INTERVIEW / THANK
Photo by Kirsty Garland
Thank are a Leeds band that I’ve caught a handful of times over the last year, and following their debut performance at Temple of Boom this month, I managed to have a chat with their vocalist, Freddy.
It’s been 7 months since the release of Sexghost Hellscape, and it looks to me like you guys have been quite busy since then, and I want to start by asking you about your recent tour in which you did a few dates in France. Was it your first time touring outside of the UK and did you enjoy it?
So that’s the first big tour we’ve done full stop as a band. We haven’t really toured the UK much, other than a couple of weekenders, and for 4 out of 5 of us it was the first time we’ve been to Europe. Jack’s been a couple of times with Irk, so he knows the ropes a bit. It was a really good time and we were put on with some pretty cool bands. There was a band called Crowd of Chairs from Belgium, I’d say they were approaching something similar to what we’re doing but a bit more ‘rock’, a bit more guitar centric. We played with a band from Rome called Metro Crowd, and they were really nice guys. It was nice travelling and finding these other bands that were coming from a similar place either thematically, or sonically.
How did you go about organising it? Did you contact promoters, or venues directly?
We weren’t actively looking to do any kind of ‘Euro Tour’ just yet, it wasn’t something we necessarily thought we were ready for, but two of the promoters contacted us independently of each other asking if we wanted to come play in France, and we were like ‘yes, of course’. So we booked those two gigs and we had Wrong Festival in Liverpool the weekend before, and then we just filled in the gaps. The rest of it was booked via word of mouth, we started asking around a bit. The guy that put us on in Paris, he knew the Rouen promoter, the guy that put us on in Gigors, he knew the guy who put us on in Lyon. We didn’t use a booking agent, it was all independently done.
Were there any disasters, say sharing the same bill as a King of Leon covers band?
Not at all, everyone was dead sound and it was nice to perform with bands we actually liked. We finished it off in Margate on the South coast, played in the basement of a pizza bar, 101 Social Club. The people there just kept continuously feeding us pizza while we were sound checking. They brought out a couple, and we ate them, then they brought out a couple more, and a couple more, until eventually we had to be like ‘that’s enough pizza guys’. The people that ran it were dead lovely, they said they like to feed the bands well as it makes us play better. We were like, ‘we’ll see about that’, full of fucking dough. We stayed in the oldest squat in France on one of the nights, it’s been there 35 years apparently. I won’t name it by name, don’t want to get them in the shit - ‘35 years and then it was all ruined by this one bloke from Leeds ratting us out’. We played in Gigors at this place which used to be a battery hen farm and now its a music venue in the middle of nowhere. We got out there and thought ‘this is sick, but no one’s going to come’, but then the gig happened and there was a good crowd and people were going mental.
You started off the tour at CHUNK and were back there shortly after it finished?
We practice there and all our stuff's there, so it’s dead easy to just drag it from one room into another. It’s nice to be at a venue where there’s no real regard for who’s making money, whether the bands playing are commercially viable or whatever. Our Theo is a real machine, he puts on all kinds of mad stuff. I love CHUNK, although there’s obviously slightly more stress in playing there because I’m involved with the organisation of things. In the back of my head I’m thinking about whether I might have to go and sort out a tripped fuse rather than just enjoying the gig.
I see, and that’s because CHUNK’s a member driven co-operative
Yeah, there’s like 40 people that are members that contribute towards the rent and upkeep of the building, it’s all volunteer-led with a nice atmosphere, a lot of our mates, and there’s a lot of people that really care about the space.
And this is your first Thank gig at Temple of Boom…
Lewis and I used to practice here a bit under the name Pink Rick.
Pink Rick, as in R-I-C-K?
Yeah it’s ‘punk rock’ but with the vowels changed to ‘I’s’ because we thought that was funny. It’s debatable whether or not that is funny, but ask me four years ago. We sounded like The Jesus Lizard, which was alright, but The Jesus Lizard is already a band. I like it at Temple of Boom anyway, and I’ve not played here as much as I could have. In terms of other Leeds DIY spaces I love Wharf Chambers, they wear their politics on their sleeves and have got a good approach to things. Also I love Danny, who usually ends up doing the sound when we’ve played there.
As well as Thank, you guys are also part of other bands or musical projects and I assume that’s partially so you can explore different avenues of creativity, like Puddin’ for example is a totally different kind of act than Thank.
Well, my mate James who plays bass in Spring King, me and him have been mates since we were like 13 and we used to play in bands together as teenagers. Puddin’ is basically an excuse for us to play together again. Whenever he’s in Leeds we just book out a practice room and write these really terrible caveman punk songs. We’re not trying to push any boundaries in that band, it’s very much ‘let’s be in a punk band that plays punk songs’. After Pink Rick imploded - which was a shame, I’ve still got about a hundred 7-inches in my basement if anybody fucking wants one - but yeah after Pink Rink imploded, me and Lewis really wanted to start another project together. We’ve been playing in bands together since we’ve known each other, which is about seven years now. Too many bands. We didn’t want to do another ‘rock’ band, that’s not really where our head was at. Lewis was very into the idea of doing something influenced by LCD Soundsystem and stuff like that. Something quite synth led with some sequenced elements and quite danceable. At the same time I was getting into White Suns, this harsh noise outfit from New York, and Doomsday Student. Horrible stuff. So Lewis was wanting to do something danceable while I was wanting to do something cataclysmic and awful, and we kind of jammed a bit. Lewis had written like 90% of ‘Taxidermist’, and I had written about 90% of ‘Petrol Head’, and we brought it to a practice room with Cameron on bass, who had also been in Pink Rick, and Jack on drums, and it sounded like its own thing and fulfilled both of our intentions. About a year after that Theo started playing with us as well, he is the noise man, playing some synths, samples.
It’s interesting that you guys seem like an appropriate band to be on the same bill as a straight up guitar band like Treeboy and Arc, who you played with in February, yet also appropriate to be performing alongside a harsh noise act like Soft Issues. Do you think it’s fair to say that you guys have a crossover appeal?
I’ve not got much interest in doing something that is just, total ‘noise’. It’s just not something that appeals to me. I love pop music, a lot. I get frustrated sometimes when I hear interviews with noise bands, like I love The Body, but I read an interview with them where they claimed something like their main influence is Beyonce, and clearly it’s not, that’s bollocks. It can come across as posturing, kind of performative, but I do really love like Lady Gaga, and Prince, and for me with Thank there’s still hooks there. To some extent Thank is like me and Lewis trying and failing to write synth pop. Within the last kind of 6 months I’ve gotten really into Xiu Xiu, and a lot of their stuff is horrible, but particularly on the latest album there’s a lot of pop hooks on there.
I feel that having your vocals high up in the mix on the EP brings a human quality to the noise, that allows people to engage and connect with it
I had to be persuaded to have my voice so loud on the EP. Something that’s important to me is to try and explore uncomfortable subject matter, but in a way that’s not alienating. I really hate bands like Brainbombs where it’s just like, well there’s an attempt to be shocking there, but I can’t work out the intent of it. It seems shocking for the sake of being shocking. So yeah I like to talk about uncomfortable subject matter but in a way that doesn’t alienate swathes of people, and I like to do it in a way that’s quite self deprecating.
The excellent Sexghost Hellscape EP is available to listen to over on Cruel Nature Records bandcamp.