PropertyOfZack spoke with our friend Riley Breckenridge a few weeks ago in preparation for Thrice’s farewell tour. Riley and I looked back at the band’s recent touring, their career as a whole, his feelings on their hiatus, the future, and so much more. It’s a great read for any Thrice fan, so don’t miss out on it!
Thrice released Major/Minor in the fall and you guys went on to what seemed to be a very successful fall tour. Before Thanksgiving, you guys announced the hiatus. Fans were pretty shocked. When was the decision to call it a break initially made?
I can’t remember exactly when. I feel like the writing had kind of been on the wall for a while. The amount of touring that we’ve done over the past two or three years has gone down considerably and that is due in large part to Dustin and Teppei having growing families and young kids at home. You know, Dustin has got three kids, Teppei has got two and has a third on the way. It’s really tough for them to be away from home at all, really. So the amount of touring we have done has kind of gone down. It (the hiatus) was something that I didn’t think was out of the realm of possibility. When Dustin told us that he needed to take a break for a while, it was definitely disappointing, but it wasn’t something that was totally shocking to me. I couldn’t put an exact date on when we decided we were going to do that. I think he might have decided on his own earlier. But we didn’t feel comfortable saying anything about it until after that tour with La Dispute and O’Brother.
I guess if you dug deep enough around the internet, there were rumors of that decision months before it was actually made. Were those coincidental or was it months before the tour started?
I don’t know if some information leaked and that’s how the rumors got started or if people were just kind of piecing stuff together. But yeah, like I said, it didn’t seem like it was outside of the realm of possibility. With people pursuing other interests and our touring schedule getting smaller, it was kind of easy to piece together. I’ve seen stuff posted online over the last couple of years, like, “Oh this is going to be their last record,” or “That’s going to be their last record.” or “They’ll take the break now.”
I think fans have been very respective of the decision. To anyone’s eyes it seems like there is no bad blood. Like you said it’s been something for family. Would you say, disregarding your disappointment, that there has been a ton of support from your closest fans?
Yeah, I think most people get it. Obviously, family should come first and foremost. I think people that have kids and have families probably understand it better than those who don’t. I’ve seen firsthand how tough it is on Dustin and Teppei to be gone. And how tough it is on their families. So it’s understandable. It’s still disappointing, I still really want to tour and still want to make music with these guys and keep working hard on what we’ve put a lot of time and effort into in the past almost fourteen years. But there comes a time where you just have to step away from it and I think as a member of the band you can look at it as this really disheartening thing and a huge bummer or you can see it as something that is the beginning of a new and exciting chapter to do new things and explore other interests. For me, the prospect of being home a little bit more is exciting because I can find other areas of work to get into and I can settle down with my girlfriend and maybe start a family of our own. Those are things that all four of us kind of put on hold in varying degrees to make sure Thrice could continue being a band. Now that Dustin has decided that it is time for him to take a break for a while, it’s an understandable decision and something that I’m fully supportive of. I’m just looking at it as an opportunity to explore new options and use this last tour as the way to express our sincere gratitude for how supportive our fans have been; how they’ve helped us turn something that seemed totally unrealistic into a career for the better part of a decade.
Is that what this last tour is about? You guys could have called it a day after that last tour. Is this just to make sure that you are giving the fans what they want, in terms of a set list and everything?
Yeah. We did a little online poll to kind of see what people wanted to hear and then we put together a song pool based on that information. I’m just really thankful that we have an opportunity to go out one last time and to know that this is going to be the last tour for the foreseeable future. There could have been a situation that we’ve seen thousands of times where a band will go out on a tour, not knowing if it’s going to be their last one, and then they come home and somebody is like, “Oh, I’m leaving the band,” or “We need to break up.” That’s got to be a lot tougher to deal with. I think this is easier for me to deal with all of this knowing that there will be one last run and that we’ll have a proper way to thank the fans with the fans being fully cognizant that this is the last time that they are going to have the chance to see us for a while.
