"Hiatus" is a tricky word. More often than not, when a band tosses the term out there, it's shorthand for "we're breaking up, guys."
Dustin Kensrue of influential post-hardcore, post-metalcore, post-pop punk, post-pretty much everything O.C. rock band Thrice insists this isn't the case when it comes to the band's impending vacation."Thrice is not breaking up," he states in a press release. "[We're] taking a break from being a full-time band."
So let's consider the "Farewell" title of the band's tour a tad hyperbolic — the way we should have considered statements by At the Drive-In and Refused about never getting back together. But a break certainly is deserved for the men of Thrice. It's been a busy 13 years for the band — guitarist vocalist Kensrue, guitarist Teppei Teranishi, bassist Eddie Breckenridge, and drummer Riley Breckenridge (who writes a column, 3hree, for our sister paper, OC Weekly). The band's first releases, namely the palm-mute fest Illusion of Safety on Hopeless/Sub City, earned them the attention of major label Island Records, who snatched the band up in the same emo rush of the early Aughts that found similarly emotive and/or crunchy bands like Thursday, Dashboard Confessional, and Poison the Well signing big contracts. The band released its major label debut, The Artist in the Ambulance, in 2003 (creating what is most likely the only major label album ever named for a Burn Collector reference).
But Thrice stuck to its philanthropic guns, even during the shift to the majors (and subsequent shift back to to the indies), donating a portion of proceeds from each release to a different charitable organization (including Invisible Children Inc. — before Kony 2012 and founder Jason Russell's unfortunate public breakdown). And they held firm to their creative ambitions too, allowing the Iron Maiden-meets-Hot Water Music sounds of their early albums to morph into a more subtle, atmospheric rumble. Kens-rue's lyrics, always rife with references to his Christianity and C.S. Lewis, were as complicated as the tricky rhythms and tempo shifts underneath them. With the four-EP series The Alchemy Index, the band assigned a specific element to each record, creating a sprawling, conceptual arc that had more in common with progressive icons like King Crimson or Yes than onetime label-mates Avenged Sevenfold or Samiam. The band's latest, Major/Minor, didn't feature the same united theme lyrically, but contrasted major and minor chords in a scientific way, adding an experimental element to the grunge-y ballads of the record.
The band's biggest accomplishment isn't injecting bloated '70s rock opera ideals into post-hardcore, though. It's the humble, consistent way they've injected substance into a genre that often focuses more on its shoes and board shorts.
"We've drawn influence from them, and it just fit together really well, and it was awesome because they're the most humble guys that we know," Johnny Dang, of O'Brother (who open for Thrice on the farewell tour) told New Times' music blog Up on the Sun. "Their attitude is amazing and their music is exceptional."
With the band taking a breather, it should give Kensrue plenty of time to focus on his other musical outlet, a career as an acoustic-guitar-wielding troubadour. And what do you know? He does his best to inject edge, thought, and evangelical mysticism into that over-saturated genre, too.