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Thursday: Kill The House Lights

At the culmination of Thursday’s set at the Perth leg of Soundwave, they will no longer be a band. Before the New Jersey legends take their final bow, BLUNT’s deputy editor Amy Simmons shared a beer with Geoff Rickly as the humble frontman reflects on the band’s basement days, the impact their seminal album Full Collapse had on the post-hardcore scene and staying true until the very end. Someone pass us the tissues…
You did a lot of interviews when you first announced that the band were breaking up, how are you feeling about the situation now that you’re approaching the final countdown?
It’s crazy, I’m so thankful that we are spending our last shows here in Australia, but it’s weird that our very last show is in Perth. If you had ever asked me, “Where do you think the last show that Thursday play should be at?” I would never have said, “Perth, Australia”. Nothing against Perth – Perth is lovely and all – but it’s the most random place I could pick for the end of the band to be.

It really is the end of an era.
Yeah it is; it’s almost 15 years. You know, I saw the whole underground music scene change around our band in 2001, 2002, 2003 – in those years there was a real change. In that way I feel really honoured that we are part of music history, and I’m glad we’re going out on a record we are really proud of, one that I really love, my second favourite record from Full Collapse – those two are by far my favourite records that we’ve done. I’m glad we didn’t just fade away and be forgotten on a bad record. It’s nice, I feel like we are doing it right, not doing it with a thousand member changes, it’s the real band still after all these years.

How does it feel to have created an album that shaped a genre?
I can only see it so well from the inside. For me, it’s an honour when people say that. I don’t think of Full Collapse and think, “Oh yeah, it’s Relationship Of Command, Shape Of Punk To Come,” for me there are so many records like that like – Drive This Seven Inch Wooden Stake Through My Philadelphia Heart, by Ink & Dagger, there are so many bands, you know, The first Heroin record, I don’t think of it in the same way because it’s my record. I’m glad that people love it, it means a lot to me when I see Thursday dove tattoos, when I see lyric tattoos and now that we are finishing I see all the time in my handwriting “stay true” tattoos. When I see all that, it’s really very humbling.

It must be overwhelming hearing everyone’s “Thursday stories” and memories.
It’s a beautiful feeling, I’ve been really careful to not let the whole thing become too overwhelming. I haven’t wanted to break down crying or get upset. To me I’m just trying to enjoy the end of the band the way I enjoyed the beginning and the middle. But, I have to say, the times where I’ve almost started losing it at these last shows was just the stories people tell me – and they are every different kind of story – like “I met husband at one of your shows”, to “my best friend was your biggest fan and when he died I buried him with your CDs” and things like that to other stories that are just as amazing like “the first day that I bought War All The Time I put it in my CD player and it caused a fire and my house burnt down” – just crazy things you can’t believe are real. And just to think that if it wasn’t us, it would have been someone else that lead people to their fates, I guess you could say for lack of a better word. Getting to be such a part of people’s lives – it’s unreal, you know. I feel like I’ve lived a thousand lives by getting to be in this band and it’s incredibly cool. Some nights I wonder if I’ll get to do anything as cool ever again for the rest of my life. The funny thing is I don’t think I’ll ever do anything as special to me as Thursday. I know that sounds sad, like “Oh, you’re so young, barely 30, and yet you’re convinced that the best thing you ever did is almost behind you now.” Even if I do something a tenth as cool as Thursday, the rest of my life will be awesome. It’s just like I can’t believe I got to do anything as good as Thursday, It’s really something that took me by surprise – it wasn’t planned, we didn’t want to be a big band, we didn’t want to have a career, we just wanted to play some basement shows with our friends, and ever since then it’s taken on a life of it’s own. It really has become something that is so much bigger than any of us. When we were making decisions about the band, we’d talk about when members were allowed to get married and when they had to be a part of the band. Thursday was more than a person to us, it was like being in the military or something – it was a duty, it was an honour, it was just a crazy thing. Until you’ve become part of a unit like that, it’s hard to imagine that something could take over your life. It’s pretty cool.

