Get some fun in your life. Get some Thunders. With all of the “goodtime” bands that have popped up over the past few years, filtering pop and garage rock through a lo-fi ear and simmering it down to a sludge of toasted, gnarly solos and crunchy riffage there’s been some real scum rise to the surface. You know that gritty sludge at the bottom of your coffee cup? That last sip you take in the morning before you head out the door that looks it’s going to taste like crap, but puts that extra pep in your step that delivers you home safely that very night? That’s Thunders. There’re no frills or bullshit here, Thunders is wholly uninterested in impressing you or making you think that they’re cool. There’s no style over substance going on here. Instead, they’ve aimed their sites much higher, at the lofty goal of simply making good music. You don’t hear albums that fit together like puzzle pieces, snug and tight at the edges, like they do on Weird Spines White Trash Whatever, these days. Thunders seem like the kind of band that would bang your sister in the other room when you have them over to crash on your couch while the other bands are still posing and preening in the living room trying to make an impression. The bands newest full-length effort Weird Spines White Trash Whatever, this time for the ever killer Maximum Pelt label out of Chicago who released the Hollow Mountain demo cassette, simply furthers the evidence that Thunders is here to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and that right now, they’re all out of bubble gum… Starting with face melters, “Noasis” and “Women” Weird Spines White Trash Whatever almost reminds me of what JEFF The Brotherhood used to sound like, or at least what they were supposed to sound like. And there’s no doubt that Ryan Reidy successfully channels the hell out of Cobain all over this thing. Growing up in Southern Illinois you hear the term ‘white trash’ bandied about quite a bit, and it’s often misused outside of the filthy cow pastures and chocking coal dust that is my state. Thunders earn the shit out of it, though. They work for every letter of the word, and for all the bands out there right now trying to act like it’s cool they came out of a trailer park, Thunders is simply the real fucking deal. Tortured walls of fuzzy distortion crash and buckle against the garbled screamed vocal melodies grating the crushing thunder of bass and the swirl of trashcan drums, creating a blistering amalgam of pain and pleasure, ecstasy and immolation. I’m not sure how else to describe the whirlwind of sound and fury that is Thunders to people who’ve never heard them before. I think it’s the kind of thing you just have to experience for yourself first hand, luckily It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine is here to make that happen for you. There’s links for music below, plenty of info for the uninitiated to follow and as always, it’s psychedelic as hell, so what are you waiting for? Dig in!!!
Listen to some music while you read: http://thunders.bandcamp.com/
Now, I know you al have been around for a while. What’s the lineup in Thunders right now? Is this the original lineup or have there been any changes as far as that goes since you all started?
Right now, the band is just me and Mike. We had a dude, Donny Walsh sitting in on bass for us on our last tour, but he hasn't played on any recordings. We've really only had a revolving cast of dudes on bass, including Duncan Kissinger and Tyler Watkins. A few years ago Brian Allen and John Zeps played bass.
Are any of you currently in any other bands or do you have any active side projects going on?
This is my main number one musical thing. I was playing bass in a Prince cover band with some folks I lived with, though.
Have you released any music with anyone in the past besides Thunders? If so, can you tell us a bit about that?
The first real band I was in that released anything and toured was called Revel In The Morning and I was nineteen years old. From the ages of twenty to twenty two I was in a band called ari.ari with members of Burnt Ones and We Are Hex.
How old are you and where are you originally from?
I’m 30 years old and originally from Hartford City, Indiana.
What was the local music scene like where you grew up? Did you get very involved in that scene when you were younger or did you see a lot of shows? Do you feel like that scene played a large or important role in forming your musical tastes or shaping the way that you perform at this point?
There really wasn't a music scene where I grew up, just a group of a few people that really liked music and owned instruments. In retrospect, we really didn't have much in common besides geographic proximity, access to musical instruments, free time and understanding parents. We would generally get together, write a setlist of material, and maybe play one or two shows before disbanding, but every band usually involved the same group of people in some way or another. I don't really feel like those experiences really shaped my musical tastes or performance in my life, though. I didn't really get into a music scene until I went to college at Ball State University in 2002. I was extremely lucky to have met people there who were passionate about music, and were committed and ambitious enough to play shows out of town and release music. I would say that experience has absolutely shaped my life moving forward.
