Evolving & Innovating: We Caught Up with Riley Breckenridge Of Thrice

Guess what? Thrice are definitely back! After going on a hiatus, the quartet have returned with a brand new album and a brand new strength. To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere is sharp and intense, and sees the band at their best shape. Riley Breckenridge told us all about what went down before and after the hiatus.

Following your 2012 tour, Thrice went on hiatus and you guys said that the band was not breaking up, but instead just taking a break. Now you guys are back with a brand new album, so how does it feel to be putting out new music with Thrice?
It’s really exciting and it’s something I’m really grateful for. When we went on hiatus, it wasn’t something that I wanted to do, but I understood why the other guys wanted to do it. I was really sad and really disappointed when they decided to take a break. I was hoping that we would get back together and start making music again. Now that we’re doing it now, it’s very exciting for me and I’m just really grateful. I have a lot of fun playing and making music with these guys and to be able to do it again is something I’m really grateful for.

After the announcement of the band’s hiatus, you guys focused on other projects. What were you guys up to during that time?
Naturally, everybody went in different directions. Dustin [Kensrue, vocalist/guitarist] move up to Seattle and he was working as a worship leader and music director for a church up there. Teppei [Teranishi, guitarist] moved to an island just outside of Seattle and started I guess a company that makes leather good, like backpacks and coats, it’s really good stuff. He’s such a talented guy, he’s good at whatever he tries to do. He started doing that and it’s going really well I think. Ed [Breckenridge, bassist] started playing with a band called Knapsack and there were rumors of him joining forces with Angels & Airwaves, which is that side project of Tom DeLonge from Blink-182. Ed’s been working as well in making tables, basses, guitars and just trying to get into that wood working thing. He helped a friend start a coffee shop in L.A., he built all the furniture for that place. And for me, I got married, I had a kid, I did like a corporate sales job for about a year that really sucked. I started working as a drum tech for Jimmy Eat World and Weezer. I worked for an athletic apparel company. [laughs] I was at all over the place really, I was just trying to find something that I enjoyed and that could provide for my family and then I started a joke kind of a side project with some friends of mine. It’s like a baseball themed metal band. I did a bunch of stuff. [laughs]

So, you guys are back together and with a rad new album. What led you to decide that it was time to comeback with a new Thrice album?
I got a text from Dustin. I think he was at a Brand New show in Seattle with Teppei and I don’t know the specifics, but I think seeing them play and Dustin being with Teppei there I think it just kind of lit a fire under him and made him excited about the prospective of making music with Thrice again. He texted me from that show and it was like “Hey, I miss you and I miss making music with you. I think we should do it again.” We just started talking about playing some shows and then talked about making new music. I don’t know exactly what spark him to do that, but I’m glad that it happened. [laughs]

How would you describe this new time for the band looking back to your previous records?
It’s exciting. I don’t know how to really describe it… It’s familiar because we did this for 15 years before we took the break, so it’s familiar in that regard, but it’s also exciting because it almost feels like we can start over in a way, whether how we’re deciding to tour, or how we’re deciding to write and record stuff, or how we wanna think about how the band is perceived. It’s exciting to kind of have a fresh start because I think with anything if you do it for a long time and then you’re almost like obsessive about it, it can get a little stale or monotonous, so the break was refreshing and I think we’re all excited about just having a new fresh start for this band.

To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere is your ninth album. What was your mindset going into this album?
One of the things that we talked about early on was kind of focusing on extremes in a way, like making the quiet stuff that we were doing quieter than we’ve ever done it, or making the big parts bigger than we’ve ever done it, or making the chorus feel bigger that they’ve ever felt or just kind of pushing the extremes of what we’ve done. Writing this album wasn’t much different than the previous records. Everybody in the band writes on a variety of instruments and we kind of stopped title song ideas and once we got together as a group we kind of take and choose what we think might work and just go from there. It wasn’t that different of a writing process this time around, aside from us not having the opportunity to be in the same room at the same time very often, because everybody was spread out with Teppei and Dustin up in the Pacific Northwest. We just wanted to focus on those extremes and just kind of see what happens when we start being creative again. I don’t think any of us really knew what to expect or how things would end up, but I think they ended up in a good spot.


“… it almost feels like we can start over in a way, whether how we’re deciding to tour, or how we’re deciding to write and record stuff, or how we wanna think about how the band is perceived.”

Would you say that something has changed during the hiatus that kind of influenced the writing for this record?
Like I said, the biggest difference was dealing with geographic challenges because in the past we all lived in the same general area and we could go to our rehearsal space and jam together as a band pretty much whenever we wanted to or whenever everybody was free. On this record, we started writing while we were doing shows last year. We had a weekend worth of shows we would have Teppei fly down here and try to schedule some writing sessions, either before or after we would rehearse to play those weekend shows. The writing was really intense during those times when Teppei was down here and then everything else was done kind of online, where we just shared files and kind of go back and forth building up demos online instead of figuring stuff out in the same room together.

The Internet can be such a great help in those circumstances and that’s really great.
Definitely! If we had tried to make this record before the Internet, I don’t think it would have happened. [laughs] It’s so easy to share files now and technology is so much better that it had a huge role in us being able to create even though we weren’t in the same area.

