I had the pleasure of speaking to drummer Riley Breckenridge before one of their last shows, in Portland, OR at the Roseland Theatre. The band proceeded to play an incredible 90 minute set, filled with songs from every album in their discography. Thanks to everyone that submitted questions, I really had a great time.
Welcome back to Portland, OR. How've you been?
Good! Tour has been good, and it's been sad and awesome at the same time; it's been expected, but it's been a little bit more of both than I thought it would be.
How was last night in Seattle?
It was awesome. It was a packed house, and we moved it from Showbox Market to Showbox Sodo, which is a bigger venue, and it was packed and the energy was awesome. We've had a lot of memorable shows in Seattle, and to cap it off with an awesome one seems kind of fitting.
With this tour being your last, at least for right now, have the crowds just been super electrical every night?
I think it's still pretty mind-blowing knowing that people have driven multiple states away just to see multiple shows.
I think based on the circumstances, people are coming out that maybe on prior tours, they would say "Oh, I'll just catch them next time they come through in like 4 months". So people are making the most of the opportunity to come see us, and yeah that means people are driving 24 hours or flying out from different countries...which is insane and awesome to me. I just feel like from the band and the crowds, there's a definite energy there that we need to make this count, because we don't know when or if it's going to happen again. It's kind of weird, because thinking that way makes you think that you should play every show like that, as you should, because things like that can be taken away so quickly. But having that at the forefront of your mind, whether you're at the show watching, or you're us playing the show, knowing this will be the last time for awhile that we're going to be able to do this is making the energy in the room pretty amazing. Definitely we feed the crowd, and they feed us energy, and it's been great.
So that's the main difference from last tour and this tour, is everyone being really intentional with everything, right?
I think so, yeah. We're playing some older stuff that we haven't played all that recently, and just doing one last run here through the U.S. to say thank you to the people that have allowed us to do what we've done for the past almost 14 years.
You have O'Brother and Animals As Leaders out on this tour. What factors led to the decision to bring these bands out?
O'Brother we met when we were direct support to Manchester Orchestra in April of 2010. We all loved the band a ton, and they're an incredible band, even more so live than recorded. They're really good people, a young band who's collective head is in the right place; they're not in this to be famous or for anything superficial, they're into it because they like making music and playing live shows. They're really driven, and I feel at times that kind of gets lost. So it's great to have them out, they're great people and a great live band.
As for Animals As Leaders, I think the first time I had heard of them was 2 or 3 years ago, and was just blown away by the musicianship. I got to see them live for the first time at the tail-end of last year, and I just sat there with my mouth open, and was blown away as how good they are as players. It's super defeating to go on stage after a band that is that good, but we're at a point now where we're going to go out and do what we're going to do, and not worry about looking like we suck at our instruments, because most bands would look like they suck at their instruments, haha.
You also have Invisible Children out on this tour. How have people been reacting to them being on the tour, especially since they've been in the headlines lately?
I think pretty well, it's hard to tell; I don't keep track of their numbers, or how many people they talk to every night. We've had them out on the last 3 or 4 tours that we've done I think, maybe more. The people that we've worked with at that organization have been really really good people, very kind and honest people. We are working with those exact people on this tour, so there was no reason to not do it.
I will admit that I had a slight reservation, just because I wanted this farewell tour to be about the music primarily, and because they were at the forefront of the headlines, I didn't want it to be a distraction. But that's just me airing on the side of caution, you know? It's worked out great. The guys we deal with, Kenny Laubbacher, Alex Collins, and Eugene who's on tour with us, are the kindest dudes, the most honest dudes; so having them out here and letting them do what they do is the right thing to do. At the core of it, we believe what they do and the cause they're supporting, and we're happy to have them out here.
It's too bad, you know? They're doing so much good, but then one thing happens, and then people want to completely disregard it and they will go "Oh, they're no good..."
It's like anything -- if it's a band, or a cause, or a celebrity doing this or that, there will be people that will jump on the bandwagon...and then there's people that want to try and poke holes in it. For us, it was easy just because we're so close to it, and we know the people involved in it, and it's like "I know this person is a good person"; for others, it's like "I read this post, or saw this financial record..."
It's very easy with social media, it's really easy for people to just be an asshole, and not do your homework, and not care about having a personal relationship with anyone or any organization. I think it was an easy thing for people to jump on as a cause, which is why they got hundreds of millions of views, and then it was real easy to shit on, and that's anything: a sports team, a cause, a celebrity, anything.
I'm sure with this tour it must be difficult picking a setlist every night, since you have so many albums to choose from. I know you'd like to play the older songs for the older fans, and I've noticed you've been pulling out songs like "Firebreather" and "Red Sky" out for other stuff on some nights. What things went into picking the setlist?
It's always been the hardest thing for us to do. It's almost more grueling to build a setlist or build song pool, as opposed to practicing those songs and make sure you can play them live, just because we've gone through so many song styles over the years. We've gone through so many guitar tunings and instrumentation things; we used to have a ton of keyboards out with us, a DAT player for some samples and stuff, I would have a sampler, CB Mics, a Xylophone, all sorts of crazy stuff. So making a set that actually flows at all, has proven in a lot of ways impossible, if we want to incorporate a good broad look at the songs we've written across our career. We have so many tunings, we don't want to go on stage and have Teppei change or tune every single song.
