In recent years Thrice have been so committed to pushing past their own creative boundaries and bringing life to their bold, far-reaching vision, they were long overdue for a return to where it all began: four players in a room. This is where Beggars was born.
Returning home after completing touring for The Alchemy Index, their groundbreaking four-EP concept album, Thrice—singer/guitarist Dustin Kensrue, guitarist Teppei Teranishi, drummer Riley Breckenridge and bassist Eddie Breckenridge—reconvened at their private studio/practice space and for the first time in years, found themselves with the luxury of playing whatever came naturally, with no preconceived direction. From the outset the vibe was a welcome change from the rigid framework behind the Alchemy Index’s element-based concept, and soon all four members were deeply immersed in the project.
“I definitely think after doing the Alchemy stuff we wanted to get back to more of a band-centric thing,” explains Teranishi. “We really wanted to just get back in the studio and be more of a band, and just jam and write some music born out of the four of us just being in the same room together and vibing off each other. This record is defi- nitely a product of that.”
The California-based four-piece formed in 1998 and quickly exploded onto the modern rock and heavy music scenes with their 2001 full-length debut, Identity Crisis, which was followed by fan-favorite scorchers The Illusion of Safety (2002) and The Artist In The Ambulance (2003), as well as the breathtakingly brilliant Vheissu (2005). The Alchemy Index’s Fire and Water installments introduced the album’s elaborate concept in 2007, and then Earth and Air completed the project’s scope in 2008. The band toured extensively in support of Alchemy, including a national headlining run with Circa Survive and Pelican in support, as well as high-profile support slots with Brand New and Rise Against, in addition to appearances on this summer’s Warped Tour. The band has plans to tour again with Brand New during a string of dates this fall.
Just as with The Alchemy Index, Thrice took on the challenge of tracking and producing Beggars themselves, hun- kering down in their studio for the sessions, with Teranishi once again handling engineering duties. Intentionally for- saking the digital wizardry used on Alchemy, Thrice began developing the new batch of songs largely through jam sessions inspired by the numerous ideas each member of the quartet brought to the table. The resulting tracks sound both “live” and organic, and effectively represent the band’s ever-changing aesthetic.
“There was a definite conscious effort to make the record have more of a raw and less produced, slick feel. We wanted it to sound like four guys in a room playing music together, and not this giant studio production,” says Teran- ishi. “This record is definitely more of a guitar-driven record, especially coming out of The Alchemy Index, which was a lot of experimental stuff, and a lot of synth and extraneous noises. There are hardly any overdubs on the record. This time we really wanted it to sound live and real.”
That’s not to say that listeners won’t hear touches of Alchemy Index’s influence within Beggars’ sonic landscape. There are definite moments where Beggars harkens back to its predecessor, particularly the Earth and Water EPs, most noticeably when it comes to the album’s strong rhythms and innate feel. For Thrice, every new album is a snapshot of where the band is at creatively at a given moment, and the group’s current sound simply wouldn’t have been possible had the foundation not been set by those earlier recordings.
“The Earth EP was really bluesy, and the Water disc had a lot more mellow, groove-oriented stuff,” says Riley Breck- enridge. “Like on Beggars, a song like ‘Circles’ or ‘Wood & Wire,’ I don’t think those songs would exist if we hadn’t done the Water EP first. A song like ‘The Weight’ is almost like a rock band doing a version of a song that might’ve
appeared on the Earth EP.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Thrice album if there weren’t just as many compelling ideas being explored through Ken- srue’s lyrics. The singer/guitarist’s penchant for existential debate is given its proper attention throughout Beggars’ 10 tracks, which often hinge upon the central concept conveyed by the title track.
“The core concept that underlies much of the record is fleshed out in the title track,’” says Kensrue. “Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the idea of how much we take credit for, and how we don’t appreciate how every- thing is a gift in life. That’s been huge for me…. The concept was originally based off Martin Luther’s last words: ‘We are beggars, this is true.’ My friend told me that a couple of years ago and it’s really stuck with me.”
When Beggars was first announced, Kensrue stated, “I feel that we are at most times deluded in thinking that we are totally responsible for our circumstances, but in the end almost everything is beyond our control to a high degree and we can’t even be sure we will wake up tomorrow. Whether you believe that God created you for a purpose, or that the world is governed by blind chance, everything in life is a gift at its core.”
Beggars begins in dramatic fashion with the opener “All The World Is Mad,” which is as melodic as it is dark, and provides the basis for all that follows. “In the context of the rest of the record, ‘All The World,’ is almost a starting place for forming a worldview: realizing that everything is broken; something’s not right,” Kensrue says.
“You’re going to the darkest moment at the beginning of the record, and letting some things get worked out from that point.”
Another artistic high point is the piano-driven “Doublespeak,” which once again captures the band exploring interest- ing new grooves and feels with their music, while Kensrue issues a sonic wakeup call to all those who continue to live life with blinders on.
“‘Doublespeak,’ in a broader sense, is about the way we are afraid to ask certain questions or let certain questions be asked,” states Kensrue. “I think we’re afraid of the answers sometimes, and we’re very comfortable with our lives and we don’t want anything to shake that up….There are things going on that I think most of us wouldn’t agree with, but we don’t really want to know about them, so we look the other way.”
Thrice aren’t afraid to ask such questions, nor do they fear the ever-present winds of change. As fans know all too well, every new release from the band is like a new chapter in Thrice’s incredible ongoing story, and half the fun as a listener is experiencing each new adventure as it unfolds. Fans can always expect the unexpected, but can also take comfort in knowing that in the end, Thrice is a band that has always remained true to their calling.
“We’ve always just kind of done our own thing, and hoped people would appreciate it,” says Riley Breckenridge. “Luckily they have, and that’s something we’re really, really grateful for.”
“We’re pretty lucky to have listeners who really get what we’re doing, or what the band is about,” adds Teranishi. “They’re always excited to go on the next journey with us.”