Thousand Below explain their change in sound on ‘Gone In Your Wake’
Post-hardcore newcomers Thousand Below have been making waves with their infectious sound since dropping their debut album two years ago. The band are back with their sophomore effort, Gone In Your Wake, and they’re showing there’s more to them than just being another post-hardcore act.
“The way we were writing this time was a little different,” vocalist James DeBerg says. “We lost a guitarist right before we went into the studio. He did the leads on the last album [and] wanted to try doing things heavier at all times. Thousand Below were originally supposed to be a nonscreaming band. It was supposed to be a lot softer. But we were all homies, and he came in and didn’t really want to play super-soft music. I thought, ‘Well, that’s fine.’ Let’s do some post-hardcore stuff, and Devin [Chance, guitar] wanted things heavier, but he left right before we went into the studio. It’s not that we couldn’t write leads. We just wanted to try something different and have things that are more electronic and cleaner.”
The band’s sound isn’t shifting drastically into left field on the new record. However, the elements outside of the genre’s standard formula is more focused and softer than before.
“The first album only had one song on it without screaming, so with this album, we thought, ‘Let’s have a lot of songs without screaming to keep up the catalog diversity,’” he says. “We want people to be able to listen to our music for many different moods and many different types of people.”
Read what DeBerg had to say about each song on the new record below.
That was the first song we did with Erik Ron (Motionless In White, I Prevail) and our first attempt at anything radio-friendly. We wrote the record, and it was actually all done, but “Chemical” wasn’t finished yet. I thought it would be cool to see if we could pull off something for the radio audience.
I asked Rise if we could have some extra money so we could record a song with Erik. [He] had hit us up before recording the album, but we already booked up, so it was too late at that point. I’ve heard a lot of really good things about his recording. We went in there and did the song in two days, and that was really awesome. We went with a Thousand Below-styled radio song, and I think we did it.
We’re really interested in having a very diverse catalog and want all types of music. We want heavy stuff, soft stuff and everything in between. The new record had the songs coming out not softer but just not as much screaming overall. There [were] a lot of songs that we were writing and thought it shouldn’t have screaming on them. We just did that with way more songs than we thought we were going to. We wanted to keep the diversity of the catalog going, though, so we wanted to write a really heavy, high-energy and chaotic song that could start off our live set. It’s first in our set right now.
3. “Fake Smile”
That song’s about that feeling when you’re in public and feeling down about pretty much anything in any way. You feel like you’re burdening your friends or whatever in public, and you just have to do that, and it sucks. We had that written pretty much and tossed around ideas for a while. I had those lyrics written for a long time. The whole song concept had been written for a while, and it felt like the song to put it to, so I made it come out for that one. It was probably four or five months prior to recording it [that] I had it done. Sometimes I have song ideas that I write down, [and] I’ll write it out without an instrumental idea and find that later. It’s like a puzzle game in a way.
4. “Alone (Out Of My Head)”
This was another one of those songs where we were writing it in the studio and built the hook, and I thought it was great. It has a really open and big chorus, and the lyrics felt really emotional and good on the song. It was one of those things where I felt I was working the verses and talking to our producer, who said he felt it didn’t need screaming in it, and I thought it didn’t really, either. I’d be doing it just to have it and say that I did, and we didn’t really want that. If a song is a soft song, we wanted it to be soft on this record. We weren’t scared of doing that. Me and our producer thought, “Let’s make this one really out of pocket, like a soft emo-rock song,” so that’s how that happened.
5. “The Edge Of Your Bed” (feat. Michael McGough)
I was essentially thinking I want an acoustic song on the album and essentially crying about it the whole time. [Laughs.] Back in the day, bands would put out albums, and there was always that one acoustic song on the album, and to me, those were always really special songs on the album. Me and our producer were staying up late one night and just jamming out when we had this theory that if we could make a song catchy on an acoustic guitar, it’s always going to be more catchy than a normal song. We wrote that chorus acoustically and started playing it out with a full band, and I was thinking, “This is way catchier as an acoustic song,” and he thought the same thing. He didn’t want to force us over to it, but I definitely wanted to do that, so we just did it. It feels better as an acoustic song from the lyrics and riffs, and we felt people would be able to take something from it.
