THUMPERS Turn Teenage Nostalgia into Joyous Deeply Layered Indie Pop
THUMPERS: Marcus Pepperell and John Hamson Jr.
When childhood friends Marcus Pepperell and John Hamson Jr. formed THUMPERS, they were in need of a musical escape.
One dumped, the other fired from his previous band, the London-based duo started putting together songs in pieces, working toward a deeply layered indie-pop that fits somewhere between the Polyphonic Spree and Animal Collective, with reviewers leaning to descriptions like exuberant, majestic and candy-colored.
"When I was away playing with other bands, Marcus had tried moving abroad with his girlfriend and that fell apart and he found himself back in our hometown. He was stuck amiss, where we felt like we were stuck as teenagers. And then I was fired by a band," Hamson says. "The initial thing was escaping being in a bad place. We went through the process of licking our wounds and it was a way to use music to escape these situations we found ourselves in suddenly."
Led by the singles "Sound of Screams" and "Unkinder (A Tougher Love)." Galore is a joyous rush of an album, brash and full-blooded, about growing up and the euphoria of new things.
"That's what its about, using nostalgia, talking about the first times you do stuff, going out and causing trouble as a teenager, remembering those moments that are so overwhelming," Hamson says. "We wanted to have this sort of naivety to the record that fits in with the lyrical content. I'm a real fan of when bands do that, when the lyrics and the sound are so linked up. Radiohead does that constantly, that marriage of the lyric and how the music sounds."
Now on their first U.S. tour, Pepperell (vocals, guitars, pianos, keyboards) and Hamson (vocals, bass, drums) grew up together in Warwickshire, two hours north of London.
"Marcus and I have known each other since we were 11 years old. We learned our instruments together and we had a history of playing in terrible punk bands and driving round our hometown playing gigs. Those early experiences forged friendships and made us want to spend a life doing this together," Hamson says.
The roots of Thumpers trace to an initially long-distance collaboration. After their previous band fell apart, Hamson toured with other bands, getting emailed demos on the road, in China or Australia, and started sending back suggestions.
"Marcus would come up with the main bare bones of it. It's very raw when he sends it to me. When I went home, we tried to record as much as we could in the three days I had off," he says. "We'll pick something apart, using the studio as our songwriting tool. That's when the experiment started, where we found our palette of sounds, layering drums and all of our production."
Hamson says he and Pepperell raced through their first sixth months as a new band on autopilot, finishing a handful of songs before they discovered exactly what THUMPERS should sound like.
"'Sound of Screams' is the seventh one we wrote out of that session and it was 'Oh fuck, this is exciting and scary.' It wasn't preconceived. It just happened. The approach initially was very haphazard and once we found the palette of sounds, it became clearer," Hamson says. "We learned how to use our influences. 'I love this and what's the best way to capture the spirit?' You aim for something and even if you miss you capture something."
Thumpers' debut Galore, named to tie in with the sense of euphoria and possibility contained in the songs, was released Feb. 11 on Sub Pop.
"We had that name pretty early on in the process of making the record and it helped shape the whole thing. It has a purpose and a meaning and it just fit what we wanted," Hamson says.
The album has nuance beyond the colorful - er, colourful - rush of its singles "Sound of Screams" and "Unkinders," particularly the slowly unspooling "Running Rope" and the pensive "Together Now," which close out the record.
"We love pop music and we love singles, but we definitely didn't want to make a record of 11 singles. That's why we made the record up front, so we could go to people and say 'This is our record.' We're not going to make an album full of "Unkinders," Hamson says.
"You try to make something and think of yourself as an artist, but as soon as you get involved in labels, in the UK especially, anyone who says they know what a hit is, is bullshit. We've been in bands before when it totally life ruining to be in that situation. We want to work with people who get us for the music," he says.
The early notice from Sub Pop was a sign to Hamson and Pepperell that Thumpers was definitely on the right track.
"Sub Pop is a big label for us in the UK as well. They got in contact within the first week of us putting something up and I couldn't believe it. All these other labels were contacting us and we tried playing it cool with them, but with Sub Pop it was great. You don't know how you're going to received by people and the fact that Sub Pop was involved so early on was such a confidence boost," he says.
Playing its first U.S. gigs this month, the band visits the SXSW conference in Austin, then through Arizona to the West Coast.
"America has always been a dream to come to for Marcus and I since we were teenagers. The fact that we're getting to come play there is ridiculous," Hamson says. "The fact that our record came out on one of our favorite labels is ridiculous. It's wild and it feels so great that we're starting to do it."
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