In an era where bands shuffle through multiple members, Thrice has managed to keep the same lineup in tact since forming in 1998. Thrice consists of vocalist/guitarist Dustin Kensrue, guitarist/keyboardist Teppei Teranishi, bassist Eddie Breckenridge, and drummer Riley Breckenridge.I recently interviewed Riley Breckenridge about how he found out their album Beggars leaked, the effects of the album leaking, his opinion on charting Billboard, fall plans, touring, setlists, baseball, and more
Can you state your name and what you do in the band?
Riley: I am Riley Breckenridge and I play drums in Thrice.
Thrice is starting their headlining tour, and I know you all went through personal problems with family members, but that you guys were open with your fans about what was going on. Was it an easy decision to open up your personal life about why the previous tour got canceled?
When we were out on our own doing secondary markets, like, smaller cities with The Dear Hunter and Polar Bear Club, that is when Teppei’s mom got real sick. We had two guys from The Dear Hunter fill in for Teppei because he had to go home and our merch guy Joey filled in also. At that point we were like, oh, we will just say it is a personal issue and he had to go home. Then people started asking questions even though I think it is not any of their business. When he (Teppei) couldn’t go to the UK we had to take out Nate from The Dear Hunter. Then we had to drop off the Manchester (Orchestra) tour, cancel that tour because of Dustin’s dad, we figured personal problems just was not going to cut it anymore, or family issues, or an emergency, or something because of how crazy the last eight months have been for all of our families.
I think it was better to be straight forward and explain with how dire the situation was for all of us. Let people know exactly what was going on so there could be some sort of understanding. We read stuff online, well a lot of the stuff, like 99% of the response was really supportive and definitely helped a lot. Our folks keep up with us on the road through our blog to a certain extent and for them to read encouraging stuff on there was really great for our families. Then there is that 1% of people like, ‘Oh you keep canceling tours, why do you tour at all,’ and it is just really, really cold and heartless stuff. Obviously that stuff sticks a little more than the supportive stuff but it was just time for us to be direct and let people know exactly what was going on.
This headlining tour ends middle of July, then you have a month off before heading overseas. What are you planning to do during that month off?
I think we are just going to go home and relax. Also, because of the situations with my dad and Dustin’s dad, I think a month between these two tours is going to be good to hang out with our families. We are all writing on an individual level now, just stock piling our ideas for whenever our next record will be.
Do you guys write on the road?
I think we write constantly. It is whenever an idea pops into our head. Out here, you have a computer with various recording formats that you can use. If you have an idea you can really quickly jot it down or record it to save for later. For me personally, when I am at home I can go into hermit mode and lock myself in my room for a while. It really helps me focus on ideas. It is kind of hard to do it out here because there is so much stuff to do, so much going on, and the focus should be playing a live show. Whenever there is an idea that I feel is worth while, I record it whether I am on the road or at home.
I know there are only a handful of dates overseas, are you guys going to maybe add more on?
Yeah, we are doing a bunch of festivals and I think we are only over there for two weeks. I think we are doing five or six festivals, and then five or six club shows in Germany and the UK.
After the UK, will you come back to do more US shows or go into recording?
In the US, I think, right now we are trying to figure out what we will do in the fall. Either some real special smaller shows as a headliner, or try and get on main support for a larger band. A lot of that hinges on how well this tour goes. We have our fingers crossed that something will make itself evident, like that is what we are supposed to choose.
You have released seven albums, a bunch of EPs, which is a ton of songs to choose a setlist from. I saw you went through it before your tour started, what was the process for it?
Obviously, because this is our first true headlining tour for Beggars, we really wanted to showcase that album. Show people what it can be in a live setting and I think it has been going over well. The difficult part is, because we have so many records, fitting as many songs as we can from as many different albums into an hour and a half set without it being totally scatterbrained. Our discography is completely all over the place if you back to our older stuff. From there to now it is all over the place. It is about finding a set that makes us happy, keeps us interested in playing live, and something that makes the fans happy. Playing favorites, playing stuff from older records, and something that flows well as far as dynamics go.
You don’t want to put something like “Deadbolt” from The Illusion of Safety, which came out in 2002, back to back with something like “Circles” off of Beggars. They are totally polar opposites. We changed our guitar tuning so many times over the years, it is more for guitar nerds, but from D Standard, to Drop C, to Drop B, to Drop A. It is all these different tunings. Finding stuff that flows so Teppei and Ed are not playing catch with their bass, with their tech, or guitar tech. That creates more downtime in the set, and takes away from more time we could be playing songs. We want it to flow, we are not a huge talking band on stage, there is not a lot of talking.
I like talking sometimes.