It's been challenging. We try and take some of the challenge out of the preparation of this tour by having an online poll, and people were able to pick their favorite songs from each record, including b-sides. From there, we'd take the top three or four songs from each record, and put them into a song pool, and then mixing and matching as the tour has been going along. Halfway through we kind of settled into a decent structure with the few songs that can be pulled out and swapped for each other.
Given that the setlist is fan-driven, what's the one song you look forward to playing every night?
It's a tough question. Like if I was speaking from a purely selfless perspective, I would say Deadbolt, even though that's not my favorite song to play in the world, nor is it anyone in the band's. I know it's a fan-favorite, I know it's gets a lot of energy going in the room, as evidenced as people yelling it out between songs on tour. That one because of the feedback that it gets us from the crowd.
On this tour, kind-of on both ends of the spectrum, the most gratifying for me to play and the other guys I think as well, and for the crowd, is Anthology. Just because the lyrical content is pulled from songs we've written over the past 12 years; I love the song, it's really heavy and moving to me. The crowd really seems to like it, we've been playing it at the end of a set, or the end of an encore, and it gets me choked up when I play it. It was a moving song when we were doing demos for it, it was moving when we recorded it, and now given the circumstances on this tour and what the lyrical content is, and it's the last song we're playing for the night in front of these people, it's really fucking moving...I get weepy sometimes. You get chills, and you get sad, but you get this sense of gratitude that you can't explain.
I understand that you recorded a live DVD from this tour?
It's not a DVD, it's just audio content.
When can we expect to hear this? December or January maybe?
We're hoping sooner than that, maybe September or October. We've been recording often, as much as we possibly can, given the situation in the front of house; if the equipment we have works with the board that the venue has. So we're recording those, listening to those and getting rough mixes of those. I don't know if it's going to be one show in it's entirety, or bits and pieces. We're recording as many shows as possible, trying to put those in a compilation of the farewell tour live CD. We have people taking photos, and we're trying to put together some really cool packaging, just as a memento, and something to listen to until maybe we tour again.
What's been the best memory from this tour so far? Has it been playing Anthology every night, or has it been something else?
I think. Yeah, it could be playing Anthology...it's the rush you feel in certain parts, if there's a certain sing-a-long part, like at the end of Firebreather, with the "woahs". I'm pretty closed off with my in ear monitors in, but sometimes at the end of that song I'll pull an ear out, and hearing the crowd being as loud as they've been, you get chills; there's been multiple moments during the set where I find myself getting chills, and just being blown away by the support and the positive energy in the room.
Beyond that, just hanging out with everyone. It's so awesome to be able to tour the United States or the World with some of your best friends, and see cool places, and go to cool restaurants, and just share time together...and then somehow get paid to go on stage and play music for an hour and 40 minutes. A lot of the downtime has been really awesome to me too, if it's me and some crew guys, or Ed and I, or the band hanging out, I'm just trying to soak in every moment the best I can, because you never know when it's going to happen again. Knowing that it might not happen again, or if does happen again, it won't be for awhile makes you appreciate every moment more so than you could before.
Knowing that there's probably a few new fans in the crowd every night, which album would you suggest that they start out with? Would you suggest they start at the beginning with Identity Crisis and move forward?
That's a tough call. I feel like it's not rare for a musician or band to say that their most recent output is their best. I feel like Major/Minor is probably our most accessible record, but not in a stupid way, we didn't dumb it down so people could be more into it. I think it's a good representation of us doing what we do best. I'd probably say start with Major/Minor, go for Beggars next, then go to Vheissu, then maybe The Artist In The Ambulance, and then fiddle around with The Alchemy Index as you see fit. Our stuff is so all over the place over our career, no matter where you jump in...unless you jumped in at Beggars and then got Major/Minor, I feel like the progression from each album to the next is drastic, so maybe that route would be the best.
Coming back to photos, I'm sure you have a ton of photos from over the years. Have you entertained the idea of putting together a limited edition photo book to sell after this tour is over with?
We haven't, but that's not a bad idea. It would be pretty awesome to have do a compilation of photos, and it'd be pretty embarrassing, because we've had some embarrassing haircuts and clothing choices over the years, it's like a yearbook photo...
But you always look back on those positively, right?
Yeah, with a little bit of shame, and a little bit of shame, haha.
You consider yourself an Atheist, correct? Or would you consider yourself as something different?
I wouldn't say I'm outright an Atheist...I would say I'm open to many things, and I'm not sure the world is ready to be figured out, and that's just my perspective.
With you being open to Dustin's lyrics leaning towards God, how have you all been able to see past differences and work as a cohesive unit over the years?
As far as the lyrics are concerned, I've always wanted Dustin to sing about what mattered to him. You want a vocalist/frontman to be truly passionate about what he/she is singing about; if they aren't passionate about it, it's very easy to see though in a lot of cases. Even if I don't agree with his worldview, or if I'm not a Calvinist, I don't think it matters. I've been happy to play in this band for years, and I want him to sing about what matters to him, and that's the bottom line.
