Thicket – Embrace the DescentMonday, 7th October 2019
When you think of Florida, beyond the sunshine and family friendly destinations, at least in the world of underground metal you probably think it was death haven, especially during the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. Bands like Death, Obituary, Atheist, Malevolent Creation, and others gained record deals and worldwide attention for their work while developing their craft in this state. But there have also been other bands from other genres that have gained respect and followings for their abilities and discography – Crimson Glory, Iced Earth, and Kamelot to name a few.
When it comes to thrash, Thicket from Orlando hope to put their claim in for bubbling up from the underground. They’ve released a series of EP’s to date – Descend into Darkness the band’s latest – and their sound combines a mixture of influences from the past while also injecting a bit of progression and melodic/extreme nuances to the mix. We sought out the band collectively to answer these questions, to learn a bit more about their background. You’ll discover the band’s passion for the genre, lessons learned through their recordings, outlook on live performances, and 80’s thrash meets modern movie / Jack Kirby comics inspiration for the new EP’s cover art.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your earliest memories surrounding music growing up – and how did you make the progression into heavy metal as well as picking up an instrument and wanting to play original music?
Thicket: It’s interesting because James and Tabby grew up listening to a wide range of music outside of metal. Their parents introduced them from anything from Elvis to Bob Marley to Madonna, etc. But their cousin actually turned them onto Slipknot back in the day and from there, artists like Metallica, Avenged Sevenfold, etc. were introduced into their lives and an interest in metal grew quickly. But the other half of the band, Kevin and Jake, grew up with heavier music even as kids. Bands like Metallica, Kiss, Pantera, etc. were heard very early on.
We all got into actually playing music as teens, after already becoming interested in metal, so naturally we all played what we liked to hear at the time. Of course, our other influences began to come into play when we actually started writing music, especially as we grew in experience.
Dead Rhetoric: Thicket originally started in the early 2010’s as a thrash band, at what point over the years did you decide to evolve with more dynamic influences – and how do you feel this has helped the band establish its own flavor and style?
Thicket: The Thicket of the early 2010’s was totally different than the Thicket of today. Different vision, several different lineups, etc. So, it was really when we got our current lineup right before the release of Tides of Pestilence that we started to get into the groove of everything. In fact, Descend into Darkness is the first EP that this lineup 100 percent contributed to. Our last EP, while it was recorded by this lineup, was written by several different guitar players and vocalists. So, the writing method was quite a bit different with Descend into Darkness than our other EPs.
Nevertheless, this band has always wanted to incorporate non-thrash influences into our writing. It just never really worked out until this lineup. So, it was a big hope of ours going into Descend into Darkness that the EP could be thrash but also so much more. We wanted it to be very melodic, progressive, and even incorporate different vocal styles.
With this, we feel that we have created a unique blend that is not necessarily one genre. It’s a mix of them all that really can only be described as ‘Thicket’ and we hope to continue in that direction.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve released a series of EP’s over the years – tell us about the recording and songwriting process you went through for each. What do you think are the strengths of each recording, and what did you learn and improve upon from each EP – how do you feel about each recording currently?
Thicket: Tales from the Tomb was primarily written by the original founding members of the band, James Marks (who is still in the band) and Justin Rich. The two of them had been talking for quite a while about starting a band together so they finally got things going after recruiting a friend to play guitar. James wrote the majority of the instrumentals on this EP with Justin Rich handling most of the lyrics. They had a vision for horror-thrash and recorded the whole thing on their own. However, they soon underwent a lineup change, recruiting a new guitarist and vocalist. This lineup didn’t end up working out either so a third lineup was introduced (this is when Tabatha came into the picture) and that is when the EP was officially recorded professionally. At the time, we really wanted to introduce influences outside of trash, but our producer was really rooted in deathcore and it definitely affected the tones, feel, and vocals of the record.
With Tides of Pestilence, came a few more lineup changes. Each one led to at least one song, if not more, on this EP. So, the sound is quite diverse. However, we did not actually record this EP until we got our current lineup in place: Jake on guitar and vocals, James on drums, Kevin on guitar, and Tabatha on bass. Many of the riffs on these songs were re-worked, giving Kevin and Jake more of a presence on the EP, and a couple new songs were added, giving us a complete record. We definitely wanted more freedom with this EP than the previous one, so we recruited a friend of ours who had some experience in producing to do it. The whole thing was recorded in Kevin’s garage and we really just wanted to get something out that had this lineup, so some aspects of the EP were rushed but for the most part, it all worked out.
