Sure, you could call long-running Louisiana doom punks Thou "heavy," but the term kinda falls short in capturing the crushing, cinematic expansiveness of their sound.
Listening to Thou is a transformative experience, one that conjures images of the earth's tectonic plates drifting into each other, slowly grinding continents into nothingness, creating new land masses, causing earthquakes, mud slides, tidal waves; it's the Music of the Spheres recounting the sound of the void. Yeah, it's heavy.
Since forming in 2005, Thou have become known for their prolific output (which includes 20-plus full-length records, singles and EPs), but this year the band is setting a new standard by releasing three EPs — The House Primordial (Raw Sugar), Inconsolable (Community Records) and Rheia Sylvia (Deathwish) — plus their fifth full-length record, Magus, which drops on August 31st via Sacred Bones.
Though their recordings are intense and sublimely heavy, Thou truly shine in the live setting where frontman Bryan Funck acts as the lightning rod for the intense emotion rising from the layers of feedback, thundering percussion and Promethean guitar tones. Furthermore, his involvement in the underground DIY culture proved integral in crafting the band's no-bullshit aesthetic, which shines through in Thou's sound, creating a sincerity that is often missing from other bands that traverse similar sonic ground.
In the following interview we cornered Funck to discuss Thou's upcoming release, his straight-edge vegan lifestyle, eschewing many of the tropes and excesses of heavy metal and his place in NOLA's legendary music scene.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN MUSIC? WERE YOU ALWAYS A SINGER OR DO YOU PLAY ANY OTHER INSTRUMENTS?
BRYAN FUNCK I can't play anything. I am a horrible musician. Singing is an overestimation of what I do. I had been booking shows in New Orleans for 20 years so I had friends in bands. I just kind of pummeled my way into joining Thou. I basically told them I thought their singer sucked and they should let me sing in the band.
YOU ARE KNOWN FOR BEING VEGAN AND STRAIGHT EDGE. WHAT IS THE PHILOSOPHY BEHIND THESE LIFESTYLE CHOICES?
It's definitely more philosophical than health. The bottom line for me is because I come from the Nineties hardcore scene I was exposed to that stuff at a young age so at some point, it made sense to me. I'm also the kind of person that can't be half way in, which is why vegetarianism was never really appealing. I wanted to do it all the way. It's hard for me to wrap my head around people not being vegan. There are millions of reasons to go vegan aside from the environmental impact.
Usually, the only excuse is because that people don't want to give up a certain kind of food; or maybe you're poor. It's a little harder to figure out, but you can make it work on a budget — you just have to do a little bit of research. To me, not being vegan in 2018 is like people being racist or misogynist in 2018. It just seems boneheaded to live a life that promotes cruelty so that's why I'm vegan.
I didn't really claim straight edge till my early 20s. Being around so many boneheads in the hardcore scene that were straight edge, made me not want to be associated with those people. Growing up in New Orleans, it's just really easy to get alcohol and drugs at a young age. Early on, I was exposed to a lot of people in my friend circle doing a lot of drinking and drugs and it seemed like they thought they were having a good time but, to me, it was through a weird filter. I would rather like to be able to turn things on and off whenever I wanted. When I want to act like a fool I act like a fool and if I want to be serious I could just be serious. I was never needlessly putting myself in situations where I would potentially have a huge regret unless I made a conscious decision.
Everybody who drinks or does drugs always has some regretful story or got into some kind of trouble while doing those things. I got enough real stuff in my life that I regret, I don't need to create more opportunities for that. I'd rather be spending my time having fun doing good things, making good memories to look back on.
NEW ORLEANS HAS A RICH METAL AND HEAVY ROCK SCENE. THOU DOESN'T QUITE FIT IN, YOU GUYS ARE DIFFERENT THAN BANDS LIKE CROWBAR AND EYEHATEGOD.
We are more of a reaction to the stuff I didn't like about those bands. I'd seen Eyehategod a zillion times; back then, they were always falling apart and sloppy. In the late Nineties early 2000s they were always just a mess. Most of those bands played rock clubs. They're very much into metal. You know I always like stuff that was heavy but there had to be some other aspect, it had to be artful and had to have some depth to it. I was more attracted to bands like Cavity that where a little tighter and came from a punk background.
That's why I always like metal bands that came out of hardcore punk. There was always a pragmatic DIY approach to things that was super rewarding in an immediate and obvious way. When it came to the metal scene, it seemed inaccessible in some ways. I remember a handful of times I tried to get some of those bands to play punk shows and they weren't really feeling it.
I was more about aligning us with a certain kind of people that I liked than I was worried about putting us with certain bands.
THOU IS SET TO RELEASE FOUR RECORDS THIS YEAR, THAT'S QUITE AMBITIOUS …
We've been writing stuff for a couple of years. One of the EPs we recorded a year ago. I think the full length was recorded in 2017. The other two EPs we recorded in a good four-day stretch. Some of it was drawn on material that we'd already written. It's maybe a bit more writing for some bands but I think for us it's not that huge of a deal. The thing that is most impressive to me is that the logistics lined up and the labels are keeping their schedules.
YOU ARE WORKING WITH A VARIETY OF DIFFERENT LABELS FOR THESE RELEASES — WHAT'S THE STORY BEHIND THAT?
I approach the label stuff is more like it's like a split with another band. We try to treat everybody that we work with like collaborators. You do a split with a band because you want your two energies to mix in some kind of way. The label thing is kind of the same thing. We always try to work with people we like. We aren't trying to appeal to a label's audience as much as trying to find a label's audience that appeals to us. We don't really care about being a bigger band, it's more about refining our audience. I keep coming back to the punk thing. I'm in a band and do stuff because I want to interact with people and I want to put something out there that fires somebody up even if its just to repudiate this thing that I'm putting out there.
I want our art to have some kind of impact and for people to interact with me in a way where they impact me, where I can channel it into my life or in my art. That's a big part of it for me.