With their fifth album, Common Existence due to hit iPods imminently, Mischa Pearlman caught up with Thursday keyboardist, Andrew Everding about the state of America and the post-hardcore legends’ role in all of it.
First, let’s start with the new album, Common Existence. Can you talk a little about making it and the themes and ideas that inspired it?
“It took a year and a half to write and record the new album, and I don’t think any of us expected it taking this long. As much as we would have liked to write and record a record in six months and get back on the road it didn’t happen.
“Some of the themes have a sense that there might not be as much optimism in the world as we were hoping to have. While writing this record some of us experienced an ‘adult’ loss of innocence. In defence against that, we were steering the record as much as we could towards what used to inspire us the most – the spark that used to ignite us on stage.”
How does it feel having signed to Epitaph, after all the troubles you’ve been through in the past? And how did those difficulties hinder or inspire the band and the creative process?
“They are excited about the record, and we didn’t have to explain why they should be excited, which was what we had to do with our last record and former label. What we went through with the last label really put a dark cloud over the band. Without giving away too much personal information, we were starting to blame each other and it got a little ugly.”
How do feel the ‘scene’ (for want of a better word) has changed in the decade plus you’ve been together as a band?
“It’s sorrowful for me to take the ‘jaded old band guy’ approach to new bands, but it’s unnerving to hear the importance of MySpace numbers or Soundscans or how much merch someone sold. It wasn’t about that ten years ago. Much like the community of American life has disappeared in the past eight years, the sub-cultured underground response disappeared as well.
How have you changed as people over that time?
“As people we are getting older, we’re all progressing with our individual lives. Some of us have houses, children, spouses. We’re trying to find the balance of being in Thursday, and maintaining our natural lives. Being in a band kind of suspends time.”
Are you optimistic about life in America (and the world) now that Obama has ousted Bush from the White House?
“Yes I’m indeed optimistic about American life. We were watching the election unfold for the few months we were recording, and on election night (while we were mixing the record) most of us were nervously pinned to the television. Obama not only has to undo the Bush presidency’s fatal errors, he’s got the weight of his campaign promises and the responsibility for the elevation of community within the country. If anyone’s going to pull this off, I think this man can.”
Watch the video to ‘Understanding In A Car Crash’ by Thursday
You’ve talked about the need for bands to have a social conscience and be politically engaged. How much of a political voice do you think you have as a band? Do you find the emotional catharsis is more the focus point of the music, and the rest, like PETA, fall outside that category?
“We probably have a larger political voice than we realise. We put a pro-Obama picture up on our MySpace right before the election, and we got some unexpected unfriendly responses. A few messages of hate, and some people stating they would never listen to our band again.
“Live, Geoff is great at communicating with our audience about the band’s stance on political issues, and bringing to attention the things that matter to us. I don’t think every band should, or has to be political, but if there is something that you believe in, or there is something that you think is wrong, you should say so.
“The catharsis of live music combined more so with music that is emotionally charged can be particularly motivating. So the catharsis becomes a cathexis within the individual listener and if we’ve left them with a message, maybe they will do something, or have a conversation about it. It’s all part of a community.”
“We’ve stuck to interpersonal politics for so long, and the American public is at a crossroads of governmental and interpersonal political issues. The last civil rights movement is not being won and it’s a travesty. Sexual orientation is a discrimination in this country. It’s insane. California’s Proposition 8 was overshadowed by the battle between Obama and McCain. I’d like to make more mention of this in the future.”
Is there any song you’re tired of playing live? And how does it feel playing songs from Waiting or Full Collapse now?
“We don’t play anything from Waiting anymore, and Full Collapse songs are slowly disappearing out of the live set, but they always stand out when we play them live. It would be nice to let Understanding In A Car Crash have a night off, but we might be chastised for doing so. In all my years of Thursday, there was never a night when we didn’t play that song.”
How does it feel seeing bands obviously inspired by you soaring to phenomenal heights of success?
“Music is constant cycles of regeneration. We’ve been more successful than some of our influences. It’s not okay when bands are blatantly derivative. We can’t really send them a bill for what they’ve done, but I wouldn’t mind having a conversation with them about being a little more covert about it.”
Common Existence by Thursday is released via Epitaph Records on 16 February 2009