What sort of emotions and memories are stirred up in you when you play Full Collapse in its entirety every night?
Sometimes I feel like I only understand these songs now because I think a lot of Full Collapse was about writing about things that happen to you when you’re very young and you can’t make sense of, you know. Personally, that’s why I think it’s such a powerful record. I don’t think it’s because we are doing something so new, I honestly don’t think it had anything to do with being pioneers, I just think it was a really honest record about being a young kid who’s confused. And so I wrote about a lot of things I didn’t get, and I used all the kinds of language that people talking to me at the time, when I was a kid when all this stuff happened, tried to use post-modern theory and therapy and all these things that I couldn’t get my head around at the time, and so when I wrote those songs, I used the same kind of language. I tried very hard to make a post-modern record, and now looking back on it I get it. I understand what I was going for back then. The parts where I didn’t know what I was talking about I almost think are more powerful than the parts where I did because it was such an innocent record. There’s a lot of people who say they answer things in the form of a question, but I think I always question things in the form of an answer. I made all these big statements about how the world was, but I really had no idea what was going on. To me, that’s an important part of being a kid, having all this scary shit happen to you and pretending you know what’s going on, pretending you know how to deal with it, and just going forward, making up your own rules. That’s what being a kid is, right? In that way, I’m really proud of the record, the sound of a bunch of stupid kids pretending they knew what they were talking about.

Do you remember what it was like forming Thursday and the first years of being in a band?
Yeah, I remember putting together Thursday. I used to do all these shows in my basement, and I remember all the guys from Thursday would come to shows in my basement. I knew them; I didn’t know them well. I’d seen Tom Keeley (our guitar player) a bunch of times, and the thing about Tom is he’s tall and really skinny and you could tell he’s super smart, and I found him to be really intimidating and cool, and I really liked him. We ended up at a show that wasn’t in my basement, and it was one of those things where it was like, “Oh hey, what’s up?” He came over and he was like, “The next band that’s coming on now are going to blow your mind.” And I was like, “That’s cool, what are they called?” And he was like, “Ink & Dagger. They are going to blow your mind.” I remember them walking out and starting to play and the waves of power that came off of them. It was unreal – this chaos they controlled. I remember just looking at him and being like, “We should do that.” He’d be like, “Start a band?” I’d be like, “No, start an awesome band.” So we’d get together and play songs, then it was basically us convincing the rest of the band that they wanted to be in a band – they didn’t want to start band. We were like, “It’s just for shows here and there. You’re still gonna finish art school, and you’re still gonna finish film school.” No, not once Thursday takes over, nobody finishes any kind of school [laughs].

In an interview in 2004, you basically said Thursday was over due to inter-band turmoil and your health problems. What got you guys through all the adversity?
My whole band was like, “Dude, you’re freaking out. We understand why you’re freaking out – you think you’re gonna die, you’re really sick, but let’s just take some time and get better.” Basically said to me, “You know, you had seven days off in 2003, you went to the hospital on a day off, got discharged and went onstage with the IV sticking out of you. We don’t have to stop the band, we just need to stop going so crazy. We can stop playing so much, we can relax, it’s our band – we can’t let a booking agent or label or anyone else tell you what to do, fuck this.” And once they said that to me – we don’t have to do it – I was like, “Oh yeah”. It was crazy, in 2003 I had seven days off, seven. That’s no way to live when you’re on tour. It’s exhausting and crazy and obviously not good for me. The amazing thing is, once we started taking it slower, it’s like I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been. I get on stage and feel great, I sing so much better now that I’m not sick all the time, I have so much energy, at the end of the set I’m like, “Let’s play more!” instead of like. “Oh I’m gonna die.” That was a real turning point for me; my band really saved me. They really were amazing to me. I hope I’ve been able to repay that to them over the years.

With the music industry tanking pretty badly, was it getting harder for you guys to sustain Thursday as a career?
Yes and no. I mean the truth is some years are good and some years are bad. We all learned how to live on almost nothing for so many years with the band that it’s not an issue. You know, for us, it’s a passion. If Thursday was still making the best music of our career and no members had to stop – which is why we are stopping, there are a few members who had some personal issues and couldn’t keep going – if it was the whole line-up and we were still making music we were excited about and playing as well as we’ve been playing lately, I can make $4,000 that year and I’d find a way to make it work, you know what I mean. You just find a way when you love what you are doing – it doesn’t matter. Last year I made $10,000, you know how hard it is to live on $10,000 in New York City? It’s impossible. That’s not even rent. I got by working jobs at kitchen stores and selling guitars and selling art – you find a way, you know. The funny thing is: who cares, you have your band, you have the people you love. So yeah, it’s hard to make a living, if I had kids there’s no way I’d be able to do it because I’d put them first and their well-being, health and safety, but until you have obligations like that you don’t really need money. I know technically you do, but you can find a way to make it work.

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