This Will Destroy You – Extended Interview

Posted May 4, 2011 in

Perhaps it’s blasphemy, but Texas-based This Will Destroy You are what I imagine god would sound like if he were real and in an instrumental rock quartet. Their name may be just as pretentious as that statement, but once you hear any of the powerful tracks off their upcoming album Tunnel Blanket, to be released May 10 on Suicide Squeeze, it’s clear This Will Destroy You are not feigning ambition.  Blowing eardrums since ’05, the band is hard to peg into any one genre. Not quite post-rock, definitely experimental, noisy in all the right ways and dynamic as a good fuck, This Will Destroy You succeeds in taking the abstract and forming it into beautiful, wordless songs (with incredibly wordy titles). SLUG had the privilege of speaking with drummer Alex Bhore about all things TWDY before they headed out on their next tour.

SLUG: You guys are about to go on a U.S. tour, and then on to Europe. Do you guys have a pretty big fan base in Europe?
Bhore: We do really well there. I think it’s slightly more conducive to the type of music we make. I guess people there are just really respectful—not to say that they’re not in the states, because people certainly can be, but it’s a cool vibe there for what we’re doing.

SLUG: Would you say you’re more successful there than you are here?
Bhore: The shows in some cities might be bigger … Success is a pretty relative term when it comes to being in a band, especially the type of band we’re in where it’s not exactly mass market music, top-40 shit or whatever. I feel like we do really really well there. We’re gonna be going twice this year at least, to Europe, and possibly other countries as well, so I’m definitely always looking forward to that.

SLUG: How do you measure success as a band?
Bhore: I think for a band like us, success would be defined as just being able to really focus on writing music in the down time, instead of having to work a day job that we’re not into or something. Just having the financial resources to do that would be cool, but we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing and it’s being going better and better so we can’t really complain about anything.

SLUG: Do you think that being a band that plays solely instrumental music hinders your success at all, or do you think there’s a definite market for that kind of music?
Bhore: There’s definitely a niche in the culture that has a fonder appreciation for music like we’re making, but it goes both ways because now we’re starting to have the opportunity to do a little bit of film scoring and things like that that maybe a traditionally arranged pop/rock band wouldn’t necessarily be able to do. We’re not going to be the biggest band in the world or anything, there are some sorts of boundaries as far as how popular our band could become, but that’s okay. It’s something to be said to having your niche, especially with how the whole music thing is now. Having a niche is, to me, an advantage. There are people that, if you’re doing something worthwhile, will really get behind your music or your art or whatever you’re doing and be loyal supporters of it instead of just fuckin’ fair-weather fans that are into the flavor of the week … I definitely think that there’s a difference between what we’re doing and maybe bands that are shooting to follow a current trend or something like that.

SLUG: I’ve seen in other interviews that you guys are a little sensitive about being labeled “post-rock.” Why is that?
Bhore: It’s more so a problem with having the need to put music in a box and brand it. I think that it’s kind of stupid and unfortunate that that’s become such a term, “Oh, you like post-rock? Then you’ll like these 10 bands,” and a lot of these bands sound very different and have different elements. People even call bands like Tortoise a post-rock band when they’re clearly incredibly jazz influenced and there’s not a lot of rock when it comes to their music. I don’t think we really give a shit about what people want to label the music, it’s insignificant to us.

SLUG: So how would you describe the music you make?
Bhore: It’s something that’s currently and ever evolving, I don’t think we’re shooting to put out the same kinds of records over and over again. A lot of bands that are labeled in the post-rock genre have been putting out the same record over and over again, and that’s not something any of us are interested in doing.

SLUG: What was the concept behind Tunnel Blanket and what kind of influences were you pulling from to create it?
Bhore: The new record is really dark, it’s also really dynamic, it’s incredibly quiet at times and incredibly loud at times, and that was something that we were pretty intent on focusing on. One major thing is that some of us in the band dealt with loss of friends and family, and that had a lot to do with it, just kind of dealing with that kind of stuff. Other than that, the four of us that are in the band now have never really made a record together and the freshness of that, being able to write music with these people that I’ve worked with in the past in different circumstances, but not really This Will Destroy You, I think that was a big part of it, too. Musically, it’s definitely all over the map, I wouldn’t even know where to start with that question because we all listen to a lot of different things individually, and it’s just kind of all over the place.