So would you be open to drum on his next solo album if the opportunity was presented to you?
He won't give me the opportunity to do that, but it would depend.
What are your and Eddie's plans for after this tour is over, as far as making music goes?
Ed and I are going to be making music together, we've already been working on some stuff, some ideas. When we get home, we're going to get into that deeper than we had; before, we were getting together a few days a week to jam on some of our own stuff, and then working on Thrice stuff to get ready for this tour. With no more Thrice after this, we'll have the ability to focus on it a little better, and putting songs together, and collaborating with people, and just kind of see what happens. It's too early to tell exactly what it will be, and when there will be a release, but I'm positive we will write something and that it'll be released.
After this tour, will fans have an opportunity to pick up some of the merch that they might not have been able to pick up at their particular show?
I think they should. We have a Cinderblock store, which is our merch company. I think whatever surplus we have from this tour will probably go on there, and I wouldn't rule out the possibility limited edition stuff after this. I really wanted to do a lot of throwback tees, some of the most successful designs from past records, and put them on really nice blanks; stuff like the original Illusion of Safety tee that everyone loved, and make that available again.
There's a lot of bands that I like that have broken up, or are on hiatus, and I'm like "Man, I wish I could get a t-shirt from that band", and it's okay that I know that I may not ever get to see them play ever again, or might not see them for 2-5 more years. But damn man, if I could get a new Botch t-shirt, I'd be stoked or like this band or that band. Hopefully we can do that, but it's not up to me really.
What books have you been reading lately?
I've actually been on a major baseball book nerd-out, I haven't really read much fiction lately...this is a baseball book, but it's called The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, which is a really long but good read. Other stuff I've been reading has been stat-geek stuff, like Baseball Between The Numbers, which is a book that Baseball Prospectus put out in 2009 maybe; it's just about advanced metrics, and understanding the game of baseball in a way most people are unaware of, or resistant to. I'm a huge baseball dork, so most of my reading is related to that.
Still on the subject of Baseball, what'd you think of that no hitter the Mariners pulled off a little while ago? 6 different pitchers!
Pretty crazy! First, I never would've never thought it would've happened against the Dodgers, because at the time they had the best record in baseball, even though they're totally overperforming right now, and because the Mariners are pretty awful this year. But yeah, I wish Millwood would've finished it off, that would've been pretty amazing; but a no-hitter by committee is a little less exciting than one guy doing it.
Lastly, a couple quick questions. Out of all the bands you've toured with, what's been the band that's given the best live show?
That's tough, but we did Take Action tour in 2001, and Cave In was on that tour, right after they released Jupiter. Every major label was losing their shit over Cave In, and they were at the top of their game, playing the best dynamic, heavy rock that I had ever heard, and they were just destroying every night. Being a young band that had only been together for like three years, and getting to see those dudes play that well every night was a huge motivating factor, and I think beyond what it did for me as a music listener, it pushed our band to be better live, because they set the bar every night. It was something that we strived to be, as good as Cave In; we didn't quite get there, but we tried.
Favorite venue, and eatery in the U.S.?
I really like the Metro in Chicago, IL; we've had some amazing shows there, and the vibe is really good, because the room is really wide but shallow, so it feels like the people in the back of the room aren't that far away from me. I like the Troubadour in Los Angeles for local venues, because it's really small and intimate.
As for a favorite eatery, there's a lot of them, but I feel like most of them are back at home. There's a restaurant called Haven by my house, it's just a bar, with really awesome beer and good burgers, super comfortable.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Just thank you...being able to do this for 14 years is nothing that was ever expected or seemed realistic, and the fact that it's happened seems totally crazy to me, and makes leaving it is even harder. Just being on this tour and getting to see people every night, and playing shows where the crowds are really enthusiastic and really involved makes it super hard to walk away from, whether its your choice to walk away from it or not. I'm just incredibly grateful, because doing this for the last 14 years definitely beats the shit out of getting a crappy desk job or whatever else I'd be doing. I'm happy to be able to do it, and I couldn't have done it without people supporting us and coming to shows and spreading the word about our band.
Live audio, hmm. I hope there are videos to go along with some of those, however poorly filmed.
And I'm glad Riley is confident the Breckenbros will end up releasing material. Also waiting for more of his solo stuff, hopefully he can delve deep into it without problems.
Edit: just wanted to expand on my last paragraph - I'd like Riley to take his work to the next level, and go from making loops to outright epic 8 minute instrumentals, haha.
Good interview. All the Thrice guys seems really nice and the opportunities I've had to talk to them, they've always been cool. I'm extremely sad to see this band go and really hope this isn't the "end"... I can't think of any other band I would be so disappointed to see stop.
Why not? Combined with the "I wouldn't say I'm outright an Atheist..." comment it shows different views within the band & maybe a little friction. I've been wanting to hear opinions of the other members. I don't agree w/ Dustin's views & it seems members of his own band might not feel the same way either.