Yeah, but sometimes you go see a band and they have an hour long set that fifteen minutes of it is talking. You could have played five songs during that time (laughs). People that have seen us over the years, I think know our goal is to play as much music as possible in the time we are allotted. We will be engaging to a certain extent but it is not like we will be standing up there for minutes at a time talking about stuff.
Are you guys going to switch it up every night?
We have been. There are a core of songs that definitely is working where they are in the set. Every tour is different, you try out a set and see if it works. Then, you make little tweeks and changes and you might find a block of five songs that feels perfect. It flows really well and the dynamics are good. We have been playing nineteen or twenty songs a night. We have thirty to thirty-five songs that we feel comfortable playing. Every night something is a little bit different.
For the rest of your career are there any songs Thrice will have to play at every show because fans love it so much?
Not really, for a while it felt like “Deadbolt” was like that. We honestly played it at every show we played since we wrote it, which is probably since 2001. It got to the point where we thought, ‘You know what, let’s give it a break for a little while,’ and it is not to say we retired it but we are giving it a break. We are playing different songs from The Illusion of Safety that we have not played in a long time.
Songs that maybe some fans have not heard yet live?
Yeah, and so far if the first eight shows are any indication, they are really excited we are playing that stuff.
I also feel sometimes fans like to hear things live that are not in the normal setlist.
Yeah, it is so hard because you want to do what is right for band and you want to do what is right for the fans. On my personal twitter, I did a really informal poll, ‘If there is one song you want to hear us play this tour, what would it be?’ Instead of it being an overwhelming response weighted towards one song, during the first four hours that people started responding, there were 40 different songs chosen and none of the songs had more than four votes. (laughs) How do we make a set that keeps everyone happy when everyone wants to hear different stuff. Some people wanted, “Stand and Feel Your Worth” from Vheissu, or “Circles” from Beggars. Then, ‘I want to hear this obscure b-side that nobody has ever heard of.’ It is so hard to figure out what to play.
It is one of the biggest challenges. Every time we get ready for a tour, the first day of practice is always sitting in a studio and looking at a pool of songs. We think: how are we going to make this work, how are we going to make this flow, how are we going to keep everyone happy, and how are we going to keep ourselves happy. It is part of the exciting thing about touring is tinkering with the set list and seeing what works and what doesn’t.
I know Beggars was leaked early. Was it frustrating or flattering that fans did not wait to hear new music from Thrice?
I think it is a little bit of both. It is definitely frustrating because everything leaks now. I think Vheissu leaked three weeks early and I think The Artist in the Ambulance leaked a week early. Now everything leaks months in advance. We had just delivered the master copy; the mixed and mastered copy to Vagrant and maybe two days later it leaked. On a traditional label timeline, they want you to deliver the masters, then, they want three months where they can set the record up. They set up a marketing plan, do in studio videos, set up press, specials with retailers, and pre-sale stuff.
There is so much that goes into that, so, when it leaks right at the beginning of the three month window, it ruins everything. We had to totally re-evaluate where we were coming from. We had to make it available digitally as soon as we possible could through iTunes and that ended up being three weeks after it leaked. The artwork for the record was still pending. We were working through some copyright issues with the photo so we had to change that.
Will you use that artwork later on? Or was it specifically for Beggars?
he cover photo was a lady sitting at a dining room table at a banquet. She had this real dead stare into the camera and we thought it was really cool, creepy, and fitting for the subject matter on the record. We couldn’t get copyright clearance for it, which was kind of our mistake for releasing the album art early because we did not think we would have a problem. Then, we ended up having a problem. So yeah, artwork still pending and none of us had a copy of the record yet. It went straight from mastering to Vagrant, and we were waiting on our personal copies that we could listen to. None of us had it.
At least you could download it on-line.
(laughs) Yeah, but it was funny because we did these in-studio videos for the making of Beggars. It was about how we made it, and what our inspirations were. I put up the very first video the night it leaked and did a little blog post. The next morning, I went to check on it to see if people were happy with the video. I looked and there were like 400 comments (laughs). The most comments we ever get on a blog post is 150. I thought either people are really, really happy about this video and really excited about this record, or something awful happened. I started scrolling through the comments and learned that it leaked.
I called management and asked if they saw it and they said, ‘Yes I am on the phone with the label now, we are trying to figure out what to do.’ So, it was scramble and trying to figure out what to do. I think it worked out alright. It was weird because we had a tour set up right around the release of the new record. The support tour we did with Brand New was supposed to be right around when the record came out. There is really no telling how that might have affected record sales or touring numbers.
Is how well you chart personally important to you?
No, what is important to me is if people come out to shows and if people are having a good time. Interaction with people before or after shows in person, or interaction with people online are the real connections. There is really nothing gratifying about record sales or where you chart on Billboard. I get it is a cool thing. When I was a kid playing sports, if I saw my name in the paper, it didn’t make my day any better than it already was, but it was cool to see you were recognized. We are really proud of the record, and really happy it came out, and are having a really good time playing these songs live. As long as that is there, the sale numbers and charts do not really matter. It is definitely a good indicator if people are buying the record or not, but I care more about shows.