With Descend into Darkness, we had several conversations about where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. A lot more thought went into this EP, as opposed to the last ones, which were written mostly apart and spread out over time. It was very important to us that we were more progressive song-writing wise, becoming less simple and incorporating more riffs. We also wanted to up the melodic-ness that we started to flesh out on the last EP and take it a notch higher. And we wanted to get some catchy choruses in there with some clean singing on lyrics that were actually relatable to how people felt in their real world. With these standards in mind, we embarked on a long writing process. We probably wrote about nine or so songs, but only six made the cut with a seventh guitar diddly being added in last minute because we loved it so much. We went into a studio to record it professionally and our thankfully our producer was very receptive of our vision and was able to add things here or there to really elevate our sound. This is definitely the most authentically ‘Thicket’ EP, as everyone had input on every song. And we got to achieve each one of our goals, so it was a very rewarding feeling.
Dead Rhetoric: Descend into Darkness is the latest Thicket offering, a seven-song outing that grabbed my attention for its strong guitar harmonies, memorable hooks, and occasional progressive/jazz-like movements. Where do you see the major difference in this recording, and were there any challenges, surprises, or obstacles to overcome in this process?
Thicket: The big difference between this EP and the others has definitely been the songwriting process. First, it is our first EP with a stable lineup and we are all definitely more comfortable in our roles and how we all fit together. Second, our vision was much more defined this time and we all had input into every song. If we felt like something needed to be changed or revamped, we spoke up and made sure each song was as exciting as it could be. And third, we were very comfortable with our producer, who understood our vision and helped us accomplish it.
The biggest challenge we had was honestly time. We did not want to rush anything because we wanted it to sound good, but we had also been playing the same songs for years, so there was some sense of urgency as musicians to finally complete this thing. But with anything that is worth it, it takes time. You have to really flesh out the songs and become comfortable with them before recording. And even after that, the whole recording, mixing, and mastering part takes time too. Some of these songs were started years ago and are just now seeing the light of day. But we are very happy with how it all turned out so we are not regretful or upset with anything.
Another obstacle we faced was actually with the song “Fall of Illusion”. We had five songs and we were ready to be done with the EP when our drummer, James, was like we need one more song. We need a song that is slower in tempo to give listeners a break. And the rest of us fought and fought it – honestly, we were drain creatively. We felt like we had given this EP everything we had but James did not give up and I am very thankful for that because he eventually came to us with the “Fall of Illusion” riffs. We reworked it with some of Kevin’s riffs and other input from Jake and Tabatha and it became the song it is now. It took weeks and weeks of arguments and discussions but it instantly became the top of the EP for us all.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the striking cover art from Mattias Frisk – as it definitely brings another level of professionalism to your final product. Was this a collaboration between the artist and the band, and can you discuss the importance of cover art in the metal genre (has it influenced you to make certain purchases solely based on cover art)?
Thicket: We began working with Mattias Frisk on the Tales from the Tomb EP. He actually does some of the Ghost artwork, and being fans, we reached out to him about getting some artwork done. He totally blew our expectations, even creating this badass icon for the cover. We loved the icon so much that we decided we wanted to reuse him for Tides of Pestilence but in a bigger way. Once again, he blew our expectations out of the park, so we knew he was our guy.
For Descend into Darkness, we really wanted something more colorful. We were inspired by many of the 80’s thrash albums and even modern movies like Get Out and Thor: Ragnarok, which pulls from the Jack Kirby comics heavily. So, it needed to be vibrant and we loved the idea of someone falling from space. And with this EP being more rooted in the real world lyrically, our icon was less important but we still wanted to throw him in where we could.
For each EP, we basically gave Mattias an idea and a mock-up and he took it and amplified it into what you see now. It was very important to us that our artwork stands out because it is the first thing you see when a new EP comes out. We want to be able to pull people in and attract with their eyes and then keep them with some good tunes.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the outlook of Thicket when it comes to your live performances? What do you hope the audience is able to take out of your show, and what have been some of your most memorable/favorite show experiences with the band over the years?
Thicket: We strive to have a very exciting stage show. Obviously, we want the music to speak for itself — we write it to be very interesting and hopefully that translates into our shows. But, we also are very active on stage, constantly interacting with each other and the crowd. We want people to have fun! Because we are having a blast. And we definitely encourage that, along with lots of participation, whether that be a headbang or moshing or chanting.
