Monday, February 2, 2009


Originally published in: Chord Magazine

Album: A City by the Light Divided 


Random thoughts: Chord Magazine is now defunct (or on permanent hiatus), but this was part of one of their Warped Tour issues. Geoff Rickly was a pleasant chap, and really, really wanted to talk about his "grindcore" project, United Nations, which didn't end up coming out for another two-and-a-half years. That, my friends, is why you never let an artist push your story angle. 


A tale of two cities merged as one

By Jason Schreurs

Back with a monumental new album called A City by the Light Divided, Thursday will be one of the main draws at this year’s Warped Tour. After spending a year and a half away from the limelight, the New Jersey quintet has emerged with an album that challenges their anxious listeners. And while it might not dispel their “depressing-core” tag, A City by the Light Divided will definitely reward those who invest in it.

“I was reading this book called I Hate Myself and I Want to Die in the bookstore the other day, and it was listing the most depressing songs ever,” says a surprisingly cheery Geoff Rickly, “and in the last chapter it listed who was going to carry the torch or whatever, and it said, ‘There are a few bands who are very depressing, especially Bright Eyes and Thursday.’ That just made me laugh. I felt like I was in good company.”

The singer spent the past two years warding off breakup rumors, but claims the band’s future was never in question. Touring for five years straight before, during, and after the release of the stalwart War All the Time took its toll on the members, but picking up after an extended break to start work on their new album came naturally, especially after locking in with noted producer Dave Friddman (The Flaming Lips, Sleater-Kinney). The choice of Friddman came in small part from Rickly’s love of Sleater-Kinney’s most recent album, The Woods.

“I loved the production on that album because it was so daring to be that crazy sounding,” explains Rickly. “And when I heard the live version of [Sleater-Kinney’s] ‘The Fox’ I realized it was the noise that made the song so rocking. Without it, it seemed very anemic… Now our record actually has a lot of the characteristics of the stuff I love and listen to all of the time.”

Fridmann and the members of Thursday hammered out A City by the Light Divided in six weeks “instead of the seven months it took to record War All the Time,” stresses Rickly. The band came away with a record that should make a natural transition this summer at Warped.  

“The noisiness of the record is more like we are live, so it’s more suited to us playing it live,” says Rickly.

The new album was actually planned as a double album, reflective of the duality of human nature. Each disc was going to represent a different side of humanity. But plans to pursue the double album were scrapped when Rickly had an important revelation.

“We were working on the record and I remembered listening to Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness when I was a kid and thinking, ‘This song kind of sucks. I’m not into this part and I really want to hear the song that comes three after this.’ I mean, I’d love to have all of the extra songs as b-sides, but I remember thinking if they had made just one record, it would have been their best record. It would have killed Siamese Dream. But because it was a double, it didn’t.”

After selecting the key songs from each record the band was pleased to discover the theme of duality remained; a tale of two very different cities fueled by human nature. They also had a slew of b-sides to release later.

“Even though we condensed it down to one really good record, there were five songs from the first disc and five songs from the second disc. So it was still very much a record about duality. After we realized that, Dave Fridmann had us record an instrumental in the middle. So it turned out, in a really cool way, to be the record we had originally intended to make, just shorter… and better,” laughs Rickly.

The question is will longtime fans latch onto a record so textured and noisy? There’s already been backlash from those who prefer the band’s cleaner production sound and simpler songwriting on earlier albums like Full Collapse.

“People’s expectations are colored with nostalgia for something they already love. But I think we’re getting better. I think Full Collapse almost sounds like a cartoon compared to how vivid the new record is. Maybe people will only accept our new records once they become nostalgic for them. So, eventually we’ll have records that people like,” he jokes.

As for playing this year’s Warped, Rickly is excited to get back on the mainstage of a festival he believes is stronger than ever.

“If you’d asked me last year, I probably would have said I didn’t know how vital [Warped] is. But this year I feel like the lineup is so strong and so good, and kinda classy, so I’m really impressed with them for putting this one together.”

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