A lot of bands are trying to deter others from leaking their albums by, in a sense, leaking it themselves. Either by streaming the entire thing on Spin, NPR, Myspace, etc; Is that something you would consider for the next album?
Yeah, probably. I think we might be a little more guarded with the press copies. As soon as you turn in those masters, the label will turn in a password protected stream for major media outlets.
Or watermark it.
Yeah, and that is how ours leaked. Maybe if we wait a little while longer, obviously we will not get the pre-release press you would get if you did do that. It seems like nowadays as soon as you put out the watermark copies or streamed, it gets ripped or someone puts it up online. When Beggars leaked it was password protected stream on Vagrant’s site with voice overs on it. Every 30 seconds or something a voice would come on and say, ‘You are listening to Beggars,’ and that is not how we wanted people to first hear it (laughs). After we released it digitally people said, ‘This sounds weird without the voice coming on.’ (laughs)
You guys released some b-sides and the “Helter Skelter” cover with Beggars, was that planned or something added on?
No, that was added bonus to try and get people to actually buy the record. We hadn’t recorded “Helter Skelter”. We did have the two b-sides we were going to do maybe a split 7′ or save them for a compilation. We were having two remixes done for an iTunes single or something, but because of the leak we are like, okay, now we have to take all of this possible bonus content and make it with the original release of the record.
You released Beggars in a limited amount on vinyl, what are your thoughts with it being the ‘digital age’ and vinyl popularity rising?
I really like the whole digital age because, it is nothing to be proud of, but I am lazy. It is awesome for me to be able to know that the new Black Keys record comes out tomorrow morning and I can pre-order it on iTunes, wake up the next morning, and it’s already right there. I don’t have to get in car and go to a record store, which doesn’t exist anymore. It is so hard to find records. I’ll buy stuff digitally, and if it is a record that I love, like The Black Keys, Local Natives, or any of my favorites right now, I will go buy the vinyl or order the vinyl online. It is more of a collector’s piece and it gives me the ability to have a tangible product. There is something really empty about digital music to me.
One of the coolest things to me when I was growing up was my dad sitting me down and showing me his records. Even for me in high school or college, you would have a friend come over and say, oh check out this record. They are handing you something and not pressing play on your computer. It made me think when I am an adult, or I am an adult, but when I’m all grown up and a father, if I’m a father, will me sharing records with my son or daughter be me sitting them in front of a computer? Or will it be handing them a tangible product and say, ‘Thumb through these liner notes, and read through the lyrics.’ Stuff is changing and I think there is a way to be a purist about stuff with vinyl and tangible products; adapt to the way musical landscape is changing.
Thrice had the merch contest. Are you guys throwing out other ideas like that?
I think we will. Actually, I kind of “borrowed” (laughs) the idea from my friend Ben from The Dillinger Escape Plan. They have done a couple of contests and he was like, ‘Yeah do it.’ It is a really great way to get a design from an artist who is excited about designing. You are not hitting up some design studio or something. It is a great way to get young designers out there because you get a bunch of really enthusiastic designers who want to get their name out there and make something. It is a good way to get a better grasp of what your fans might want to see on your merch. It went really well and I think the design is actually doing pretty well for us. I think it may be something we may end up doing on many tours to come.
Did you guys cohesively pick the designer?
Yeah, yeah. We got a ton of submissions. Some were really good, and some were really bad (laughs). I think we narrowed it down to five or ten. Then we spent some time checking them out and trying to think about what would work and we ended up going with Josh Kenyon.
I saw that you blog. Do you think that is something you will consistently keep up with?
I definitely will. I did it anonymously for a long time. While it was cool being anonymous and getting to write whatever I wanted to write, I felt like it wasn’t reaching people. To be able to do something that I love to, which is ramble about minutia, then have it overlap with the Thrice stuff is really cool. There is a comment section on my blog which is pretty interactive and the whole twitter thing. It is a cool way to give people a more inside look on what goes on. You could do that on the Thrice blog, but I don’t want to junk up the Thrice blog with my take on…
Pictures of beer.
(laughs) Pictures of beer, or what happened in the Lakers game last night, what I did at the Angel game, or how I feel about fantasy sports. Each of personal blogs give people insight on what we are into as people, instead of as a band.
I was looking for your twitter and could not find it. What is it?
Yeah, it is /OfficialThrice. We don’t tweet that much. We try to keep that one more promotional and business like. There is some inside stuff, but we try to keep the personal stuff on the blogs. (laughs) My pictures of beer.