Touring was definitely one of our band highlights. We traveled throughout the southeast in a cargo van and had a great time together. It was definitely a taste of what we want to do with this new EP. Outside of that, we’ve gotten the chance to play a lot of awesome national act shows, including with bands like Cannibal Corpse and Havok. And of course, all of our headlining EP sets have felt like parties with a bunch of family and friends, so those are always fun.
Dead Rhetoric: What are the biggest challenges or obstacles that the band currently faces to move Thicket up the ranks to another level of popularity or sustainability?
Thicket: Definitely the biggest challenge is just getting to play new cities. We’re always trying to expand and network but finding venues and promoters that trust you and are willing to allow an out-of-state band to come sometimes is a bit of work. We’re hoping to reach out to some new cities with this EP and start touring regularly. I think once we get our music to new people, things will really start moving.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the metal scene in your part of Florida? Do you think that the bands, promoters, venues, and fans all work together to keep the scene together and alive – and if you could change anything about it, what would you change and why?
Thicket: The metal scene in Orlando is great! Obviously, given that we are Florida, there are lots of awesome death metal bands. But Orlando is surprisingly very diverse — there’s a great mix of metal genres and every show is very well diversified. And it is quite clear that all the bands, promoters, venues, and fans know each other and hang out and work to keep metal alive. The community vibe is very rich and it is awesome to be a part of. There’s not much we would really change! Maybe an extra venue or two that is more mid-sized.
Dead Rhetoric: What worries you most about the world that we live in today? What do you think the leaders of the world need to concentrate on more to make this world a happier, healthier, and safer world?
Thicket: Tough question. Clearly there is a lot wrong with the world (and obviously, there’s lots of good too) but we don’t necessarily know what is needed to make everything right. But we definitely all agree that something that should be done.
Dead Rhetoric: What are three of the most important metal albums that shaped your outlook on the genre? And what have been some of your favorite concert memories (be it metal or otherwise) of shows that you’ve taken in purely as a fan in attendance?
Thicket: What a loaded question! It is super hard to narrow it down to three but we’re all huge Metallica fans. Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, And Justice for All, and the Black Album were all huge into shaping our outlook of metal. Outside of that, bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Pantera, Ghost, Megadeth, Gojira, Turnstile, and Revocation have played a huge part on our sound as well. Albums like L’Enfant Sauvage, The Stage, Chaos of Forms, Opus Enonymous, Cowboys from Hell, and Rust in Peace have been super influential on us.
Seeing these bands live too has really shaped how we are as a band. For example, seeing Ghost has really helped us understand the importance of bringing the audience into a show — doing more than just playing the songs. We really want to build an ambience and immersion as well, which is something bands like Gojira and Avenged Sevenfold are really stellar at. But then bands like Metallica, Revocation, and Turnstile have been awesome to watch live because they really taught us all about energy and authenticity. Being able to be yourself and play your songs and bring a whole new level of liveliness to it.
We have a lot of music interests outside of metal too so seeing bands like Queen, Brian Setzer, Paramore, has been awesome. Shows like that introduce us to a whole new way of appreciating and performing music that isn’t seen as often in the metal world.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you characterize the band chemistry and personalities within Thicket? Do you have the support of family, friends, and significant others when it comes to the band activities – and how do you balance out the workload with school/jobs/careers and the band?
Thicket: We are all friends first. Obviously, the band matters a lot to us and we all want it to be successful, but above it all, we are best buds and family — both literally and figuratively! So, we hang out and talk all the time.
We’re very lucky to have a huge support system! Our families support us a lot and we have a great group of friends that come out and show lots of support so it’s awesome. And all of our significant others are even more supportive and are totally on board with our dreams so that is great.
Sometimes, finding a balance between our personal lives, careers/jobs, and the band can be tough! Life is busy without a band and once you throw that in, you have to amp it up even more. We all basically have two full-time jobs — our 9 to 5’s and playing music. So, it can be tough sometimes but we’re all friends so it doesn’t take us much of a reason to get together and jam. It is always a good time and the band is all of our dream careers so we just have to prioritize at the end of the day.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Thicket over the next year now that the new EP is out?
Thicket: We want to play as many shows as we can in as many cities as we can. We definitely want our music in the next year to reach as many ears as possible. Touring, in addition to lots of online promotion and ads, will help greatly. We also want to have a great online presence, so we are hoping to create some digital content that showcases the music and personality of the band. And hopefully, our next release does not take as long to make so we are already writing for that.