What about your home? Was there a lot of music around your house growing up? Were either of your parents or any of your close relatives musicians or extremely interested or involved in music?
My mom playing Steely Dan's "Aja" quite a bit whenever she would do some cleaning here and there. My dad didn't really own many CDs, and the story I heard was that his ex-wife had burned all of his records when he moved out. But neither of them owned instruments, or ever played them. My Uncle Chris owned some guitars and stuff, but I don't think he really formed long lasting bands that played shows. My maternal grandmother was the first person I knew that owned a guitar and my mom says there’s a 7-inch around that she played on, but I haven't seen it. She passed away when I was quite young and all my memories of her are fading, so I don't know if I ever actually heard her play, which is sad. I think that her just having a guitar contributed to my obsession with guitar as a kid, though.
What do you consider your first real exposure to music to be?
I can't really pinpoint that, because I can't remember a time in my life where it wasn't either the main thing in my life, or a huge part of my life. My mom has video of me as a two or three year old singing the Rice Krispies theme song on a flexi that came with the cereal into the handle of a vacuum cleaner at my aforementioned grandmother's house. I guess because the handle looked like a microphone? I actually have memories of that. I wasn't tall enough to sing into the handle, it faced the wrong way when I stood on the vacuum itself, and the handle was too heavy when it was unlocked. Being a kid is rough, ha-ha!
If you were to pick a moment, a moment that seemed to change everything for you and opened your eyes up to the infinite possibilities that music presents, what would it be?
I think it happened when I was eight or nine years old and my mom was cleaning the living room. My dad had a component stereo system that had been taken a part for some reason, and I volunteered to wire it all back up. To test to see if I did a good job, I picked one CD out of my dad's collection, that I guess had the coolest cover art and it turned out to be Led Zeppelin IV. "Black Dog" kind of blew my mind that day.
When did you decide that you first wanted to start writing and performing your own music and what brought that decision about for you? Or was that just sort of a natural progression that occurred as a result of being given an outlet to create and express your self?
I got my first guitar when I was twelve. I remember wanting to write music immediately, but I didn't have the knowledge of the music enough to be able to really write anything down. So, after I learned a few simple Nirvana songs and the chord names I started writing songs. Every one of those songs had G, C and D in them because they were the only ones I knew by name.
What was your first instrument? When and how did you get that?
I got an electric guitar when I was twelve. It was the summer of 1997. My mom had a bunch of doors in the house she wanted stripped and stained, so I offered to do the work if she would buy me this fifty dollar guitar this older kid was selling. It was an Epiphone Strat copy, and actually, I still use most of that guitar today; at least the body anyway.
How and when did the members of Thunders meet?
Mike and I met at a recording studio in Indianapolis when his old band, Hotfox, was recording with Tyler Watkins, who has since joined as a fill-in bass player, in 2010.
What led to the formation of Thunders and when would that have been?
Well, the band originally formed, I guess in 2008? I had some other brief lineups to play some songs I had written as far back as 2007, but I didn't keep any of those songs. It started with my friends Tony Beemer, Brian Allen, and Mark Tester. I had written a bunch of tunes and recorded them, and wanted to start being in a band again after I finished college and turned down law school. They were, still are actually, nice guys that I liked and we started playing.
The name fits your music pretty damned well in my opinion, chaotic and thunderous at times I’m curious what Thunders means or refers to in the context of your band name? Who came up with it and how did you all go about choosing it?
The original name of the band as I conceived it was "Sisters", but there were bands from Brooklyn and Portland, Oregon that already had the name, so we opted to change it. As best as I can remember, Tony Beemer suggest something that was similar to another name he used, "thunder [something] God boom" I think, and all I added was to make it plural, because it made no sense. Tony's not in the band any more and I'm kind of saddled with that name at this point. I'm not sure how much longer I'll play under it, though. I don't know. But it certainly wasn't an intentional thing to name the band that, or to reflect the name in our sound, although I have heard this many, many times. I would say that the chaotic element of our sound comes from a pretty organic part of turning songs that I write on an unplugged electric guitar in to songs you play with other people standing up. I like noise parts and have always been a little obsessed with the sonic possibilities of the electric guitar. I used to make noise collages on my talk boy when I was a kid.
