A parade of black garments bearing the name My Chemical Romance in various places and excited faces wait religiously outside the back of the MEN Arena, for a mere sighting of Gerard Way and troupe. Just inside the hallowed venue, six guys are relaxing in order to maintain a sense of readiness. They are blessed with the task of building the excitement and warming the crowd up. For the black parade that will follow Thursday’s exhibition of emotive, hardcore pushing and punk embracing alternative music from their four album range that spans ten years. Guitarist, Tom Keeley agrees to be whisked off to the tour bus to open out the world of the poetic, piercing and authentic New Jersey outfit;
“To me hardcore and punk is the same thing, a headspace. A way to question popular ways of doing things, our main motivation is to find our own unique voice. Five or six years ago many bands had that same intention, instead of music as a conduit for dissent. “
It is apparent from this opening snippet that we are dealing with an idealistic, deep and sincere muso, who makes up a group with the same qualities or mere characteristics if you subscribe to modern cynicism. Thursday’s fourth album ‘A City By The Lights Divided’, accentuates the dark epic approach to alternative music producing that reaches a climax in the strident, rhythmic and bemusement conveying ‘Division Street’. Utilising Geoff Rickly’s drawn out vocals to full effect and impact:
“We didn’t really approach this album differently from any of the others. Each song’s its own process and is usually borne out of every direction, without sounding clichéd we try to be organic, it’s a bit like alchemy, really.”
A stoic seriousness and commitment by Tom, to make his point is imminently prevalent and it also comes through in the music that he helps to produce. Therefore, it is time to facilitate this approach by delving into the dynamic of their live experience. With such a range of material at their disposal and a broad fan-base that draws in bold indie kids, dyed in the emo-ers, the grunge and post-grunge crew as well as punks and metallers. It must hard to compile set lists for gigs these days, rather like shopping for a vegan, a raving carnivore a dog and a diabetic?
“Yeah, it’s hard to crush four records into forty-five minutes. We’re not always happy with shorter sets. We try to make them high impact work out sets and for gigs like tonight we try and think of material that fits better in a big arena. It’s tough though cos songs like ‘Running From The Rain’ fit into this category, but it is not the epitome of who we are.”
Thursday do come across as a band that simply cannot be summed up by snippet of their range, especially if the same amount of musing and consideration goes into the song writing process, as it does to each question here today. Surprisingly, given the lyrical prominence in communicating the band’s defiance, depth and cutting nature it is the music that is the first step in their creative journey;
“Yeah, usually Geoff (the lyricist) responds to the music. Occasionally, he will have an ideal lyric and we build upon it as a band.”
Despite the consistent feeling, force and authenticity that runs through each offering. There has to be one song that defines their ethos and gives them more pride than the others as a result of its creation?
“Jet Black, at the time we wrote that song we didn’t know where we were going as a band. It was a difficult process making that song, it was the first song we made after ‘Full Collapse’. We almost didn’t make it out of that song. It’s a warning and a beacon at the same time.’
The latter sentence sums up the impact of the New Jersey sextet’s music on a growing and broad fan base. That said, it must be difficult compiling material, with so many creative outlets in the outfit they are by no means a one or two man band. Democracy in band-form;
“It can be difficult writing with five other guys. We fight terribly at times, but it’s just like a family fights. Creative dissonance is a part of our song writing process.”
The album mentioned, their benchmark album from 2001, ‘Full Collapse’ brings together heart-wrenching choruses, epic song builds and robust guitar mastery that is a watermark for punk, screamo and post-hardcore acts to rise to. It is timeless in its authenticity and drive, as well as being instrumental in signalling the band’s determination to project their beliefs, controlled anger and their stoic determination to do things their own way. Something that also carries through to their live sets, whatever the occasion;
“When people come to our gigs we want them to feel, well hopefully uplifted, joyful after the sharing of a love. It’s supposed to be a celebration, we don’t want people to come away feeling they’ve had their socks rocked off. In an Arena we are not there to show off, we all got into music because we love it. Although it can be hard, at times, to make a connection with people who you are 20 feet away from, but there are ways of transcending that.”
There is a general view that Thursday manage to make and have always made that connection with the crowd whatever the circumstances. One of the keys to the rise to recognition and respect of this poetic engine of spirit and growl, has been the strong New Jersey scene that they and the likes of Taking Back Sunday and Midtown grew out from. Is there a fear that the global nature of music access through myspace and you-tube is going to render local scenes redundant? Tom maintains a pensive look and a hint of dejection precedes his reply;
“I see scenes disappearing, I think the sense of community is changing. I mean, the attention span of most humans is not long enough to combine the two worlds, but it can also be used to strengthen what is already there. It also means that the quality of music is changing, bands don’t have a chance to be horrible anymore. It all has to be instant.”
The frown that follows this statement hides a sense of pride in having to work hard at achieving the sound you want. It is a natural corollary of this that a band does have to possess enough backbone to work through the bad days. The Manic Street Preachers did it and it only embellished their eventual appeal.
Given that Thursday only seem to be growing in stature, appeal and expansiveness, it is fitting to end with a quote about the future. More specifically Tom’s fears for the music industry in general;
“I just hope that kids become less concerned with their career than making a statement about what is going on. Nowadays, there are very few bands around who have no other motive than to react to what is currently happening in music.”
And with this snippet of sincerity and concern Tom returns to the band, to prepare to make their short, but potent statement to My Chemical Romance fans. One thing is for sure, this tour will not change Thursday’s ethos or outlook one bit.