Interview: Thursday Frontman Geoff Rickly
"We always just wanted to be Fugazi, but people saw us otherwise."
Thursday: Geoff Rickly is the one in the middle
It's been almost a decade since Thursday released their breakout record Full Collapse, the album that launched the "post-hardcore" band into a major label contract with Island Records. Once very much from New Brunswick, Jersey--they've cited fellow locals Lifetime as an important influence--frontman Geoff Rickly now lives in Park Slope. They've since left Island for Epitaph, and their first release on the new label, Common Existence, comes out this week. And though they still sound much too literate for the Warped Tour, they're headlining the Taste of Chaos Tour this month, which even Rickly admits is "kinda the same thing."
We spoke with Rickly over the phone, the day after fellow Jerseyite Bruce Springsteen played the Super Bowl. Rickly swore he didn't watch the game, but made sure to catch the Boss at a local bar.--Mordechai Shinefield
Your new album is called Common Existence. What inspired the title?
It occurred at the end of the record. I think there're some records you start with the title in mind. War All the Time [the band's sophomore album]--the title came before the record. City By the Light Divided [the band's third] came while I was writing the first batch of lyrics for the record. This one came while I was recording the vocals for the last song. There's a line, "It's the slip of the surgeon's knife/Darker crimes of common existence." I thought that I really liked the image and sound of it.
I can't help but feel like there's something hopeful about the title, moreso than the last albums.
That's interesting. We recorded it right in the thick of it looking like there was a chance Obama might lose. I don't know. I don't think hope had caught up with me yet, though I'm definitely feeling it now.
It's funny about you saying it's a positive title, in that there are two different perspectives. One is an older person, like my age or older, who thinks the title is inspired and upbeat. Whereas all the young kids think that it's depressing, that we're saying life isn't that special, that it's common, that there's nothing spectacular about it. I think that's an interesting litmus test.
They're seeing Common Existence as 'normal existence?'
Yeah, like whatever. It's common. Who cares? Who gives a shit about your stupid life.
That's interesting. I read you saying in an interview about signing with Epitaph Records that "It's a great feeling to have a label encourage you to be more socially conscious and politically active."
On Island, when all the people left Island, and we were left there with the second string staff that came in, they were very much like, "You guys are a band, man. Do your thing. Make music. Don't worry about that other stuff. Leave it up to the politicians.'"
Like, "Shut up and sing."
When we met with Brett [Gurewitz, Bad Religion guitarist and owner of Epitaph], he was just talking about how much he missed that stuff from us. He missed us being involved with different organizations and saying things on stage about human rights and gay rights and gender equality and stuff like that. It's been missing from us. It was really refreshing to hear a CEO--a boss--say, "You guys need to get involved again." It felt really nice.
What kind of involvement do you guys have planned?
We've been involved in a few organizations. One is Men Can Stop Rape. We think that's a really cool thing because it's sorta like a masculine approach to preventing rape and making our society less sexually abusive--making young men have respect for themselves as men without treating women as objects is a really cool thing. I constantly feel like even journalists always ask me about groupies and shit like that.
Another one is a human rights campaign. I think it's insane that things like Prop 8 exist in this world. The fact that we're still going through a Civil Rights revolution and we're going to deny rights to people because of their sexuality... it blows my mind. In 20 years there's going to be gay marriage everywhere. In 50 years we're going to think that anyone who's the slightest bit homophobic as being a crazy bigot.
Going back to kids interpreting your album title differently--do you still have a lot of really young fans?
I think a lot of really young kids are interested in us and hear the older kids on messageboards talking about us and want to see what we're all about. I don't know if they're going to pick up this record and be all, "Yeah, I'm all about this." It's not really punk enough to be rebelling, and at the same time, it's not poppy like Fall Out Boy.
Would you guys still feel comfortable playing an event like Warped Tour?
[Laughter.] Well, we're headlining the Taste for Chaos tour, which is kinda the same thing. It's smaller and it's more heavier bands than the Warped Tour. But yeah, I feel comfortable. I think catering to who you specifically think your niche demographic is shortsighted and not really that cool. I'd rather play for whoever I can play for. Have people throw beer at me some nights, and other nights I blow some kid's mind.