Over these last few years, was there a record or something that really had an impact while you were working on this album?
It’s different for every band member. We all have different tastes in music, but I think there’s a core group of bands that we all appreciate, admire and look to for inspiration, whether it’s a bigger band as Radiohead, or a smaller band like this band called Colour Revolt, or a band that isn’t playing shows anymore like Fugazi… I mean, it’s all over the place. There’s some stuff that I listen to that I’ll share with the other guys and they’re like “Oh man, I’m not into that” [laughs] and then there’s stuff that they’ll share with me where I’m like “I can’t get into this at all.” But there are bands that we appreciate like Fugazi, Radiohead, Cave In, Hot Water Music…

What bands are into that the other guys aren’t that much?
[laughs] I like really, really heavy music. I mean, I like all kinds of music, but a very healthy portion of what I listen to is extremely heavy. There’s a band called Cult Leader, they put out one of my favorite records from last year and it’s just the most brutal, aggressive, heavy, fast stuff that you could possibly imagine. If I played it for Teppei, he would be like “Oh man, this is cool.” If I played for Ed, he would be like “Oh man, this is too much for me to take in.” Dustin would be like “Ah, too heavy for me, too frenetic for me.” I’m a huge fan of Kowloon Walled City. I think Teppei and Ed like them a lot. I playedfor Dustin and he was like “You know, I’m ok with this.” [laughs] It depends. Dustin plays me like more recent Arcade Fire stuff and that’s not something that I would choose to listen to on my own, but I don’t dislike it. It’s like that with every member, we’re all like “Check out this thing that I’m listening to” and then one of us is like “Eh! I don’t know about that.” [laughs] There’s stuff that I like that the other guys don’t like, usually the super brutal noise rock or sludgy doom kind of stuff or grindcore. I’m old, but I still like that shit. [laughs]

All your records released after Vheissu were produced by yourselves, but this time around you had on board Eric Palmquist as producer. Why the decision to work with him?
After taking the hiatus and taking the break, I think a big part of it was we wanted to have somebody involved in the process that could kind of make sure that we were on the right track and also with the self-producing stuff, Teppei ends up handling a lot of the recording or actually almost all of the recording. He sets up mics and he sits at the desk working on mixes, working on recording, working on edits and it’s a lot to ask of him. It’s much better if he can just focus on being a guitar player and multi-instrumentalist instead of having to assume that role with different duties, so we wanted somebody that could be a producer, be a mixer, be an engineer and also provide an extra set of ears, and also be critical because, speaking for myself, I think after taking a break from making music together for what ended up being roughly five years I had reservations like “Oh man, are we gonna remember how to do this?” Having somebody that could kind of guide us and make sure that we weren’t losing track of things or make sure that we weren’t overworking ideas or parts… Just keeping us on track and encouraging us when we were doing things that were good and discouraging us when we were doing things that maybe weren’t the best idea. I think it was super helpful, Eric was a pleasure to work with and I think we made a really great record.

The first single “Blood on the Sand” was a great appetizer to what to expect from the album. What’s the story behind this song?
Can’t remember who’s idea that was. I think it might have been a blend of something that Dustin had combined with another idea that Teppei had and I think we kind of tried to channel some inspiration from Nirvana and maybe some 90’s kind of punk and alternative stuff. It’s not like super fast, but it has a good energy to it. I can’t answer this as well as Dustin would be able to, but lyrically the main take away from the song is that people tend to do pretty horrible things when they’re dealing with fear, whether you’re talking about war, or police brutality, or domestic violence or something like that. People who are generally dealing with a fear, whether it’s like an evident fear or something that’s like deep seeded in their brain or something. What Dustin’s saying is that he’s just sick and tired of people acting on fear when you need to act on love and compassion.

It’s really easy to connect with Dustin’s lyrics on this record, he’s so open about important issues. What can you tell me about the inspirations and ideas that Dustin wanted to convey on this record?
I think that the lyrical themes are more diverse on this record than any record we’ve done. There’s some that are politically inspired, there’s some that were written in love, there’s some legitimate love songs – not like sappy ballads, but just talking about caring for someone and being in love… There are songs about things that people struggle with, whether it’s procrastination or greed. There’s a variety of lyrical themes and I think Dustin did a great job with the lyrics this time around. He always does a really great job, but I’m really happy with the lyrics that he has this time.



“There are songs about things that people struggle with, whether it’s procrastination or greed.”

The track “Stay With Me” is one of the love songs that you were talking about.
That’s definitely the song that I was talking about. I think that one, and again, I can’t speak for Dustin, but the way that it affects me is talking about our imperfections as people and wondering “If everything in the world worked perfectly and everything about every situation was perfect in our relationship, would you still be with the one that you love?” This is really powerful to me. The first time I heard him singing those lyrics over the song it got me a little emotional. [laughs] Just thinking about a wife or a girlfriend or a boyfriend or whatever and wondering “If everything was perfect in the world and in your life, would you still choose to stay with me?

The sequence of the tracks “The Long Defeat”, “Seneca” and “Black Honey” is really impressive and those three tracks flow in harmony, both musically and lyrically. Were those songs made on purpose to be in that order in the tracklisting of the record?
Yeah, I think one of the things that we did as we were tracking this and talking about how we were gonna sequence the album was trying to make the album flow as well as possible and it seems seamless in a way. Every song kind of transitions into the next song. “Seneca” was actually a loop that I had built as a song idea. We never really turned it into a song, but it was something that we all really liked and so we were like “Maybe we can find a home for this on the record if we just turned it into a segway.” We were kind of thinking about the sequencing more on a vinyl level than on a digital level, so “Seneca” would be the end of side A kind of this dreamy outro and then when you flip the record over we start with “Black Honey”. It was really important for us when we were sequencing the record to make things flow and make it as seamlessly as possible.

It’s been four years since you guys have toured the US and you will be hitting the road in June with La Dispute and Gates, which is fantastic. Is there any plans for a European tour soon?
Yes! We’re going to play at Open Air Gampel festival in Switzerland. That show is part of I think it will end up being about two and a half weeks in the UK and Europe. There will be some other festivals and there will be some headlining shows, but I think I’m not allowed to announce that yet. [laughs]

Words: Andreia Alves // Photos: Jonathan Weiner – To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere arrives on May 27th via Vagrant.
You can also read the interview here:

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