Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

Interview by Deb Draisin

Irvine legends Thrice, now on tour to promote the triumphant end to their 2012 hiatus and last year’s eclectic To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere, were cool enough to loan me their bassist, Ed Breckenridge, for an enlightening analysis about their songwriting process, life on the road, and over-opinionated band managers.

Q: Right after the haitus, Thrice recorded and released “To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere.” Is that what touring had begun to feel like for you guys?

Ed: No, I wouldn’t say that it is. I feel like touring has done a lot of amazing things for us in a way that I feel really grateful for. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people, and see how a lot of different places function, comparatively, to where we grew up, you know? We grew up in Southern California, in a pretty suburb kind of place. I don’t know what my perspective of the world – or even the United States – would be if we hadn’t had the chance to tour. There is an aspect of touring that can become a little like “Groundhog Day”, where you wake up and you’re in another place, another venue, and you don’t really get to explore that much, because you’re always on the go. Touring has been not just a learning experience, but the ability to meet different bands, and see music being played live regularly in a way that the average person doesn’t get to see - hundreds of shows in a year. Even if it’s the same show every day, you get to experience live music – see how it changes and evolves – and you get to apply that to the way that you play. I really enjoy that, and I try not to take it for granted.

Q: Absolutely. At the end of the day, it’s a cool fucking job – hell of a lot better than a nine to five. So, this was also the first album that you guys ever wrote while far apart from one another. Did you find that experience to be complex or freeing? I know Riley has said that he missed jamming out in the studio together.

Ed: Personally, I probably liked it the least out of everybody, and that’s because I feed off of others. I find it more productive to be able to toss out ideas as they come to me, and bounce them off other people, then build off of that. When you’re recording a part, you tend to edit things down more than you normally would in a rehearsal space, where ideas are bouncing all over the place, and you end up coming up with ideas that you couldn’t do on your own. There are benefits to sitting at a desk and recording into a program- you can work out more details - but the process of bouncing off of one another becomes a lot slower. You have to record the idea, send it off, the other person has to have a reaction to it, then record that and send it back to you. In a rehearsal space, maybe you wouldn’t develop that idea in as detailed a manner as you would if you were sitting at a desk, but there’s also that feedback of the back and forth, and you develop the idea collectively. I do think that a good balance of the two is probably the best for our band, and we’re working on that right now with our new record.

Q: That’s exciting – how many songs do you have written so far?

Ed: We have a lot of song ideas – over thirty. We usually end up combining them, like “I really like this chorus part, maybe we can connect it with this other one that has a verse, or a bridge, or an intro. So we’re not at that phase where we know which songs are going to be the songs yet.

Q: Would it be fair to say that you don’t really know what the album’s concept or feel is going to be until you decide that?

Ed: Yeah, we end up having to distill ideas down – that’s how we’ve always done it, from the beginning. We take votes, in a way, like one person might say “This song really connects with me” and be the only person who really likes that idea, so it might be hard to get that idea onto the record, unless they can convince the other guys to include it.

Q: When’s the last time that happened, with what song? Can you remember the last one that you really had to push for?

Ed: Off of the last record, it was not so much a song, but a feeling for one and the way that it was played, was “The Window” - there was a lot of back and forth on that song. Teppei actually turned that song around. We weren’t really into it so much, and then he came back with a demo idea where everybody was like “Oh, okay, now I get it.” In pushing that vibe, he made what probably wasn’t going to be a song into something that made it onto the record.

Q: So, sometimes someone just needs to make a change in order to have a song make sense to everybody else.

Ed: Absolutely – and sometimes it doesn’t even have to be a matter of changing a part entirely, but how you’re framing it; what kind of feel you give it. Like, it could be the same chords or riff, but the way that you present it can totally change how it’s perceived by everybody. That’s hard to do, because, a lot of the time, when the original ideas come about, it could be a guitar part that you record with a voice mail on your phone, or something, and, unless you really frame it as you imagine the song to be, that part could go nowhere, you know? But once you record it, and are like “You need to play this part delicately, and come with a bang to the next part,” then everybody can really understand how you’re seeing it. If you’re just playing the part acoustically, alone in your room, unless you describe it or record it that way, you can’t really get that across.

Q: That happened with one of your more recent songs too, right? Acoustically, it didn’t work; you had to make it a little bit harder.

Ed: Oh yeah, “Black Honey.” The genesis of that song was forged in a demo that Teppei recorded onto his phone with an classical acoustic, with a throwaway part. When he came back with that, I don’t think that any of us thought it was going to be a single; it was more instrumentally driven than catchy. It’s cool that people have connected with it the way that they have.

Q: Are you guys constantly surprised when you get requests for it, like “Wait, that one? Really?”