I was scrolling through it this morning and saw, beer, beer, beer!
Yeah, well I am a fan of beer.
So am I.
I think one of the coolest things about getting to travel is getting to try new beer, or new food.I am just trying out all these beer I have not tried before and it is an excuse to post a photo and then a short blurb.
What is a song you never get sick of hearing?
Probably “How To Disappear Completely” by Radiohead, off of Kid A. I went through a phase where I listened to that song every night before I went to sleep. It is kind of weird because it is kind of a depressing song, but at the time it was fitting for the stuff I was going through personally. The lyrics meant a lot to me, and it had a sleepy vibe to it, so it lulled me to sleep in a pretty good mindset. I think if I went into my iTunes and looked at my most played, that would be the song I have played the most. I am not even close to being sick of it.
What is something you have always wanted to do, but have not done yet?
Personally, I would like to take batting practice at Angel Stadium.
Yeah, or any pro stadium.
Did you play baseball growing up?
I did, and I played in college for a little while. Then, when I am home, I play in an adult league. With a bunch of dudes that played in college, or minor league ball. I love baseball, and as a kid always wanted to be a pro baseball player, but that did not work out. So, to be able to do that would be a dream come true.
Oh, I did read that! You stopped because of an injury right?
Yeah….the injury was kind of minor but the major thing was sucking (laughs). Not sucking, but not being good enough. I’m not sized well for baseball, and I have a bad knee, and a bad back. If you are 5’9” and 170 lbs, and you can’t do anything exceptionally, there is really no place for you in pro baseball. I gave up on that, but it has always been a dream of mine to be on a major league field. To take batting practice there would be unbelievable. I would probably crap my pants (laughs).
As a band, I am just so grateful to be able to do this, and have been able to do it for 12 years. Everyday is a gift. I can’t imagine doing anything else, and I can’t imagine anything else I would be as passionate about.
Do you remember the first time you realized, okay, I can make a living off of this?
Kind of. When we signed to Island, and they said, ‘You guys are going to tour 9-10 months out of the year.’ That is when I was like, okay, this is my job, but it is an awesome job, and a really fun job. At that time everything was moving so quickly that I don’t think I really thought about it. It just happened, it is what I did. When you are on tour for two months, and then home for a week, and then you are on tour for two months, then home for a week, then you leave for a month, then back for a day. It moves so quickly that there is not a lot of time to sit down a reflect. I think the only time you really reflect on it is when other people pull you out of it, and ask you to examine it.
Or when you are home and see friends who are like, ‘Oh I cannot believe you are doing this, it is so cool,’ and then you stop and think, ‘Wow it is really cool.’ When you are out here it is just like, find a place to eat, soundcheck, do some press, do meet and greet, play a show, hang out a little bit, go to bed, and do it all over again. There is not a lot of time to reflect. Over the years as we have started touring less, because guys have families and obligations at home, which is totally cool, but there is more time to reflect and more time to think about stuff. I think that there is more gratitude, not that I was ever ungrateful, but now I am just really, really grateful.
It must be nice to be able to take some time off, not constantly tour, and still make a living off of it.
It is very nice, yeah.
What is one of your favorite lines in one of your songs?
I am so bad with lyrics. There is some lyrics in “For Miles”, that was mostly an instrumental piece. It took Dustin a while to figure out what he was going to do lyrically. I remember as we finished recording Vheissu, we were listening to rough mixes in New York. Listening to the lyrics in that song, [I] was kind of breaking down. It was about friendship, love, family, and being willing to make sacrifices for that. It hit me really hard and I can’t even think of the lyric, something about shedding blood for your friends and every scar is a bridge to someone’s broken heart. They are kind of straight forward lyrics for Dustin, but they really, really hit me in the right spot I guess. It is the lyrics in the chorus from “For Miles”, but I cannot think of them right now.
If you could see any band or artist perform any song live what would it be and why?
That’s tough. A lot of my favorite songs are by Radiohead, and I have seen them multiple times.
I saw them at the Woodlands Pavilion in Houston.
It is like other worldly. I saw them below downtown San Diego, at a venue right out by the water. I was supposed to go see the show with a friend but they flaked and I ended up going by myself and standing in this open field on the water in San Diego with the sun setting. Thom Yorke is playing “Videotape” on piano and I was just crying like a baby (laughs). It was so good and the atmosphere was so perfect for it. Dang, I am trying to think of what else.
You can go back in time.
Back in time. I would love to see Stevie Wonder play anything in the sixties or seventies.
Any final comments?
Thanks to anyone that is reading who has supported us because like I said, we are really, really grateful to be able to do this. There is no way we could do it without people who are supporting us by coming out to shows, sharing our music with people, and buying records. If people have not checked us out and are for some reason reading this, please check us out.