It’s a substantially long tour and you guys have ten plus years of music to pick from even with the song poll. Should we expect a super long set list?Yeah, it’s pretty impossible. It’s been hard to put together a set list even when it wasn’t a “last tour”, because you want to play fan favorites, but you want to showcase your latest release, and you want to play songs that you haven’t played in a while. We’re not a band that’s going to play a three hour set, so it’s hard to cram everything into an hour and a half set or an hour and a quarter set, but we’re going to try our best to do that on this run. We’re going to be playing stuff as early as Identity Crisis and something from every record, and some B-sides and some stuff we haven’t played in a while, but it’s definitely going to be hard (to put a set together). Beyond just choosing songs that keep everybody happy, we’ve been messing around with tuning so much over the years, we have stuff that in D standard and Drop D and Drop C and Drop B and Drop A and Baritone and stuff that features keyboards and electronics… and to play stuff in all of those different tunings and using all of that different instrumentation, and have a set that actually flows at all, is damn near impossible. You don’t want to play a set where your guitar players and bassist are playing catch with their guitar tech because they have to change after every song or tune between every song. And then at the same time, you don’t want to play something from The Illusion Of Safety and have that right up against something from the Water EP of The Alchemy Index. The flow can get weird. So it’s been a huge challenge. The most stressful thing for us is putting together a set list that actually feels like it has some sort of flow and doesn’t feel completely disjointed. It’s even tougher this time than it’s ever been.
What’s the vibe for when you guys are practicing now? Knowing that this is it?
We haven’t even started practicing as a full band yet. We’re all doing work on our own at home. I’ve been going to the rehearsal space and just playing along with my iPod, so that when we are all in the same room, there are no situations where we’re like, “Oh, I didn’t learn that song,” or “I forgot how this part goes.” Our practices are usually pretty workmanlike. We get in there and rip through songs and try to make the most of the time we have together because the time we have is limited. It’s not like the old days when we were like, “Yeah, let’s just go to rehearsal space and dick around all day long.” People have other responsibilities. People have jobs they have to go to. So if we have three or four hours, we’ve got to get in there and make the most of that time. I’m sure it will be semi bittersweet but it will be just as workmanlike as it always is. We’ll get in and do work. With the specter of having this be the last tour for a while, I’m sure it will be a little bit weird for each individual member, in their own way. This is going to be the beginning of a lot of potential ‘lasts’. It’s been a really difficult for me to wrap my head around. It’s not something you really want to think about. My main goal in getting in here and practicing by myself right now is to make sure that I am fully prepared so that I can have the most fun I can possibly have on this last tour. Because who knows when or if we’ll be able to do it again.
Thrice has one U.K. date and at least one European festival date. Will that get flushed out any more?
No. We’re doing Groezrock, which should be a really good time this year, because we have a lot of good friends out there. And then the London headliner. I think from a timing standpoint, the same way that we aren’t available to do multiple tours in the year, going to Europe and doing a proper tour there that could take a month or six weeks and then come back to the states and do seven or eight weeks wasn’t something that was going to work out for everybody’s schedules. So we did the best we could with the time we had available.
With such a long career, a lot of fans have pondered that there has to be somewhere, somehow, music laying around from all the CD’s that didn’t get released. Could we see something special?
We’ve actually done a pretty good job of putting everything out that we’ve ever recorded. In full. Sure there are a lot of demos floating around on people’s hard drives and stuff, but I don’t think any of them are at a level that we feel comfortable sharing really. We’re not a band that goes into the studio and writes thirty songs and then picks the ten or twelve best for a record. We’re so anal during the writing process that we end up tearing all the songs down to the best twelve and then we end up focusing on that and end up putting ten or eleven on a record and having a couple of B-sides. I wouldn’t expect any of our fans to hold their breath for any new music. We’re going to do some live recordings on this next tour and hopefully put together a live record that we’ll put out in the fall or early winter of this year. That’s going to be about it for the foreseeable future.
Hiatuses are a tricky thing. We see bands call it a day all of the time. Then we’ll see them a year later or two years later. I’m sure you guys haven’t said, “In three years we’ll do another tour,” or something like that. Have you given though to the trickiness of the situation of coming back if you guys do ever see yourselves coming back?
It’s not really in my hands. It’s going to come down to everybody’s schedules lining up correctly, people’s availability, how comfortable people feel doing a tour. I know in the letter Dustin wrote to the fans, he said this wouldn’t be the last short tour that we did or the last time that we record music together. But I don’t think he wants anybody to put a certain timeframe on when or if that is going to happen. It will just happen when the time is right. Who knows? He may never feel like touring again or get into something that keeps him from having time to do something with us. Or maybe Teppei will get into something that takes up a lot of his time. Or maybe Ed and I will get into something that doesn’t leave much time for Thrice. It will just come down to schedules lining up and there being a mutual willingness to get back together and do some stuff. It’s definitely not out of the realm of possibility, but not something that will happen very soon. And by very soon I mean in the next couple of years. Who knows? It’s not my call and there’s no way for me to put a timeframe on it. Nor do I think I should.