Ed: Yeah, I think in the beginning, we were like “What? Sure…” That was one of the ones that came to us very naturally; we weren’t expecting it to be anything that would be played on the radio at all.

Q: I don’t think anybody ever expects to have a song on the radio.

Ed: (laughing) Yeah, I guess that’s true. A band is where it’s at because of the people writing the music, and if you start thinking about what will make it onto the radio, or what other people will like, you start losing the identity of the band that’s creating it, you know? Like if we’re writing what we want to hear, that is the identity of the band, and hopefully people connect with that, but if we start considering what we think other people might want, then…

Q: Then you’re selling out.

Ed: Yeah, that’s really brusque, but I feel like some people are more into marketing than they are into creating an artistic vision of their album.

Q: Yeah, basically, you’re KISS at that point.

Ed: Yeah (laughs).


Black Honey



Q: So, last month, you guys did A Concert Against Hate to benefit the ADL, with Geoff Rickly. I know that you guys try not to get too political, but even Dustin has admitted that this administration has made it almost impossible not to.

Ed: Yeah (sighs.)

Q: What’s the most distressing thing, to you, that you’ve observed about the current social climate in America?

Ed: Ah, shoot… that’s really hard to say, because people have a desire to twist words to suit their own needs, which is really scary. The things which scare me the most are ideas and principles which are built on contradicting scientific consensus. The way that the process works is that a bunch of people study something, and come up with statistics which narrow it down to this one thing. All it takes is one person to be like “No, that’s b.s..” and then build an entire movement off of a diversion, you know?

Q: Can you think of an example of the last time you saw somebody do that?

Ed: Sure: people pushing against that what we do affects climate, for example.

Q: The people who think it’s a hoax.

Ed: Yeah.

Q: Or maybe something like #AllLivesMatter ?

Ed: Well, yeah, that also is so scary.

Q: Yeah, it is.

Ed: The #AllLivesMatter thing is basically trying to divert somebody saying “I’m suffering” with “All people suffer.” What does that mean? Listen, and look at the statistics, and it’s right there.

Q: Yeah, it’s very dismissive.

Ed: Yeah, and I think that a lot of people are really upset with maybe where they are, or the choices that they’ve made, and the way things are going, but they want to be a victim, regardless of where they’re at.

Q: Very well said: I’ve observed that as well. How do you manage that, on social media? Do you get weird tweets sometimes – like squirmy ones? How do you guys like to handle those?

Ed: I have a hard time with it – I have a hard time posting stuff on social media at all. Normally, myself personally, I know that once you throw your words out there, that’s permanent, you know? It becomes a thing that’s there for everyone to see.

Q: And judge.

Ed: Yeah. I like to really make sure that what I’m saying is accurate, or backed up, or I really know how I feel about this, so somebody can’t read it in a way that they twist I say, and that’s, like, really, really hard to do.

Q: Really hard to do. That’s a really good segue into what it must have been like being in a band with Tom DeLonge.

Ed: Oh! (laughs) Well, I didn’t actually end up officially being a member of that band (Angels and Airwaves).

Q: Yeah, their Wikipedia page actually says “Status Unknown” for you.

Ed: Ohhh, okay. Basically, what happened was: they were going to do some touring, and they were looking for somebody to play bass. I knew one of the guys who did guitar tech work for them, and they introduced me to the band. I talked to them and told them what I was doing; that I was also working at another job. They accepted me as somebody to fill in for Matt, who was playing with them before and ended up having to quit. The tour that we were going to do ended up not happening, and I had to find other work. And then tours beyond ended up not happening, either, and it just kind of fizzled out. There wasn’t really ever a time where they said that it’s not happening, that it’s done, but I also had so many other things going on that it didn’t really matter to me, in a way. That was also around when the time when Thrice was on hiatus, so, in the end, it was probably good, because if we would have had competing schedules, that would have been really frustrating. I would have had to probably step out anyway, just to do Thrice stuff, you know?

Q: Yeah, for sure. It’s not easy to juggle several projects, although you did get to do Less Art, so that was cool. Is it exciting to blend minds with artists from other musical walks of life?

Ed: Absolutely. So, Thrice was the first band that I ever played in.

Q: You guys were kids – and you actually learned the bass to play in the band, didn’t you? Like, you learned on the fly – with a bum elbow, no less.

Ed: Well, the elbow functions, I just can’t turn my palm facing flat up on my left arm, because of an issue that I have.

Q: So you had to learn to play in a different kind of way. You had to learn to hold the bass differently.

Ed: Yeah, yeah. I don’t know; I think it probably doesn’t look as cool, whatever (both laugh.)

Q: You have to come up with a gimmick to make it look more interesting. What was that progression like: to be a person that’s never played bass before to a person who’s always playing bass live?

