Thursday frontman Geoff Rickly still struggles with his band's identity. More than a dozen years into their career, he's trying to grasp how the post-hardcore heroes gradually shifted to, well, whatever it is they can be considered now.
"It's just something you use to brand yourself," he says. "It just isn't as important to me anymore. It's still Thursday because it's still us. We're still doing the same basic thing. We're the same guys with the same hearts. But for branding purposes, I'm not sure we've stayed true to the Thursday sound in any meaningful way."
No doubt many of the New Jersey band's longtime fans would agree. Between the mix of thrash, screamo, and pop melodies found on 2001's breakthrough album Full Collapse and the layered and nuanced mood music of their latest, 2009's Common Existence, Thursday have taken turns that even Rickly couldn't have predicted a decade ago. There are even bigger changes coming on their sixth album, No Devolución, which is due out in April.
"The record could be a lot heavier, it could be a lot louder, it could be faster, it could be more urgent," he says. "That was a big thing with us in the beginning. We felt like if it doesn't sound urgent, then it's fucking bullshit, it's a lie. If it's a lie, we can't put it out there. I think when [people] hear our newer stuff, they'll think, 'These guys are bullshit now. They must be dead inside.'"
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, age has tempered the 31-year-old frontman's angst quite a bit since he first sang "Understanding in a Car Crash" and "Cross Out the Eyes." But growing up has also given him a deeper appreciation for the more subtle concepts that have always driven his songwriting.
"The [new] record is about devotion," he says. "I was thinking that you get all these love songs about breakups and how sad it is. There's never any attention paid to devotion — to lasting devotion to one thing. I think it's a really beautiful subject that never gets explored."
Thursday's sound may have changed somewhat over the years, but a unifying theme runs through it all — from their 1999 debut Waiting to 2003's major-label bow War All the Time to 2006's A City by the Light Divided — pulling together Thursday's past to the present, even as Rickly talks about redefining their future.
"You can look at songs on our newest record and find the same questions being asked," he says.
A key part of growing up means reconciling with their youth. For Rickly and Thursday, that process manifests itself in the band's new tour, which celebrates the 10th anniversary of Full Collapse by playing the album in its entirety. It's their way of letting go and moving on, while still recognizing that the album and period are a huge chunk of how they got where they are and how they still define where they're going.
"I read something recently that a band's early stuff is just energy left over from being born, which I thought was so awesome," says Rickly. "Then you have to get older and realize what you want to make after you've gotten that first energetic burst out. I feel like that's the stage that Thursday is in now, even though we're going back and celebrating the album that we made as kids burning off our energy. It's funny to be going out and celebrating that."