Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #130. Subscribe to our print edition here!
Two decades into their tenure, Thrice are still the undefeated kings of post-hardcore. Ahead of their 2019 Australian tour, Matt Doria sits down with guitarist Teppei Teranishi to figure out just what their secret is. Photo by Gentle Giant Digital.
When Thrice make their way Down Under in February, it’ll be their first Australian tour in over a decade. The post-hardcore powerhouse last made the trek in September of ‘08, riding high on the release of their two-part (or four-part, if you wanna get fickle) epic The Alchemy Index. That was somewhat of a peak era for the band, their energy lucid and their beats blasting hotter than the Californian sun under which they were formed.
YouTube clips from the cycle affirm this – look at the way Teppei Teranishi would rip through a hook with no regard for his fingertips; the way sweat would pour down Dustin Kensrue’s face when he cleaved out the perfect scream. Ten years on, one might assume the combination of age and exhaustion have caught up with Thrice.
Except that it hasn’t. Four albums (and a short hiatus) later, the quartet are still raging on like angsty punks in musty basements, their newfound plush theatre dwellings be damned. Teranishi correlates his formula to the age-old ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality – when asked how Thrice’s live show has grown in the past decade, he pauses, chuckles, and quips his own rhetorical musing. “Is it bad to say that I’m not sure if it’s evolved too much at all?”
For a band whose shows are anything but, their modus operandi is decidedly simple. “We’ve always just kind of done our own thing,” Teranishi explains, nonchalant as can be. “First and foremost, we just get up onstage and try to have fun. We make sure that we’re trying our best to play with energy and have a good interaction with the people that paid to come and see the show, but there are no special bells and whistles to what we do.”
Such has kept Thrice at the top of their class through an impressive ten studio albums. And though all of them are diverse and dynamic in their own right, there’s one defining link that unites the Thrice discography: they’re all doused in ardour, off-the-cuff and unf***withably honest.
The trend continued with their 2018 LP Palms, which across ten fierce and fastidious slithers of raw passion, spans a full gamut of Thrice’s stylistic DNA. For Teranishi, the key to making Palms stand out was not forcing any gimmick or specific philosophy, instead riding with an attitude that capitalises on doing the opposite.
“I think we were a little more cautious this time to just let anything fly,” he says. “We gave ourselves a lot more liberty with things like electronics and synths, which we’ve included on records in the past, but we’ve also sometimes shied away from because we’d be thinking about how we were going to pull it off live or whatever. This time we were just like, ‘Well, we’ll figure that out later. For now, let’s just make the record that we want to make.’”
Take a song like “Only Us” for example – the album opener kicks off with a bassy, pulsing synth line, another track of spacey keys accentuating it, Kensrue’s vocals slathered in reverb and lacking the traditional drum-and-guitars scaffold until a scratch over a minute in. It’s untraditional – definitely not what you’d expect from the first track on such a record – but it works, because goddamn it, Thrice make it work.
“In the past,” Teranishi tells us, “We would’ve demoed that a million times over, and it would’ve slowly evolved into a more guitar-driven song because that’s what we knew would work best onstage. But this time, we took a step back and went, ‘No, this synth thing is cool. Let’s keep this going and see where we can take it.’ And so I think in that sense, we were able to push ourselves a little further in certain directions.
“When we start the writing process for any album, we all have these little, random ideas that we’d compiled throughout however many months or years it would be between albums, and we get together and start sharing different ideas, and kind of just start from there. I guess it just speaks for the eclecticness of our personal tastes.”
For the current live show, Thrice are utilising MIDI tracks for the electronic elements of their Palms material. On the guitar front, however, the backbone of Teranishi’s signature style of shred is shared between a standard Telecaster and a custom-made Les Paul Black Beauty, with the occasional pop-in from a Fender Jaguar Baritone. Amps can vary depending on the flavour of the month, but a classic Vox AC30 is always – always – a staple in his live rig.
“I’m always pairing the AC30 with a different amp,” Teranishi points out, citing the Supro Dual‑Tone and Marshall JMP as particular favourites. “For whatever reason, when you blend that amp with another amp, it just sounds really cool.”
Thursday February 14th - The Gov, Adelaide
Friday February 15th - 170 Russell, Melbourne
Saturday February 16th - Metro Theatre, Sydney
Sunday February 17th - The Triffid, Brisbane
Tuesday February 19th - Amplifier Bar, Perth