Thrice are nothing if not groundbreaking. For the better part of two decades, the O.C.-based four-piece have consistently rewritten the rule book for the post-hardcore movement they helped define. From the often emulated but never replicated sound of their 2003 breakthrough, The Artist in the Ambulance, to the edgy, progressive rock of 2011's Major/Minor, Thrice have remained a unique, confident voice in a genre defined by convention.
Which made it all the more heartbreaking when the band announced their indefinite hiatus in 2012.
Lead singer, guitarist and songwriter Dustin Kensrue needed a break. More than a decade of nonstop touring and recording had taken its toll, so he did something drastic. Uprooting his family from Orange County, Kensrue moved 1,200 miles away to Washington and took a job as a worship leader for Mars Hills Church near Seattle.
Kensrue recorded two solo albums with a newly acquired creative and spiritual freedom that allowed him to go places that didn't fall under the Thrice banner. As he explains, “The more you write and record, the more you’re growing in different ways. Writing outside the band let me explore many of the same issues but approach them from a different angle.”
In 2014, things got interesting. Myriad controversies rocked and eventually shuttered Mars Hills Church, leaving Kensrue to figure out his next move. All the while, a broader movement was growing within the post-hardcore scene, fueled by the fire of younger bands like La Dispute and Touche Amore and reigniting the popularity of many mid-2000s bands that helped define the genre.
It was a perfect storm for a Thrice revival.
A year later, the band officially reunited, playing a handful of one-off shows and festivals, including San Bernardino’s Taste of Chaos festival. They also started writing and recording again, newly invigorated by the sabbatical and the chance to creatively catch their breath. On May 27, Thrice will release their ninth full-length and first in five years, To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere, on Vagrant Records.
“Taking a break and coming back gives you some perspective,” Kensrue notes. “I always try and take what’s going on inside of me and what’s going on outside of me and throw it all into the mix when I’m writing." In a zeitgeist defined by Donald Trump, social media and smartphone infatuation, Kensrue had plenty of social and political material to inspire the new album.
The commentary on modern life starts on the album cover itself. “What’s interesting is that [the album title] is a quote from an old Greek philosopher named Seneca the Younger. I think that in itself is interesting because it seems like it was written for our time right now,” Kensrue says. “We have so many more distractions and things at our fingertips. Ways for us to disengage from the world around us. [To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere] became the background noise we were breathing as we were writing the album.”
While Kensrue's lyrics touch on broader themes of faith and politics, no doubt inspired by the political landscape and his time as a church leader, he hopes the album will connect with listeners from all walks of life. “I want my music to be engaging for humans in general, not just a specific subset of someone that believes something,” he explains. “There’s enough shared experience for us as humans to communicate meaningfully through conversation and art, even with people that you don’t agree with.”
Thrice will be touring this summer in support of To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere, kicking things off with a sold-out date on June 3 at the Shrine Expo Hall with support from La Dispute and Gates. A second local date has been announced at the Novo on Oct. 8.
Time will tell whether Thrice’s third act proves to be simply a reunion or truly a renaissance. Kensrue seems optimistic. “The vibe has been really great. We’re working together better than we ever have in a lot of ways.”
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Fans certainly seem thrilled to have them back, with many finally getting the opportunity to see Thrice for the first time. Hey, if they’re lucky, maybe the band will even play "Deadbolt."
Thrice's To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere is available for pre-order here.