Montreal Rocks had a chance to talk with drummer Riley Breckenridge of Thrice about the upcoming show at MTelus on November 28th. We also discussed how a drummer can contribute to the writing process, what he values from his band members, social media pitfalls, hitting a musical home run and healthy living while touring.
Montreal Rocks: What is the most annoying question you get asked in interviews?
Riley Breckenridge: I guess: “Tell me a little bit about your band.” Something very general.
MR: Yeah, too vague.
RB: Tell me how you guys got started. That’s always a good one.
MR: Well, it’s been a while, you guys started a long time ago.
RB: Yeah, you want me to start in ’98 and run you all the way through the history of the band? Or… do you want to look at our Wikipedia page?
MR: Exactly. So, I will ask you the ones I have prepared. In my research, I saw that you have a versatility of not only playing drums, but also collaborating in the music writing process on other instruments. Why do you think it’s important to take on those other roles and get out from behind the drum kit?
RB: My brain works more melodically than it does rhythmically, even though I’m a drummer. Initially, in a song as a listener, I am drawn to melody or chords. Being a fan of that, it’s just natural that it comes out of me and I can get my ideas out and be able to share it with the guys and contribute to songwriting. It’s another voice we can use. Everybody in the band writes on a variety of instruments. Part of what makes us sound the way we do is four people with unique voices coming together and collaborating to make one focused piece of music.
MR: There is a quote from Jim Rohn that says: “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” Being in a band and travelling so much, you obviously spend a lot of time with your bandmates, and your brother as well. What do you admire about those you surround yourself with? What do you look for in those that are in your inner circle?
RB: Beyond their musical talent… Teppei has an incredible ability to pick up and master whatever he sets his mind to, whether it’s the leatherwork and canvas work that he does, learning how to play certain instruments or even learn something like motorcycle repair. He’s just really good at determining what he wants to do and getting it done and becoming really skilled at it. That’s something I don’t necessarily have, I tend to get frustrated with stuff if I don’t pick it up quickly.
Dustin has an insatiable quest for information. He’s constantly reading, learning and educating himself, which I admire.
Ed has a sense of wonder and curiosity both in music and in life that I also admire. He’s got an interesting creative streak in him that I admire, and wish I had.
MR: You also do things outside of music, you have a Podcast called “The Productive Outs PRODcast” where you talk baseball with other bands. Obviously, that’s something you take to heart. Thinking about baseball and music, what would that feeling when you get a home run, the sound off the bat, the perfect moment when you just know it’s going to go out of the park? What is a home run in terms of music?
RB: You can equate winning a game to having a great show. If you dissect that, hitting a home run is like playing a song and having the crowd erupt and be enthusiastic. Having a part in the song when the whole crowd is singing along or hitting that last note and having the crowd just explode. It’s pretty incredible.
MR: Yes, it feeds you! You guys will be in Montreal on November 28th at the MTelus. Looking forward to having you there. Speaking of being live and having those feelings, people often talk about that break you took, which we don’t need to talk about… but can you describe how it felt playing the sold-out Shrine Auditorium for 6,000 fans (first show after hiatus), compared with playing The Observatory which was the last show before the hiatus?
RB: It was amazing! Biggest hometown show we’ve ever done, by quite a bit. The biggest show we’ve done before that was to 2,000 people, so it was pretty incredible. When you take a hiatus, you don’t know if people will still be interested when you come back. With how quickly information is spread these days, combined with how short attention spans are… 3 years can seem like an eternity to some people and they might move on to the next thing. We didn’t really know what to expect but to have people come back so enthusiastic about it and supportive was incredible. It was better than we could even imagine.
MR: I’m glad you had that experience. Talking about people getting back into your music, the last album you did was “To Be Everywhere is to Be Nowhere” which was from the Stoic philosopher Seneca. I was thinking specifically of the song “Salt and Shadow” where it says: You’re talking through glass, we’re just square photographs on a page. We all know that social media is the highlight reel, the best of. How do you guys use Social Media as a band to speak to your fans? What’s the best way that you found works?
RB: It’s something we are trying to get better at. We are definitely not as good as we could be, probably because the band came up in an era where social media wasn’t even a thing. We are trying to get better at finding the right amount of engagement and content to post but also not oversharing, or losing a level of privacy that we feel like we need. Instagram has been great and Twitter, but stuff like Snapchat and anything beyond that is kind of lost on us. We want to share information but not give away too much information, you know what I mean?
MR: Yes. Some of you have kids now, married life… definitely there is some stuff you need to keep private. Being in the spotlight, you will have people talk about you positively and negatively. Obviously social media is a place where many people have negative opinions. If there was one social media post that could be read by every single troll out there, what would it say?
RB: What do you have to gain by trolling?
MR: Pick up the guitar, pick up the drums, then come talk to me?
RB: Kind of, but I feel with trolls, you can’t really reason with them. That trolling itch is just not an itch that I have, it doesn’t make me happy to bum people out, annoy or harass people. There are some people in the world that just feed on that. It’s a very weird obsession, one that I don’t really understand.
MR: Better to just ignore them.
RB: Absolutely. The best medicine against trolling is to ignore it, because they are just out for attention. When you acknowledge it, they feel like they’ve won.
MR: The Seneca stuff really shows to me that as a band, you are deeper into intellectual stuff, reading books and expanding your minds. Seneca was writing to his protégé. Since you guys have been in the music business for so long, since the late 90s. What advice would you give your protégé today, with all that knowledge?
RB: Try to connect with people on a personal level. This goes back to the social media thing we were talking about. Back in the day for us, we had to connect with fans by “flyering” after the show, passing out flyers to the next show or passing out demos. We had to talk to people after the show. I feel that now, a lot of young bands are more concerned with collecting followers than making a connection. I think one of the reasons we’ve been able to do what we’ve been able to do for so long is because we were able to connect to people on a human level, so people have an understanding of who we are and what’s important to us. There is an honesty there. I think it’s very easy to bullsh*t your way to hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter or Instagram but there is no real connection there. You can also portray your band as something that it isn’t. For instance, you might see some band that seems like they are playing these massive shows, with crazy lights and the crowds are crazy. But if you look at the actual numbers, they aren’t really doing that. It’s easy to be a poser on Instagram and Twitter. I encourage people to be real.
MR: I guess that goes to the theme: “To be everywhere is to be nowhere”. They might portray themselves as being everywhere, but really, they are nowhere if that’s what they are doing. We have time for one last question. You stay away from fast foods when you are on the road, except for your McRib adventure that you had recently. What do you do on tour to stay healthy?
RB: I try to eat fairly well. There are days, like yesterday, we were in New Orleans and we went to this amazing restaurant called Cochon, Southern Food with a lot of fried stuff. Definitely it was not healthy. I’ve gotten into running in the last three years or so. I’ve tried to start running on tour at least five days a week. I found that it’s good because it helps keep me focused. It gets my day off on the right foot. It’s invigorating both mentally and physically. I try to stay in shape and drink a lot of water… and use a hand sanitizer.
MR: When you are in Montreal, you can try running up Mount Royal, which is a nice scenic path and then you will get a view of the whole city.
RB: That would be awesome.
MR: Thanks for your time and we will see you here in Montreal at MTelus on November 28th, 2017. Tickets are available from Evenko here.
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