Where’s Thunders located at these days? What’s the local music scene like where you’re at?
I currently reside in my hometown again until I relocate to Los Angeles at the end of the year, and Mike has always lived in Indianapolis, except for a year in Bloomington, Indiana when he attended IU (Indiana University). There’s no scene here outside of pill poppers and gas stations. I'm not entirely sure what involvement Mike has in the Indianapolis music scene, but his roommate, Kevin, is a rapper.
Are you very involved in the local scene in your opinion? Do you book or attend a lot of local shows or anything?
When I lived in Chicago I helped book shows at Wally World, the house I lived in, but I've never really been super involved outside of playing shows and sometimes going to other people's shows.
Do you feel like the local scene has played an integral role in the sound, history or evolution of Thunders, or do you feel like you all would be doing what you’re doing and sound basically like you do regardless of where you were at and stuff?
I would say that I would be doing what I'm doing regardless. I'm not a huge "local scene" guy. I like touring and putting out records, and when I'm not doing that I like to relax in a quiet place. The social aspect of being in a band is kind of a mystery to me.
Are you involved in recording or releasing any music besides your own at all? If so, can you tell us briefly about that here?
I helped engineer and mix the record Don't by my old roommate's band EGO, but I don't really have much aspiration to do that as, like, a living or anything.
You all have a sweet combination of sounds going on where you pick up random stuff from wherever you want to and take it with you combining it with over stuff and making this whole new thing out of it all! Who are some of your personal major musical influences?
Hmmm, I think about music creation on purely conceptual terms, but I like Nirvana and the Beatles a lot. I like Guided By Voices, too. The Replacements, Bikini Kill, Prince. Really, anything that's good. It's varied in terms of genre, but as long as it's good I'll listen to it. I like a lot of contemporary pop music like Katy Perry and this one Charli XCX song, too. Oh yeah, Sonic Youth is big for me, too, and Dinosaur Jr. I feel like I could make a rather lengthy list here.
What about influences on the band as a whole rather than just individually?
There for awhile, I just wanted the band to be kind of a drunken shit show like the worst kind of stories about the Replacements and Guided By Voices, and we did that for a bit, but I think it's changing a little now. I'm not sure where the band is going right now or what it's going to sound like in the future. We'll see. The main thing Mike and I try to do is just write good songs that have pretty simple structures with loud parts and quiet parts, and really maximize the potential of the song and be creative as possible. I know that sounds both vague and obvious, but I had this realization listening to the Beatles where I was like "Man, the idea's just never end" and it's not just parts repeating for two minutes. Plus bridges, bridges are huge.
Like I was saying you all have a really cool sound and whenever I do these interviews I inevitably have to describe how a band sounds to a bunch of people who’ve never heard them before. It’s a daunting task to say the least. I always feel like I’m putting way too many of my own thoughts and perceptions into there. How would you describe Thunders’ sound to our readers who might not have heard you before in your own words?
Pop song structures with noise.
What’s the songwriting process like for Thunders? Is there someone who usually comes to the rest of the band with a riff or a more finished idea for a song to work out with the rest of the band as a whole or do you all just get together and kick of kick ideas back and forth until you’ve come up with something that you’re interested in working on?
I write everything in the band. Then, I bring it to Mike and he interprets the drum parts I've come up with and incorporate whatever else he wants. I know it might sound super micromanaging, but there's a lot of space in the songs for people to do whatever they want. The songs I send people are rough sketches to be interpreted, and besides, when people play what they want it usually sounds better anyway. We also barely rehearse; this year we've played together less than ten times outside of shows. So, doing a lot of the leg work on my own kind of stream lines the process. Especially since Mike and I have never lived in the same city.
What about recording? I know recording can be extremely difficult on bands and while most people can appreciate the end result of all the time and effort that goes into making an album when you’re holding that finished product in your hands, getting to that point, getting things to sound the way you want them to, especially as a band, can be extremely difficult to say the least. What’s it like recording for Thunders?