Ed: It was awesome, because I was thrown into a situation where the people that I was playing with were so much better than me. Like, you have to catch up, you know? You have to try not to hold everyone back.

Q: Not drag everybody down – and you’re the backbone of the sound too, the bass.

Ed: (laughing) Yeah. Earlier on, luckily, a lot of the music that we were playing was simpler. In a sense of playing with feeling, I think that I caught on fairly quickly, because I had a little bit of experience playing acoustic guitar. Just playing with those guys, and practicing a lot, I kind of dove headfirst into it, and got really nerdy about gear, and how to improve technique, and stuff like that. Somewhere down the line, I lost a lot of that, but it’s exciting for me, because I don’t know if I would ever have chosen to play bass if left to my own devices.

Q: And now you can’t imagine life without it, right?

Ed: Oh, absolutely – and the way that I was kind of thrown into it too, my influences are different. I wasn’t big on learning what the bass player was learning, I just wanted to learn how to formulate notes in a way that I liked. So, I wouldn’t say that I sound like a lot of bass players - I don’t know how you make this point. I was really into the way people would play things on piano, and then I’d mimic that on bass. Bass specifically seems like a pretty boring instrument, but your ability to apply weight - or the lack thereof - in a song or a part is really insane. If you play an entire song, don’t play any of the lower notes that you can play for the majority of it, and then, all of a sudden, you reveal them later, you can really expand what the dynamics of the song feel like. I really like playing with the adding of light to dark. If you saw a film that was really dark the entire time, and then added a scene where it’s really bright all the time, the juxtaposition between the two feels super intense, because you’ve been sitting in this dark spot. I feel like you can do that with bass in a way that you can’t do with any other instrument. The ability to apply that really cool dynamic is unique to bass, and I’m glad that I was gifted with this instrument that allowed me to learn that.

Q: That’s a fucking really cool approach to playing bass. I haven’t heard anybody explain playing bass that way since Billy Sheehan. Badass.

Ed: Oh, thank you!

Q: Yeah, no, that is a really fucking awesome way to look at it, and not too many people do, so…really fucking awesome. It shows in your songs, too. By the way: is Dustin and Teppei’s old buddy from high school proud that his favorite word became forever entrenched with your band?

Ed: Ooh, I don’t know. Probably. We haven’t seen him in a while, which is kinda sad, because he’s a really good friend. I do think it’s funny that the band developed from something that was kind of a joke in the beginning, but then, our band is pretty serious for the most part, in topic and in mood.

Deb: Yeah, it’s a nice juxtaposition.

Ed: It’s interesting, and I do like that the band, you don’t know what it sounds like.

Q: That is very true. Your guys’ sound is very hard to pin down from album to album. Anybody that was trying to come up with a classification for you guys wouldn’t know where to put you. I know that in your guys’ earlier days, you used to hit the circuit with dudes like Thursday and My Chem, so people would say “Oh, they’re like Thursday”, but you’re not like Thursday, and you’re not like My Chem either. You’re not like anybody.

Ed: I like that, and I feel really, really fortunate that people have supported us. The reality is that we’re kind of on a journey, you know? We’re figuring music out, and experimenting with it, and that’s where a lot of the joy comes in for us. When we’re writing, it’s like “What is possible with the music?”

Q: “What’s the next step: how can we push ourselves even further?”

Ed: Yeah, yeah, and the fact that people support us in doing that; you can’t ask for anything more. It’s the coolest, coolest thing ever.

Q: I was gonna ask: you guys are one of the only bands out there that have maintained their original line-up from start to finish, and how you did that – but I think you kind of answered that.

Ed: Yeah, I think that the idea of having a project where we never get stuck anywhere has made the band last. Nobody’s growing out of anything, or getting tired of anything, because there are no rules.

Q: Yeah, “no rules” is the fucking best way to do anything. Who the fuck wants rules, man?

Ed: Especially in making art…I mean…yeah, music is an art, in a weird, pretentious way. It’s a way of expressing yourself.

Q: It is, though. Like, you do the woodworking thing, now that has rules. You don’t just put the nail in wherever the fuck you want, because the piece will break, right? But music has a little more growth.

Ed: Well, I think there are more rules in woodworking than I would prefer there to be, but a lot of that has to do with making what people want. I feel like the same could be applied way with woodworking. You could make a table that functions, but also is a total piece of art. It may not look like what a table normally looks like, but it’s all about the exploring.

Q: The vision.

Ed: I even did custom woodworking stuff, where I would work on something very specific, and that wasn’t as fun for me, you know?

Q: It’s better when they tell you to just figure it out, right? Like when you go to your tattoo guy, and you’re like “I have an idea, and I want you to take that idea and run with it,” rather than giving him a picture to use, right?

