One of the best underground DIY bands in the world, are Baton Rogue, Louisiana’s Thou. A mix of sludge, punk and doom has lead to them being compared to many of the greats including Eyehategod and Crowbar. Before their apperance at Roadburn and a European tour with Converge, Crowbar and Grave Pleasures, I spoke to frontman Bryan Funck to speak about the band, performing covers, touring Europe, collaberating with The Body, future music and their love of Nirvana.
Jack: Hi, thank so you much for taking the time to answer my questions. I really appreciate it. How are you doing?
Bryan Funck (Vocals): As well as can be expected, times being what they are.
Jack: Thou formed in 2005, how did you all meet?
Bryan: Some in middle school, some in high school, some in the failed socio-political experiment known as punk.
Jack: What makes playing sludge music such an appealing experience?
Bryan: Is it? You’d have to ask a real sludge band!
Jack: Has being from Baton Rogue influenced the band’s musical direction and ethos in any way?
Bryan: I’m not sure it’s dictated the musical direction aside from the obvious proximity of Eyehategod, Crowbar, Acid Bath, etc. Early on, the band was much more inclined to ape post rock heavyweights like Isis or Pelican. I think seeing Mare in the early 2000s is what made the shift into a heavier sound. The DIY punk scenes in Baton Rouge and New Orleans have been, for better or worse, a practical guide for some of our politics and our approach to touring and relating to other human beings.
Jack: I remember in an interview with Scion AV where Mitch said you “love referencing crazy old man who have done a lot of bad stuff”. Is this still a main focus of the lyrical content?
Bryan: I think Mitch was just referencing my wholesale plagiarism of authors of classic literature and pessimist philosophy. I don’t know if it was ever a focal point for content, that’s definitely one well I draw from, though my targets may have shifted a bit.
Jack: Tyrant came out back in 2007, how do you feel about this album looking back on it?
Bryan: Sucks, my dude. I could’ve done a better job with the lyrics. That was one of my first stabs at “serious” writing. The recording probably could’ve been better. I still wish I had been able to convince Raw Sugar to release it. All around failure.
Jack: What is a Thou recording process like?
Bryan: By the time we get to the studio, the songs are fully formed and practiced with at least a rough idea about overdubs and mixing. We usually have a good idea about what kind of overall feeling we want on the sound. Depending on how much material we’re recording, basic tracking takes a day or two. Same thing for vocals. And then we usually like a day or two on overdubs, so we have some time to experiment. James Whitten usually has a rough mix or close to it by the time we’re wrapping. Then he spends a decent amount of time fine tuning the mix. We usually only have some minor tweaks on the first mix or two. Then it’s off to James Plotkin or Adam Tucker for mastering. We generally don’t fart around too much or write in the studio. To give you some perspective, we recorded Heathen, The Sacrifice, and Released from Love in five days, not counting the mixing.
Jack: Thou are well-known for their covers, you’ve covered so many bands including Crowbar, Eyehategod, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Fleetwood Mac. Why do you love performing covers and what is behind the selection process for a song to cover?
Bryan: The short section of “Blank” we do is probably more adequately described as a parody, since I changed the lyrics. We do covers because they’re fun. We choose them by virtue of agreement, pleasure, and what we can reasonably pull off (though the jury is still out on some of our attempts!).
Jack: Do you think the covers have increased the band’s popularity?
Bryan: I think the vast majority of people who listen to us either don’t know when we’re covering a song, think our renditions are wholly inadequate, or just think we’re pretentious twerps for our selections.
Jack: You’re playing Roadburn this year in collaboration with The Body. Do you have fond memories playing there in 2015?
Bryan: I had a great time hanging out and seeing some old friends last time we were up. I didn’t watch many bands, but I thought Moloch was absolutely amazing at the after show. This year, I’m really looking forward to Zola Jesus and all the Salem bands like Hell, Mizmor, and Sangre de Muerdago.
Jack: How did your collaboration with The Body begin and why do you think the two bands work so well together?
Bryan: After Summit, we were in the process of working on a Fiona Apple tribute. We set up a couple of shows in New Orleans and Baton Rouge for The Body around that time. We knew they were Fiona diehards as well and thought it might be cool to have them on one or two tracks. When we abandoned that tribute record, they suggested writing a collaborative record together. They had just done a record with Braveyoung and seemed interested in doing more collaborations. Just before we recorded Heathen, they came down for a couple of days of writing and we banged out Released from Love.
I think we gel mainly because we get along so well as friends. I think if we didn’t share similar interests and ideologies, anything we would’ve tried probably would’ve been a disaster. That being said, we have drastically different approaches to writing and recording that created some hurdles we had to work through. But in the end, I think we had a decent grasp on how to leverage the heavier sound they bring, and they definitely played an enormous role in reigning in our self indulgent meanderings.
Jack: You’re about to tour Europe with Converge, Crowbar and Grave Pleasures? How is Europe different to the States?
Bryan: Usually it’s super accommodating as far as room and board goes. I’m not sure this tour is going to quite fit that paradigm, but we’ll see. Other than that, Europeans—especially the Germans!—seem incredibly stoic and reserved at our shows. But to be fair, it’s not much different than the expressionless, silent, and sadly lackluster audiences we have in the States.
Jack: You’re also playing the UK for the first time since 2009 (according to Setlist Fm), are you expecting anything in particular from London?
Bryan: I think we played London, Brighton, and Nottingham in 2011 or 2012 when we did a mainland tour with Moloch. My expectation for the entire tour is to be a minor annoyance to the droves of Converge fans waiting for the real meat and potatoes. I doubt London will be any different. Probably worse!
Jack: What is coming up after the European tour? Any new music?
Bryan: We have a stack of new releases coming out starting in May—three long ish EPs then the new full length Magus. We just had a split 12” come out with our pals in Hirs and we have another one coming out soon with Ragana. Show wise, we’re playing Northwest Terror Fest in June then Migration Fest in July. We probably won’t tour again until late fall or early winter. We’ll probably try to focus on writing more this summer.
Jack: For The Archer and the Owle you covered ‘There There’ and ‘Cold World’ by Pygmy Lush which are two of my favourite Thou songs. Why did you cover these two songs?
Bryan: We’ve had a split with Pygmy Lush on the books for maybe nine years at this point. We wrote ‘Voices in the Wilderness’ and covered ‘Something in the Way’ for that. They had recorded enough material for splits with us and maybe Tideland. At the last minute, they decided to scrap the splits and release that material as the Old Friends LP. We knew ‘There, There’ and ‘Cold World’ from their live sets. They were also some of our favorites, so we decided to record them and try and get them out before they could get the full length out. Both an homage and a prank! Assuredly, the Great Goof Off never truly began and will never truly end.
Jack: Finally, Thou are a band who clearly love Nirvana. At Southwest Terror Fest 2015 you did a secret Nirvana set, what was behind this decision and what do Nirvana mean to you?
Bryan: Nirvana is one of the few bands that we all love. I’m pretty sure we all grew up listening to them. The songs are always super fun to play, even if we generally reach for the deeper cuts and most folks at our shows don’t know or care that they’re covers. I think “Sifting” is the first cover we ever did together. To answer what Nirvana means to me, I’d have to wax existential for another whole interview!
Jack: Thanks for your time, see you in London!
Bryan: Thanks for your patience. Stay hard.