It's actually a pretty simple process. After Mike and I have had a couple practices and Mike's happy with what he wants to do on drums, I get my recording equipment and record. Usually, we do the songs and then make up stuff on the spot to make it fun and creative for both of us, too. Then, I take the tape home, dump it on my computer, and I put everything on top of Mike's drums. On our last record, Weird Spines White Trash Whatever, there are, I think, three songs that are the first time, and maybe only?, time we've ever played them. But, getting the parts down with Mike is by far the easiest part of the process. I typically have a meltdown while finishing the recordings, but I'm beginning to realize it's a fairly common thing for most people when working on a project. I just consider it one, among many, steps of completing a project. At least, I currently feel that way about what I'm doing right now.
Do you all prefer to take a more DIY approach to recording where you handle the technical aspects of things mostly on your own so that you don’t have to work with or compromise on the sound with anyone else? Or, do you all like to head into a studio and let someone else handle that side of things so you can just concentrate on getting the best sound and performances as possible?
I don't like recording with engineers or recording in studios. I prefer sitting in pajama pants in my room surrounded by dirty clothes, although, we'll see if I keep doing these recordings by myself. It might be nice in the future to use real gear instead of the pretty cheap things I own.
Is there a lot of time that goes into working out exactly how a song’s going to sound before you record it with every part of the arrangement and composition meticulously and rigidly planned out ahead of time, or do you get a good skeletal idea of what something’s going to sound like while allowing for change evolution during the recording process where necessary?
The process goes something like this: there's a skeleton of a song that is usually put together in a rush. We record it. I listen to it afterward and think it's absolute shit. I take a break for a little while. I revisit it and realize it's pretty alright.
Do psychoactive or hallucinogenic drugs play a large or important role in the songwriting, recording or performance processes for Thunders? I don’t mean that in a negative respect at all either by the way. People have been tapping into the altered states that drugs produce for thousands of years for the purposes of creating art and I’m always just curious about their usage and application when it comes to the music that I personally enjoy and consume.
No. I'm just crazy.
You all released your first material that I’m aware of back in 2008. The Sympathetic Oscillations EP was put out by A2 Industries if I understand correctly. How was Sympathetic Oscillations originally released? I couldn’t find too many details about it online other than the track listing and stuff? Can you share some of your memories of recording that first material? When and where was it recorded? Who recorded it? What kind of equipment was used?
I recorded those songs in a few bedrooms between Muncie and Indianapolis, Indiana when I was twenty three years old. It was, like, the "grand experiment" because I had just quit my old band, ari.ari, where I just played guitar, and I wanted to be in a band where I could write songs and play all the instruments. I had fun doing it. It was a challenge. In terms of equipment, it's just my basic rig. PreSonus FIREPOD and a computer my brother and I built. I still use it.
Two years later in 2010 you followed up The Sympathetic Oscillations EP with a four-way 7-inch split with Jookabox, We Are Hex and Burnt Ones, simply titled Export for Asthmatic Kitty and Roaring Colonel Records. You all contributed the track “Weird Spines” to the split, which was absent from your full-length from 2014 actually entitled, Weird Spines White Trash Whatever. How did that split originally come about? Was “Weird Spines” written or recorded specifically for the Export single or had it been around for a while? If it was recorded for the single can you tell us about the recording of that track?
My main policy with the band is that anytime anyone asks us for anything I always say "yes", ha-ha. So, we were approached by someone, and I don't think it was the guy from Asthmatic Kitty, I don't know, but they approached us about putting a song together for this comp with the sole stipulation being that it had to be under three minutes. The song was done specifically for that 7-inch in an afternoon in a basement where I was living after my girlfriend kicked me out of her place. The room I was in was basically a bathroom, it had a toilet in it, and I did the vocals without a pop filter or headphones. I wanted to do a song that sounded like Prince and actually, I had written that song the same day as "Noasis", the lead off track from Weird Spines White Trash Whatever.
In 2012 you released your first full-length album Beautiful Baby in the Bummer of Love. I did a lot of looking around online and I know it was released in 2012 and I know the track listing as you have it up on your Bandcamp page, I couldn’t find out much more about it though. Who put that out originally and how was released? I’m pretty sure I saw some 12-inch records floating around online but it’s hard to trust information in the digital age sometimes… Was the recording of the material for Beautiful Baby very different than the session(s) for your earlier releases? Who recorded the material for Beautiful Baby in the Bummer of Love? Where and when would that have been? What kind of equipment was used this time around?
