Keep Thursday in mind

September 19, 2003


Forget about "The Rising." On its brilliant third album and eagerly-anticipated major-label debut, New Jersey's Thursday has created one of the smartest and most moving surveys of life after the attack on America, all without ever once directly mentioning 9/11.

Images of life in the trenches permeate "War All the Time," but unlike their neighbor Bruce Springsteen, vocalist Geoff Rickly, guitarists Steve Pedulla and Tom Keeley, bassist Tim Payne and drummer Tucker Rule don't milk recent events for cheap Hallmark-card sentimentality, nor do they make the mistake of some pedantic punks who strive to tell us "what it all means."


*7 p.m. Saturday
*House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn
*Tickets, $15
*(312) 923-2000

One of the leading proponents of a burgeoning underground scene that some have dubbed "screamo" (for mixing the literate, poetic lyrics of emo punk with a harsher and more metallic brand of sonic thrash), the New Brunswick quintet first broached the mainstream with "Understanding In A Car Crash," the hit single from 2001's "Full Collapse." New songs such as "Between Rupture and Rapture," "For the Workforce, Drowning" and "Marches and Maneuvers" are even stronger, portraying life as a complicated series of draining battles -- from relations with other countries, to connections with friends and lovers, to the conflicts that rage within ourselves.

I spoke with Pedulla and Keeley (whose serpentine guitars often blur the lines between lead and rhythm) as the band was gearing up for a tour that brings it to the House of Blues on Saturday night.

Q. You were coming off an impressive hit on MTV2 and modern-rock radio and recording your first major-label album for Island. Was there a lot of pressure in the studio this time around?

Pedulla: We went through a lot making this one, that's for sure, but most of it was pressure we put on ourselves. We basically toured for almost two years on "Full Collapse," and we got home from the fall tour, took three days off, and then wrote and went right into the studio. So it was like pretty much nonstop, no breaks. By the end of recording this record, we were all pretty fried. But sometimes that kind of thing helps out: It makes you think a little bit less and play a little more.

Keeley: For all the time that we had in the studio, there were some crucial points where we were definitely rushed to the point where it detracted from the creative process. There were these weird deadlines. That actually was the one pressure that we did feel that we wouldn't have really felt before. But I think as much as it detracted from the process, it helped the overall feeling of the record. It's important to capture some kind of tension, especially in our music. A lot of our music is about tension and release, and I guess it makes perfect sense to have it kind of exist throughout the rest of our lives, and not just on record.

Q. Though you never specifically mention 9/11, those events and the mood in New York in their aftermath permeate this disc. Were they on your mind as you were recording?

Pedulla: Definitely. We were actually home when that happened. Obviously, being so close, it's overwhelming, and seeing it on TV, the thing that was so weird is we could see the smoke from our houses. I remember a couple of days after, we were like, "OK, let's try to get our minds off this and go to a show," and we went to see our friends play in Hoboken at Maxwell's, forgetting that that was going to be right there. We pulled up to park and it was like the smoke was still billowing out right across the Hudson River. There was no escaping it.

The parallel with "War All the Time" is we were just talking about how you see all this stuff on TV and it makes you think that it's not real, and you kind of forget that what it comes down to is a very personal thing and there are real people involved. That's part of it. I guess the thing is, we're not trying to make some political statement. We're not like a political band trying to make some big comment on 9/11 or the war in Iraq, but definitely that stuff influenced us, and it was in and around the time we started writing, so that kind of stuff was going to come out.

Q. In many corners, rock is now viewed as mere entertainment. That's never been the case in the punk underground. Do you think music still has the power to affect a generation--your twentysomething peers--the way that it did your parents in the '60s?

Keeley: I think it's inevitable that it will matter again at some point. It seems that's the cycle of music--that it matters for a while, and then it gets co-opted and mass-produced, and then times are fine again and people want to hear happy music and they don't want to think. That seems to be the trend, where people need to turn off. And then it turns around again.

Honestly, as far as we're concerned, even before everything went down with 9/11, we all just set out to write music that mattered to us and that wasn't contrived in any way. We just wanted to see how it would work. We weren't setting out to write a catchy chorus or any of that stuff. We just wanted to make music and do it in a serious way. And I'd say that if people are listening to us now post-9/11 and they're looking for something that is serious, we're not the only serious band.

Pedulla: I'm actually a little scared about [how the album will be received]. In the '60s or '70s, people weren't as afraid; all kinds of musicians would talk out against the war. But for some reason, now the Dixie Chicks make a comment and they're put up on a cross. Eddie Vedder does a little comment on stage about Bush and everybody freaks out at him. No one wants to hear anymore, and I think that's the problem. Probably because of the nature of the way these events unfolded, people's mind-sets are a little bit different, but what's unfortunate is they're not open to listening to the other side.

The way we feel about it is like Geoff will say on stage: "It's not our job to get up here and tell you what to think about the war or what's going on in the world right now, we just want you to remember that these are real people, they're just like you and me, and don't forget that." I was actually kind of surprised in a way at how many people were pro-war or pro all of these events that were going on. I couldn't believe it. I thought some of the people would be more angry about what was going on and not just accept that, "Oh yeah, that's the right thing to do." To me, it's not even so much that they're pro-war, it just doesn't seem like they're questioning, and I would hope that they'd be questioning whether or not this is a good idea.

Q. So the goal with "War All the Time" was to make your fans think?

Pedulla: I would hope that it could get people to think a little bit. If we're going to make mindless music, then I don't know why we're doing it. There's nothing wrong with pop music that doesn't say anything, but that's just not what we would want to do.