Q&A: Dustin Kensrue (Thrice)
Being in band for more than a decade can feed a group’s chemistry and in Thrice’s case, it can propel an album and a career to a whole different level. Before a gig in Toronto, singer/guitarist Dustin Kensrue discussed Beggars, music as an art form and going back into the studio in the near future.
You’ve had to deal with illegal leaks and personal situations throughout the last year. Has Thrice become closer as a band due to what took place?
Well we’ve been a band for a really long time. I think it’s our eleventh or twelfth year now. Yeah, it’s been 12 years so I don’t know if you can really say we’ve gotten closer because things have just been in place. We basically function like any family would with ups and downs and we actually get along really well.
When you live with someone on a bus for so long you have to be able to deal with each others quirks. Everyone’s been supportive of one another throughout various tough situations and canceled tours which is great.
Do you think your chemistry as musicians has changed at all?
I think it has changed a fair amount of over time, even with us just growing up. Riley was relatively a lot older than us when we first started but now that’s different as I’m not 17 anymore and the gap doesn’t seem that big. Making new records and going through all of that is going to change you as a group and it’s had an effect on us.
Beggars is a critically acclaimed album that’s been praised for its creativity. What’s one great thing you like about the record?
I like a lot of things about the album. I like the way that it moves because there’s a movement on there that’s not really present on our past releases. It was something we really focused on but at the same time it came naturally when we got together and played. I also like the tones and the way it sounds natural and raw as you don’t find that on many records.
If you were to change one thing about the album, what would that be?
That’s interesting because I feel like I could give you an answer if we were talking about any other record we’ve done, especially a year later after it’s been released. I’ve never really thought about it and that could be because there isn’t anything I would change. There hasn’t been a time where we’ve said we should have done things differently for a certain part. I’m pretty satisfied with it.
From your perspective, what makes a record perfect?
I think it’s kind of like a holistic thing that everything about it comes together. Music is very subjective and it all depends on the way you listen to it. Like a lot of people would think my favourite albums are pieces of trash. A masterpiece is something you want to listen to over and over again.
Though its only been a year since Beggars was released, have you started writing any new material?
Not as a band but we have been separately. We’ve been keeping track of all of our ideas and I think pretty soon we’ll go back into the studio and start writing and recording. There’s no release date or anything yet, but there is a plan to do it soon.
Have you given any thought on another solo record?
Yeah, I have a fair amount of ideas for it and I will work on it at some point but I don’t think it will be before the band’s next record. I just have to work out when the material is actually going to be released and when I’ll have time to record when I’m not busy with the band.
Your songwriting has always stood out through your career as a musician and was highlighted with the work on the group’s last record. What major artists influence you as a lyricist?
There are people that I really like but I feel as if I don’t write lyrics like them because you just become fascinated with their work and you question how they can write certain songs the way they do. I write a lot more structured while artists I’m a fan of tend to make their work a bit more vague. I love Leonard Cohen and I tend to draw from a lot of literary influences too like C.S. Lewis.
What would you say is one your favourite lyrics of all time?
Maybe from Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne”.
There’s a line that goes: “And Jesus was a sailor / When he walked upon the water / And he spent a long time watching / From his lonely wooden tower / And when he knew for certain / Only drowning men could see him / He said “All men will be sailors then / Until the sea shall free them” / But he himself was broken / Long before the sky would open / Forsaken, almost human / He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone”
I love those lyrics.
They definitely help individuals express themselves and the same can be said for music. Some see it as a career but can music itself be seen as a form of art?
I see it as an art form but I think those that see it as a career aren’t very wise. Its not an easy career and its not an easy one to get into. If you look at it as a career first, you won’t really be able to create. As a band, we’ve created the art first and pursued the career second and that’s the way we’ve always been since we started.
Where would you be today if Thrice never existed?
I think that’s almost impossible to answer. I think there’s so much developed from this life that makes me who I am. If the band fell apart when I was in college I would have accepted it because life throws you too many curveballs. I was studying design and philosophy and looking at that now, I don’t think I would have been completely satisfied in either of those areas at all.
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