When I call Geoff Rickly at noon on a Thursday he is sucking on a hard candy and rereading the novel Invisible Cities by Italian author Italo Calvino. If you know Rickly on any level at all, you’ll recognize that neither of these things—sweets and intellectual sustenance—are out of the ordinary for Thursday’s frontman (he even has a tattoo reading “Sweet Edge” on his left calf that features two crossed candy canes in front of a cupcake done by Oliver Peck as a testament to the vice). While most professional musicians are content to immerse themselves in video games when they’re not on the road, the 32-year-old frontman for Thursday is a strident intellectual who just happens to sing for one of today’s most progressive rock acts.
Before we get to the band, I should admit I’m a little biased in my assessment of Rickly. In addition to having been close to him for the past decade, I’ve also played guitar for his grindcore side project, United Nations. That said, I’m friends with plenty of musicians and I can’t name another person who is equally as knowledgeable about the short stories of Jim Shepard as they are Orchids’ discography. In fact, most musicians haven’t heard of either of these artists, let alone immersed themselves in decoding their seeming disparate works.
This is important because diversity is what defines No Devolución, the sixth studio album for Thursday, which includes Rickly, guitarists Steve Pedulla and Tom Keeley, drummer Tucker Rule, keyboardist Andrew Everding, and bassist Tim Payne, whose spot is often filled during touring (due to familial obligations) by bassist Lukas Previn, pictured here. The record features barely any of the screaming that propelled the band into the mainstream arena a decade ago during what New York Times Magazine memorably referred to as “The Summer of Screamo” back in 2003. “That was such a weird spot in my life where everything happened so quickly and unexpectedly that it put us in a bubble for a while,” Rule had told me just last night at a dark East Village bar above the din of Bad Religion’s “No Control.”
At the time, he was riding high on momentum. Soon after the band’s 2001 commercial breakthrough, Full Collapse, they signed to Island Records, who released 2003’s War All the Time and 2006’s A City by the Light Divided, albums that were celebrated by fans but failed to make the commercial dent needed to sustain them on a major label. After parting ways with Island, the band signed with iconic independent label Epitaph Records and released Common Existence in 2009; it was their second consecutive recording produced by Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev). And that brings us to No Devolución, an album that Rickly himself thought at one point might never come to fruition.
“Last year, before we even started recording this album, I kept pushing to do a 10-year anniversary tour for Full Collapse because I felt like there was a chance we might not do another record, or we might go into the studio and what we did wouldn’t be good enough to put out,” Rickly admits. “We were just floating in limbo and I thought, ‘Well, if it’s going to fizzle out let’s just end it with a bang with a Full Collapse tour.” And so they did the anniversary tour, opening for Underoath, even though they had already finished recording No Devolución—an album that, ironically, seems primed to give the band a new life.
“Making this record was the most bizarre experience of my life. We rehearsed seven times as a band for No Devolución, whereas in the past we would take a year to write a record, nitpicking over every single note and sucking all the fun out of it,” Rickly says. “This time we went more with the idea of ‘What’s your first best guess?’ This record was also different because there was no outside pressure from anyone like there had been in the past. It was scary in the sense that we went into the studio with only four or five bare-bones songs—but we all pulled together and had fun with the process.”