‘Thrice’ is the charm: Interview

Matt Siblo

While chatting with Dustin Kensrue the lead singer/guitarist of California’s punk-metal poster boys Thrice, it’s hard not to pick up on the laidback approach and overtly polite demeanor that the West Coast usually affords. For those of you who aren’t familiar with his band, Thrice’s history reads like something out of the late 1990s punk storybook: Little band tours like hell, sells modestly on an independent label and eventually hits the big time with their major label debut. And in 2003 Thrice did just that, releasing their Island debut “The Artist in the Ambulance” to rave reviews and a massive mainstream reaction. When I caught up with Dustin, he sat down with me between dates on their current headlining tour to chew the fat on the important issues, such as the Clear Channel monopoly and banana pudding.

Matt Siblo: How is the current tour going? You guys haven’t headlined in a while … do you like it better than supporting?

Dustin Kensrue: The tour is going great actually. We enjoy headlining a bit more because we get to pick all the bands, which always makes for some great shows. This tour we’re out with our friends in Vaux, Poison the Well and Darkest Hour so it’s been a great time thus far. It’s a bit more stressful when you headline because you’re in charge to get to the venue on time … it’s just generally more responsibility. On this tour we’re out playing smaller venues than we usually would which is fun, but the downside being that not everyone is able to get in. We’ll be trying to hit all the places we missed on the Dashboard tour, but those shows will of course be a lot larger than what we’re playing now so it’s a different sort of show.

M.S.: How has your experience with Island been? Is it comparable to your stay on Sub City/Hopeless?

D.K.: Well, it’s definitely hard to compare the two. When dealing with the label, you’re always just in contact with a select amount of people. So it’s basically the same sort of relationship just on an extremely larger scale. In that sense, it certainly hasn’t been any less personal. We felt as a band that the move made sense. Sub City had done all they could to promote “Illusion of Safety” but ended up maxing out their resources, so the timing was right to make a change. There are a lot of perks, let’s face it. We got to record in better places, have our record be widely available. But there are also some drawbacks. There is definitely more pressure to produce on a major, but that’s something that comes with the territory – you just have to learn how to dance around some people.

M.S.: What would you say had the largest influence on you guys while writing “The Artist in the Ambulance?”

D.K.: Well, our tastes have grown faster than we were willing to follow musically. As artists, we’ve found ourselves filtering through the past and trying to rely less and less on what we’ve done and trying to do something different now. I think a lot of people will be surprised with what we do next. The next album we do will definitely have more of an emphasis on a more complex sound, with less of an emphasis placed on distorted guitar and more on the piano and keyboard.

M.S.: You guys are on the Honda Civic Tour this summer with Dashboard Confessional. How do you guys feel about the corporate sponsorship?

D.K.: I didn’t even know! [laughs] Is it? I think that’s kind of funny because I drive a Honda Civic. This was presented to us through our booking agent and I think it’s just a great bill. It’s us with Dashboard and the Get Up Kids opening, which is insane because they’re not even getting advertised for playing the tour. When did the Get Up Kids become special guests? [laughs] I think it will be an interesting tour; we’re going to try to vary our set and do some more acoustic things. I have a feeling it will be a good experience.

M.S.: Do you guys have a stance on the Clear Channel monopoly and the increased influence of the F.C.C.?

D.K.: Well, it definitely sucks and it’s nothing personal against the people who work at Clear Channel. It’s just that when you have a company that is so large, chances are there will be a lot of people who don’t really care about what you’re doing. When kids put on their own shows, it’s almost a point of pride. They view it as something to do and get involved instead of just formulating revenue. I have a lot of respect for independent radio stations because it takes a lot to do that these days. It’s funny because a couple of days ago I saw a billboard for Clear Channel and it had a had a man thinking and the ad just read “Caring.” I found that funny because being introspective and caring are two things that definitely don’t come to mind when I think of that company.

M.S.: What are you guys doing for the rest of the year?

D.K.: We’re just gonna go home, then head out on the Dashboard tour and then continue to write and record our next album. We’ll be doing one more tour mostly on the West Coast and then going to Leeds to make the record.

M.S.: Any closing comments?

D.K.: No man, I’m just sitting here eating my banana pudding and enjoying the down time.