We wanted to make an album that is easy to listen to. It starts out high energy with the first three songs, then it goes down, and we wanted to bring the energy back a bit just because we wanted something different. We didn’t want people to think we were completely abandoning the old sound. We just want to experiment and do that with success, so running it back to the old Thousand Below sound with half-and-half screaming and clean post-hardcore stuff felt good. We just tried to bring that old energy back, and when we first finished it, I thought this song sucks and really didn’t want it on the album, but after a couple [of] months, I like it a lot more, and it’s become one of my favorite songs.
7. “171 Xo”
The working title for this was “171” because it has a 171 tempo, but I wrote the song, and a catchy title wasn’t jumping out to me. There wasn’t an obvious easy answer for it that worked, so I was watching that show on Netflix called You where there’s that guy and girl, and it gets really creepy, and I think it’s just a really weird show about a guy who’s stalking a girl. That isn’t what this song is about, but I was trying to think of a song name while watching it, and the apartment number in the show is 171, so I thought, “That’s funny. Let’s make that the song title.”
8. “Learn To Lose And It All Gets Easier”
There’s this program called Exhale that the band started using where you can do really cool sound effects. Being As An Ocean told us about it, and we used it to fill a lot of the voids in the music, especially with choruses, because if you have lead guitar in a chorus, it can fight the hook, and we didn’t want to do that this time around. We were messing around on Ableton, and we were pretty high, but our producer made that really cool clean guitar bit, and as he kept adding stuff, it got bigger and bigger, so we just gave it a huge chorus.
The Bring Me The Horizon album had also just came out and had that song “mother tongue” that’s pretty much just a Chainsmokers song with a little bit of guitar in the chorus. We thought, “Why not, you know?” This song was supposed to be an instrumental outro, but it didn’t feel like it said goodbye to me. It felt like it said hello. The rest of the band suggested it be the intro. I said it was a weird way to start, so we built in vocals and found a place for it. It was just too pretty not to have on there.
9. “Lost Between” (feat. Marcus Bridge)
We were on the Never Say Die! tour last year, and it was Being As An Ocean and Northlane as a co-headliner and a bunch of other awesome bands, and we became pretty good friends with Marcus [Bridge, Northlane vocalist] on that tour. He was pretty fond of Thousand Below, and we were very fond of his band. We vibed really well the second we met him. They’re just a very awesome, talented and humble band, and we partied with them a fair bit.
We were in the bus one night, and Marcus said, “We should totally do something together if you guys are writing a new album.” He asked if we do guest spots, and I was like, “Nah, man, but just do one.” Me and him were talking, and it was like two in the morning, and I said if we’re doing something, I want it to be something people won’t expect. If people see your name, they’ll instantly think it’s some Northlane-styled djenty math-metal track. He was like, “Hell no, I just want to sing.”
I didn’t know which song to have him on at first. Once we had the song polished off instrumentally, I thought it was so cool. There’s this weird, big emotional mood rock feel, and when we had the instrumentals, I thought in my head, “This sounds like something that could be in Transformers.” We pulled up a Transformers slow-mo fight montage on YouTube and put the song over it, and it fit so well. The bridge was the weakest part, and I thought it was getting a bit stale toward the end. We got Marcus to go wild over that part, and it turned into this massive epic duet.
10. “The Other Side Of Things”
I wanted this song to be an emotional recap of the first record. It’s two years later. Let’s go back and take a look at one of the main concepts of the last record and [see how] my emotions have changed on that subject. Well, I wouldn’t say changed, but [those] really angry, frustrated, sad, depressed feelings on the first album lose their scalpel edge over time, and it takes time to understand the actual reality of a tragedy to sink in.
In the beginning, when tragic things happen to you, it starts off as anger and fear. A lot of those things were apparent on the first record. This song is a recap of that to just show how those emotions have smoothed over in a way. I can see that whole story in a different way now. We still wanted to touch on it, and it’s a subject I wanted to get out there because we still really care about that.
11. “Gone In Your Wake”
I don’t remember when it came together, but toward the end of the record being done, our guitarist Josh [Thomas] and the rest of us thought we wanted a cool piano track on the album. We had an acoustic song, we had a super-heavy song [and] we had an electronic song, so we just wanted to hit the full spectrum. Like I said earlier, we thought it was cool how bands used to always have a piano ballad on albums.
Those ambient songs are always the ones that are really special to me. This song was so emotional and sad, so it was perfect to end the album. I thought in my head that “The Other Side Of Things” is like the end of the record. But “Gone In Your Wake” is like the outro track. I felt like that was a really beautiful, emotional way to end the album with those two songs. We wanted the piano track to show what we could do with just piano and my voice on it.