SLUG: What do you listen to?
Bhore: I really like the new Dear Hunter record. I really like a lot of dark, heavy music, like Liturgy, Wolves In The Throne Room … it’s something different all the time. I’ve been in the studio a lot of the time lately, so most of the time when I’m listening to music it’s something I’m currently working on.

SLUG: How did you record this album?
Bhore: Some of the basic elements, like little electronic parts and loops and organic things we did in my studio, but we did the majority, 98-percent of the record if not more, with a guy named John Congleton who’s done some of the band’s previous work.

SLUG: You took a risk and made the record without a label, and then shopped around for one, right?
Bhore: We still do stuff with Magic Bullet Records, who put out all the rest of the material other than a 7” that we released last year. We were shooting and luckily found a cool couple of lables to put out the new record, just to make a record on our own and kind of see what happened. We were just looking for a label that liked the record and liked our band and was ok with what we were doing, that’s really it. Someone that had a good track record, well-respected. Before we signed with both labels that we signed with [Suicide Squeeze (U.S.) and Monotreme (Europe)], we made sure and asked everyone that we knew in other bands that had done stuff with them. We just wanted to go with labels that we felt like we could trust and would really dig what we’re doing and would be supportive of it.

SLUG: You guys changed the line-up of the band a couple of times, and you’re the newest member. How has that affected the band and the music?
Bhore: From my perspective, I think everyone feels great about it. I can’t speak for how it was before I joined the band. Everyone’s really excited to be making music with each other and there’s a lot of trust there. All of us really like creating things and are constantly working on music in some form at all times, so when we’re able to meet up (we all live in different cities right now) and work on stuff, it’s always really productive and just a good vibe.

SLUG: What’s the song-writing process like since you all live so far apart?
Bhore: Some of the songs on Tunnel Blanket started with Chris [King, guitar] on his laptop or Jeremy [Galindo, guitar] on his laptop. Ideas can start with people on their own. For Tunnel Blanket everyone came up to my studio and we just hacked away at it and wrote and wrote a bunch of songs and recorded a bunch of songs that didn’t make it on the record, just worked on it until we felt that we had the record we wanted to make. And even then, we went and did the record with John and a month or two afterward went back and recorded an additional song, re-tracked some stuff and then that’s when we felt like, ‘the record’s done now, this is more what we wanted it to be.’ The writing process though, it’s many different forms, sometimes we’ll just all get together and all get on our rock ‘n roll instruments and play a song and eventually we’ll be working with loops and things that people have created on their own and try to make that into something bigger, but it really just depends on the song.

SLUG: What kind of “rock ‘n roll” instruments are you using?
Bhore: On the record, we used 30 or 40 instruments and there’s a lot of stuff going on. On the previous releases, it wasn’t completely limited to just this, but the band, for the most part, is a lot of guitar, a lot of bass, a lot of drums. Sometimes we’ll just get on the instruments and work like that, but a lot of times people are on keyboards or other instruments that we’ve been using a lot more with the [new] music. It’s fun to kind of travel around to different instruments when you’re writing and see what pops out. [On the new album] there’s a lot of strings and brass, a couple of instruments that people in the band made, just various things. A lot of the music that we’re into involves a lot of ethnic instruments or just things like that, synthesizers and all that stuff. We wanted to explore as many different options for sound as we could with the record, and I think we’ll continue to do that and try to keep making new sounds―keep trying to go into new territory with the band.

