year-old men preaching to 18-year-old kids? That’s creepy.” And now I’m like, “Jesus Christ, what was I talking about?” I’m just playing music: Whoever likes it can like it and there is something universal about that. Back then I was thinking, “The people making the music should be the same as the people listening to the music.” I hated the idea of the artist proclaiming “we’re special.”
What I liked about music was that we were speaking about where we were at, which made sense to the people who were there. It wasn’t some magic thing: “We’re going through this, you’re going through this, here we are.” It was a sense of community, as well as ain’t nothin’ special about this, it’s just a time and a place. When you are doing songs that are over decades old and people are still crying over them, you start to feel like, “Maybe there was something special about it.” And it starts to challenge my “no big deal, it’s just punk rock” attitude. I find myself having to re-examine what I’ve said in the past. More than humility, but coming from a sense of humor. Like “How funny is it that I was so fuckin’ crazy about it back then, and now I’m seeing all my rough edges being buffed off.” [Laughs.] That’s why I have United Nations: so I can talk about how stupid I am in Thursday.
But Thursday were definitely the benchmark, the true embodiment of the term and aesthetic of “post-hardcore,” in that it wasn’t about being a tough-guy pit warrior or Puddle Of Mudd. The band delivered power and heart, which is why it meant something to so many people.
There’s something I hated at the time that I’m counting as a blessing now. At the time, I really hated the fact Thursday came up and inspired bands like Story Of The Year and the Used because I hated that [the scene] was turning into radio rock that was turning off the kinds of bands that I wanted to be influenced by us, making them do smart things with post-hardcore. [Those bands] would think, “It’s totally played out and whitewashed, I’m going to move on to indie rock” or this or that. I resented it at the time because I wanted to have a bunch of really smart, interesting peers who pushed the art form to another level. Looking back on it, I feel like maybe part of the the reason Thursday is so relevant and pure is because there was this radio rush and the smart kids stopped making post-hardcore. There aren’t that many great post-hardcore bands who came in the wake of Thursday doing this stuff. I think that’s why Thursday still stands up: There wasn’t a lot of great innovation in the wake of the band. And I owe that to bands that were more interested in radio hits—they helped preserve the vitality of Thursday. They chased away a lot of people from the form.
Who are you looking to see at Wrecking Ball?
I’m stoked to see my boys in Touché Amoré. Dinosaur Jr. Quicksand. We’ve got friends in Piebald. I’ve never seen Kathleen Hanna’s new band, the Julie Ruin. I haven’t seen the Promise Ring in a long time, and I love Nothing Feels Good. Drive Like Jehu is probably the main one because I have never seen them. Drive Like Jehu and Fugazi were the two bands we all agreed on when we started Thursday. It’s big.
As Geoff Rickly, private music fan, who do you wish would get back together?
Fugazi is my perennial wish. I kinda feel like when are they gonna come back and why is it taking them so long? Unless they are going to stay true to not playing—which in this day and age is such a crazy idea.