Ed: Oh, totally, totally.

Q: So what are you most looking forward to about hitting the road with fellow vets Circa Survive?

Ed: I’m really excited about this tour, because they’re old friends. In 2008, we did a tour with them, and I’ve known the bass player for even long than that – since the 1990s. All the bands on the tour are awesome, and I think it’s just going to be a really good show, really positive. Everybody’s going to be influencing each other, in a good, creative kind of space. Everybody that I know in all of the bands are super positive, and fun to hang out with.

Q: You’ve got Balance and Composure coming out on the road with you, that’s fucking awesome. Do other bands influence each other on the road together? Do you find that that creeps into your writing?

Ed: One hundred percent. Even with bands who I’m not going to name, where I wasn’t particularly a huge fan of what they’d done, or whatever.

Q: Shade…! (both laugh).

Ed: But then you play with them, and you’re like “Whoa, they do this really cool thing.” Maybe, stylistically, it’s not what I desire to make in music, but the way that they have energy on stage, or the way that the drummer plays with the bass player, things like that can totally be influential. Also, if you’re seeking out that influence, seeing the way people do things, you can even take what you don’t want to do from a band.

Q: I’ve heard people say that before, yeah.

Ed: You might be at a festival with a band that you’re like “Ew, they’re the worst!” (both laugh).

Q: “Let’s not do that”, yeah. Can you tell me the worst experience that you’ve had without identifying the artists, how crappy they were to you? What’s the worst thing that ever got said to you at a festival? Probably at a festival, right? Because you can’t control who’s with you.

Ed: No. I think the worst thing that we ever had happen to us, we weren’t headlining, but the band that we played with tried to dictate what we could play and what we couldn’t play.

Q: They were controlling what songs you could play?

Ed: Yeah.

Q: What?

Ed: Well, it wasn’t specific to songs, it was more like “Don’t play heavy stuff.”

Q: Oh wow. Is it possible that the band was afraid of being outshined? Did they think you were going to blow them off the stage?

Ed: I don’t know if I should even say…

Q: Well, you don’t have to say who it was. No one’s going to know who you mean; you’ve toured with billions of different people.

Ed: Ah, shoot…I will also say that I am not one hundred percent sure that that came from the band. It might have come from their management, which is also a totally different thing.

Q: Does that happen, really? The managers take license like that?

Ed: There are definitely bands who will be like “You can’t play louder than us.”

Q: Wow.

Ed: But that’s kind of always been a thing. I don’t really see it happening as much now. I feel like it used to, like “Turn your amps down. We’re playing last, and we want to be the loudest”, or something like that, you know.

Q: So immature. That’s crazy!

Ed: Yeah, I mean…I feel like that’s an old school hierarchy kind of rule.

Q: Well, do you think that the fanbases just assume that you’re palling around with everyone that you tour with, and you’re here to enlighten them that that’s not always the case?

Ed: I would say like ninety-nine percent of the time, it is the case that we’re palling around. There have been very, very few times where I’ve had even an inkling of any negativity while on tour with other people.

Q: That’s good.

Ed: I think a lot of that just depends on where you come from. There are some bands that, whatever the genre of the music that’s being played, there’s no real “rock star” type of people – at least with the bands that we’ve toured with. There’s a desire to have mutual respect and enjoy your time together. You’re mingling the people that follow your bands together, and you just want to give them a good time, and maybe gain some new fans, or hear a band for the first time. For the most part, shows are an amazing way to experience music, and everybody on tour knows that, so they want to have the best show, be positive and enjoy the run, you know?

Q : Absolutely. You don’t want to make it like a job you dread, for sure.

Ed: No. I want to double down, though, and say that I’m not one hundred percent sure where this sentiment of “Don’t play these certain songs for this certain reason.” I’m a little bit worried about misquoting.

Q: Well, you can’t misquote somebody if nobody knows who you mean.

Ed: True, but I don’t know if it was a band or a manager, or what, and that makes a big difference, I feel.

Q: Got it. We’ll put that out in the ether so that whoever the guilty party is will know that you made that clarification (all laugh.) Last question: what do formerly constantly touring musicians like to do with all this newfound downtime that you have? This is the first time that you guys have really done this, right?

Ed: Like been touring less in a year’s time?

Q: Yes.

Ed: Everybody else in the band besides me has children. I think that’s awesome, and I’m happy.

Q: I’m trying not to laugh at the concept that all of your bandmates having kids made you run the other way from it, like “No, I’m set, thanks!” (both laugh.) That’s funny.

Ed: I think that it’s healthier for the band, in that everybody doesn’t feel burdened by a heavy touring schedule.

Q: Fair enough. Thank you for your time, and have a wonderful rest of your day, Ed.

Ed: Thanks, you too!


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