SLUG: How do you like the new record?
Bhore: We’re all really really proud of the record. We’ve been done with it for quite a while so sometimes when you have that situation, it’s easy to get kind of tired of what you’ve made, but for me, I took a while away from the record. I like it, I’m really happy with it, there are no moments on it that make me cringe… I feel really happy with it overall and I think we all completely realized that a lot of the people that maybe liked Young Mountain, the band’s first record, aren’t going to totally dig this stuff, but that’s ok. We feel like we’re really trying as hard as we can to keep pushing ourselves musically. That’s really a big part of why we’re doing what we’re doing. We all like making music and pushing ourselves and expanding our horizons. Most bands that I’ve continually liked over the years―even big bands like Radiohead―there are certain aspects of their sound that are ever evolving and there are certain aspects of their sound that are usually very familiar, and I like that. I generally don’t give a shit about bands that are just lazy and write the same exact record over and over again, it gets fucking boring―I don’t have any interest in that. Maybe at one time in my life, that was okay, but now, if I’m gonna actually take the time to go to the record store and invest money in a band’s record and hopefully follow them for a career, I would much prefer to check out bands that are going to keep surprising me, hopefully in a good way, and keep pushing themselves and writing new music. Nothing’s new, really, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to keep pushing yourself.

SLUG: For an instrumental band, you sure have a way with track titles. How do you come up with them when you have no lyrics to go off of?
Bhore: Our guitar player Chris writes a lot of poetry, writes a lot and reads a lot, and he comes up with them. Generally his method is that when things pop into his head, or in films, or phrases and things he digs, he just jots them down, and when it comes time to name a song, he usually has a lot of really cool options. Sometimes the song will be named before we even write it and sometimes we’ll write a complete song and then figure out a name. Chris just writes down combinations of words that are interesting and meaningful to him in some way and usually it translates to us pretty well.

SLUG: How do you think TWDY fans will react to the tracks on Tunnel Blanket?
Bhore: They’re a little more bleak―there aren’t any songs about happiness … I hope that people won’t discount listening to the record because it is kind of a dark record, but there are brighter moments in it. I think that people that are into classical music or more classically-influenced things will be able to recognize that that was a big deal to us, just classical music in general and a lot of the things we were trying to pull off with the record, like having a track that’s a reprise of another track after it, stuff like that. Hopefully people will give the record a listen and check it out and hopefully won’t discount it because they think it’s something that’s too dark for them.
I think so many records that are now what I consider my favorite records, are records that I thought I hated the first time, or just didn’t really give a shit about, and that’s ok. I really hate when people think, ‘Oh, I didn’t love it on first listen, fuck that record.’ That’s illogical, a lot of music is made to grow on you and it’s not because it’s deficient in any way, it’s just a different vibe. I hope more people will start to give records a few spins instead of just listening to 30 seconds of a track on their fuckin’ Macbook. If you listen to our record on little laptop speakers, you’re not going to be hearing half of the information. I would love it if more people would give thoughtful listens to records that maybe would take a little patience.

SLUG: What’s your live show like? It sounds like it’d be difficult to pull off that much sound with just four of you on stage, especially in small venues.
Bhore: We’ll probably be playing off the new record some of the heavier more full band oriented songs instead of maybe some of the other ones for now, while people are still checking it out. We also have other records we want to be playing material from, too. Hopefully it’ll be a good mix of songs. Live, recently, I feel that like the records, we’re very dynamic―very very loud at points, very loud. And also very quiet at points―I think we all kind of dig doing that and shocking a crowd, going from 0 to 100 really fast, that’s fun for us. There are spaces between certain songs that are very improvisational and different things happen every night.
We’ve gotten to play some hall-type places, places that are more set up for listening than a bar, but I think it doesn’t matter. We don’t care, we like playing in different types of places, whether it’s a dive bar or a pristine beautiful hall, both extremes have their perks. Whether it’s the intimacy with the crowd or huge expansive sound, both of those extremes are definitely something we like.

SLUG: What’s next for TWDY?
Bhore: For now, we’ll just be touring a lot, hopefully all around the world and in new places and new countries. Maybe later in the winter we’ll start chipping away at a new record. We’re definitely going to be putting out a 7” on Suicide Squeeze in the upcoming months and maybe some more limited release-type things like that. When we’re not touring again, we’ll probably write another record and do it all over again.

Salt Lake City is fortunate enough to host Bhore and his bandmates, Chris King (guitar), Jeremy Galindo (guitar) and Donovan Jones (bass/keys) at Kilby Court on May 25. Get ready to rebuild your definition of music because This Will Destroy You.