Looking back, to have a career for ten plus years is sort of mind-blowing. Regardless of how big the band ever got or how small the band ever got, to be a band for ten years is impressive. And you guys have sold a very large number of records and have been able to come fill rooms of varying sizes. And the last release was certainly a successful one among fans. Looking back, you obviously would have been content with continuing on, but are you satisfied?
I’m definitely satisfied. I didn’t expect to do any of this. You know? I didn’t expect to get signed. I didn’t expect to tour. I never expected to hear a song of ours on the radio or have a video on MTV or Fuse or anything, or tour the world or get to share the stage with so many amazing bands that we’ve had an opportunity to play with. So I’m beyond satisfied. This has been a dream come true. It’s been pretty surreal. And the weird thing about where we’re at right now with taking a hiatus and knowing that this is going to be the last thing that we do for a while, it kind of forces you to be introspective and take a look at the body of work that we’ve put together. Which is not something…I don’t think any of us do that very often. Early on it was a symptom of us being busy, touring so much, so much happening and the band growing so much. We were too busy to really think about where we were at, what was happening, what we’d done. But now, knowing that we’re putting a cap on this for a while, I think it’s natural to look back. The thing that really jumps out at me is just how grateful I am and how fortunate we’ve been…how fortunate we’ve been to have fans that have been so supportive of us, even though we’ve been pretty schizophrenic musically. With all these changes and being classified as a punk band, and then post-punk or post-hardcore or metal-influenced punk or whatever, alt-rock, or whatever the hell we were classified as at the time. The only reason that we’ve got to a level that’s been sustainable over the last decade is because our fans have been so supportive and have come out to shows and have bought a record and helped us spread the word. And shared our music with their friends and family and stuff like that. That’s something that, to me, feels impossible to ever repay these people for. They have enabled us to live a dream in a lot of ways. This has been totally surreal and it’s definitely nothing that I thought was ever a realistic possibility. Then to have it happen and to do much more than I ever expected or could have ever hoped for, is just pretty mind-blowing.
So what’s next for you? We know that you love writing and I guess you’ve been tinkering around with posting some stuff online, musically. But what’s for you after the tour?
Ed and I are working on a project that is in very early stages right now. Basically it’s the two of us getting together and jamming on our ideas. We haven’t really even demoed much of anything. I don’t really know what it’s going to end up sounding like or if we’re going to get one guitarist or two guitarists or a vocalist or how the band itself is actually going to take shape. I think that will get kicked into a higher gear once the Thrice stuff is done and we can focus on it a little bit more. That’s something that I’m really excited about. Ed and I have really good chemistry. Beyond just being brothers, I think our brains work in a very similar fashion, so it makes the exchange of ideas really free-flowing and it’s been really fun to just jam on stuff. So I’m really excited to see where that goes. I’m going to keep doing instrumental stuff like the stuff that I’ve posted on my BandCamp page and try to do some work, possibly for film scoring or TV scoring; stuff for commercials. I’m just gonna keep writing instrumental pieces of music and see how they can be used. If it ends up just being stuff that I put on BandCamp and people can download or buy for a buck or whatever, that’s totally fine with me. That’s just a way for me to get ideas out of my head and they don’t do any good sitting on a hard drive at my house. So I figured I might as well share them you know?
And then yeah, the writing stuff, I want to do more writing. Whether it’s doing op-ed stuff or getting into some sports writing stuff. I’ve got a baseball-centric blog with my buddy Ian called productiveouts.com and then the Twitter is ProductiveOuts. It’s basically just two old band dudes that love baseball who were bumming their Twitter followers out on their personal Twitter accounts by talking about baseball all of the time. We decided to start our own Twitter and blog and now we’re doing a podcast that’s been an absolute blast for me. So we’ll see where that goes. I’m going to have to find a way to pay the bills too, so I’m going to be combing the classifieds looking for work. I’m excited. We’ve been a band for fourteen years and it’s been like a full time job for over a decade so as scary as it is to have to walk away from that, it’s also kind of exciting because it opens up a new chapter of life. It’s going to be interesting to see where it goes. .
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