That record was done in 2010, before the recording of the song "Weird Spines". I can safely say that recording that album is in the top five worst experiences of my entire life, up there with getting a tooth pulled at the age of nine without anesthesia; true story. The bass player quit the band while were doing it, the drummer was asked not to come to the sessions, and the guitar player Mark and I pretty much finished it on our own. It was recorded in a studio by my very close friend, and sometimes bass player in the band, Tyler Watkins at his old studio, Queen Size, where people have died. He had a legit HD Pro Tools rig and lots of compressors and pre-amps and all kinds of knobs and sliders and what have you. It was awful.
This year in 2014 you all dropped your sophomore album, Weird Spines White Trash Whatever on 12” LP and cassette tape through the ever killer Maximum Pelt label. Did you all try anything radically new or different when it came to the songwriting or recording of the material for Weird Spines White Trash Whatever? What can our readers expect from the new album? Who recorded the material for Weird Spines White Trash Whatever and when was that? Where was it recorded and what kind of equipment was used?
I just wanted to make a record where all of the songs were basically in the same genre. Prior to this, everything was kind of all over the place, and through a series of circumstances that at the time were out of my control, we ended up tracking the drums of most of the guitar on a 4-track tape machine. The only place we could do the recording was at a trailer outside Warsaw, Indiana that had been winterized, so there was no heat or running water. We had extension cords running through the whole thing to avoid tripping a fuse and space heaters running to keep us warm.
Does Thunders have any music that we haven’t talked about yet, maybe a song on a compilation or a demo that I don’t know about?
I have a lot of songs on my computer that no one has heard. If someone wants to put them out I'll let them.
With the release of Weird Spine White Trash Whatever earlier this year, are there any other releases in the works or on the horizon for Thunders at this point?
I’m in the process of finishing up a split tape with this band from Dallas called Dead Mockingbirds for the wonderful people at Dumpster Tapes in Chicago.
Where’s the best place for our interested US readers to pick up copies of your stuff?
Bandcamp is really your best bet or you can PayPal me some cash at email@example.com. Make sure and provide me an address and I'll ship it to you. If you mention that you read this interview I'll do a buy one get one free deal with both of our records.
With the complexly insane international postage rate increases that just don’t show any sign of letting up I try and provide our readers with as many possible options for picking up import releases as I can. Where’s the best place for our overseas and international readers to get your stuff?
Unfortunately, we haven't been able to secure any sort of distribution with this record overseas, but I'll cut a deal for ya if you order it. There really aren't many of these left now!
And where’s the best place for everyone to keep up with the latest news like upcoming shows, tours and album releases at?
We have a Facebook fan page that I update semi-regularly.
Are there any major plans or goals that Thunders is looking to accomplish in the last of 2014 or in 2015?
I'm planning on moving to LA at the end of the year. I made a set of goals for 2014 and by July we had accomplished all of them. I’d like to tour Europe in 2015 and put out a new record, so we'll see.
Do you all spend a lot of time touring? Do you enjoy being out on the road? What’s life like on tour for Thunders?
I much prefer being on the road to being at home. I like being on the move. I like playing music. I like meeting new people. I like the change of scenery everyday. I like literally everything about it. The main rule we have for tour is to do one fun thing everyday that isn't playing the show. And eat good meals everyday. I'm typically too broke when I'm not on the road to do much more than eat pasta or stir fry, so eating at restaurants is pretty fun for me, and trying some local fare that the city is known for makes your day a little more fun.
What, if anything, do you all have planned as far as touring goes at this point?
Well, we played all over the US so far in 2014, so I think Mike and I are both pretty cool with being stationary right now. Since I'm moving to the other side of the country, it might make touring a bit more difficult in the short term, but we'll see.
Do you remember what the first song that Thunders ever played live was? When and where would that have been?
I would assume it was "MagicSick" from our first record, only because that was always the first song in our set for a very, very long time.
Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the past several years?
Spiritualized is the first one to come to mind. I like Earthquake Party! from Boston a whole lot. Male Gaze from California are great, too.
In your dreams, who are you on tour with?
Hmmm, that's a tough question. Right now, I think it would be rad to open for The Replacements.
Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to share here with our readers?
I threw a fit on stage in San Diego and cracked the neck on my guitar.
Do you all give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band to a large extent, stuff like flyers, posters, shirt designs, cover artwork and that kind of thing? Is there any kind of meaning or message that you’re attempting to convey or get across?
I tend to prefer minimalism when it comes to the visual aesthetic of the band, and so far, the only cover art I've had anything to do with was the most recent cover that just has my face and some block lettering. I'm not too good at the "style" or "branding" of the band, so either I farm that out to someone else, which is ideal, or I take it on myself and try to weave my preference for all things minimal into it. I feel like the cover for the most recent record tells you everything you need to know about the content thereof.
With all of the various methods of release that are available to musicians today I’m always various why they choose and prefer the various methods that they do. Do you have a preferred medium of release for your own music? What about when you’re listening to or purchasing music? If you do have a preference, what is it and can you tell us a little bit about what that is?
I feel like once you go down the road of releasing your music to vinyl, you kind of have to keep doing that. It would be nice to be as prolific as possible with releases, but self-releasing these things on vinyl is a little out of the budget for us, unfortunately. Maybe we'll do more tapes in the future, though. I've been considering different forms of media recently.
I grew up around a pretty massive collection of music and my dad would take me out on the weekends to the local shops and pick me up random stuff I was interested in. As a result, I developed a kind of ritual from a pretty young ago with music. I would rush home, grab a set of headphones, pop them on, feverishly read the liner notes and then just stare at the cover art while the music carried me off on this whole other trip! Having something, physical and concrete that’s related to the music I was hearing always made for a much more complete listening experience for me. Do you have any such connection with physically released music?
Yeah, I remember being seventeen, listening to "B.O.B." from Outkast and going through the CD insert. It was extremely important for me to learn all of the lyrics to that song at that age.
Like it or not, digital music is here in a big way. I mean, there are ups and downs to everything and I think it just kind of depends on how you look at things and deal with them. On one hand, people are being exposed to so much more music than they ever were in the past. When you combine digital music with the internet you have a tool that allows people to recognize the literal world of music that they’re surrounded by and it also allows the bands and their fans to communicate back in forth in a way that people never even dreamed of before. On the other hand though, while people are being exposed to all this great new music they’re not necessarily interested in paying for it at this point and while I don’t think that anyone on the indie level was ever getting “rich” from album sales, illegal piracy has kind of damaged the bottom line for a lot of professional artists. Not to mention, it’s harder and harder to get noticed in the insane digital scene that’s happening out there right now. As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?
I wouldn't be the kind of musician I am today without being able to download music off the internet. I’ve always been a curious kid, but there was never a record store in my hometown growing up. It was a twenty five minute drive to a place two towns over, so getting music was always kind of a hassle for me. Not to mention, the only way I could even afford to buy CDs was if I went without lunch for a week. I would hate to take a hard stance on something if it means that some kid in the middle of nowhere can't just stumble upon something that might change their lives. I also don't really feel comfortable micromanaging the listening experience of strangers, either. People can listen to my band in whatever way they feel like. I know that I tend to listen to music more on Spotify than any other way. But it would be nice if there was a better infrastructure in place for people to listen to music in the digital realm that also allowed the artists to be rightfully compensated. Who really knows, though? People are used to free music in the way that having a radio is "free" and I don't see that changing... like, ever. And to me, I think that most people just view music as this "free" soundtrack that’s just always there.
I try to keep up with as much good music as I can but with all the stuff out there right not it’s hard to even know where to start sometimes! Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to I might not have heard of before?
What about nationally and internationally?
(2008) Thunders – The Sympathetic Oscillations EP – Digital, OOP on CD – A2 Industries
(2010) Jookabox/We Are Hex/Burnt Ones/Thunders – Export – Digital, 7” – Asthmatic Kitty/Roaring Colonel Records [Thunders contribute the track “Weird Spines”]
(2012) Thunders – Beautiful Baby in the Bummer of Love – Digital, 12"
(2014) Thunders – Weird Spines White Trash Whatever – Digital, Cassette Tape, 12” – Maximum Pelt (Limited to 300 copies, Cassette Tape limited to 50 copies)
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
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