In our hunt to pull together antifascist bands from the circles around neofolk and black metal, no band is more cited than the New Orleans based Thou
. This DIY doom metal band have become giants for their aggressive basement sludge, apocalyptic atmosphere, and black-and-white approach to rooting out the far-right. Along with bands like Dawn Ray’d
, they have helped to create a new space in heavy music for a principled antiracist stance and amazing tracks.
We interviewed Andy and Mitch from Thou about what drives the band, how they write their music, and why they have chosen to speak out.
How did Thou first come together? Were you a part of other bands before this?
Andy: Thou formed in 2004 after a couple of our other bands were falling apart. I’d been playing music with Matthew since we were kids. None of our other bands had done much except for play local shows.
Mitch: Matthew (guitar), Andy (other guitar) and Mitch (bass) were playing in bands together in high school and eventually formed Thou. Around 2 years later Bryan caught wind of us and forced his way into the band. He said he wouldn’t let us play anymore shows in New Orleans if he wasn’t the singer.
We sure were [In other bands]! Eat A Bag Of Dicks, Spring Break Shark Attack, Torn Apart By Horses, Effigy, Translation, IDKFA, Groundview, The Sugar Cookies, Rhinosaur, Man Plus Building, Baby Boy, and probably a handful of others I can’t remember. Andy is currently doing a solo project called Supplicate
, and Bryan is in The World is a Vampyre
with our newest guitar player KC.
How do you define your sound? Do you consider yourself a part of the Doom scene?
Andy: Loosely, yeah I suppose we are part of the “Doom scene” but we don’t really consider ourselves part of any kind of scene outside of the bands that were are friends with and who are doing like-minded things with a like-minded approach. Bands like The Body
, False, Cloud Rat
, Lingua Ignota
, etc etc
Mitch: Hipster Doom. LoL. Of course! We definitely fit into the genre in a lot of ways, but also try not to JUST do the typical “Doom Thing.” We get bored easily which forces us to switch things up every so often. We can’t do just slow and heavy all the time, nah’mean?
Why do you think there is a growing antifascist black and doom metal scene?
Andy: I think it’s because there is a growing antifascist scene in general, which is a reaction to fascism being on the rise in a global sense. Though there are still no shortage of self-described “apolitical” bands in metal. I’d still venture to say most metal bands in 2019 consider their music to be apolitical.
Mitch: Because there has been a fascist black and doom scene for too long and people are sick of it. Its about time!
Have you experienced a lot of far-right attitudes in the metal scene?
Mitch: Mostly just online, where people can hide behind their keyboards and say awful shit with no consequences. If someone is even a little familiar with our band then they probably know the basics of what we stand for and wouldn’t bother coming to one of our shows. There is one funny story of being surprised by someone we thought was cool, but turned out to be a straight up nazi in hiding. That was a wild night.
Andy: Not too many blatant far-right attitudes, but certainly a few. I think it’s more common for bands to hide those views under the aforementioned “apolitical” banner. If anyone took half a second to read our lyrics or liner notes, or even look at our t-shirt designs, you’d think they’d quickly realize that our music is the exact opposite of those views, but unfortunately it isn’t always the case.
How does songwriting take place? Is it a collaborative effort?
Andy: It’s gotten more and more collaborative over the years, but most of it still stems from a skeleton of a song that either Matthew or I will write, then all of us will work on an arrangement.
Mitch: Usually Matthew or Andy will have a few riffs, or maybe a full song written, and bring it to everyone. We’ll listen to it a few times, learn it, and then possibly start rearranging or adding parts (maybe take some away if they stink) and just go from there. Lately other members have been contributing more often and it’s really been fun to see how that shapes the new directions we go in.
Heathen was how I first came across Thou, was this a big stylistic turn for the band? What was the concept behind it when you were producing it?
Mitch: I wouldn’t say it was a huge departure for us necessarily. When we’re writing a full length album we tend to look at the last one, see where it went wrong, and try to improve on those mistakes. There’s more of a focus to the full lengths than say the splits or EPs. We have a clear idea of what we want it to sound like and put everything into shaping that sound.
Andy: It didn’t feel like a big stylistic turn at the time; more of a natural evolution. Musically, the idea was to introduce more dynamics to the music, broadly speaking. I want to play more with melody and be able to use some pretty chords and really let them breathe. We wanted to take the focus off of just “riffs” for some of the songs, and also leave room for more pseudo-experimental stuff like clean vocals or weird synth overdubs, stuff like that.
What bands inspire your music? You seem to draw from a huge range of musical styles and artforms.
Andy: Most of the time I’m sitting down to write a song, I’m just trying to channel the mysterious melancholic vibe from Portishead’s “Hunter” and marry that to something heavy. Not an exaggeration.
I don’t listen to almost any current heavy bands and am usually listening to the Cocteau Twins or emotionless techno. Not sure if it really inspires the music necessarily, but that’s where I’m at.
Mitch: That’s almost impossible to answer because not only do all of us listen to drastically different types of music, the bands that influence us are constantly changing. The one constant, though, throughout our tenure as a band, has been to sound better than The Body
. It’s not easy.
We have jokingly called Thou the true “punk rock” of sludge, why is the DIY approach so important?
Mitch: Well first off thank you for saying that. That’s very nice of you. The DIY thing just makes sense in a lot of ways. Having complete control over your music, merch, the way it’s heard and discovered, and even being able to give it away for free just seems like a no-brainer. There are definitely aspects of it that are exhausting and frustrating, but that also makes it more fulfilling when things come together. All that being said, if Atlantic records wants to pay us a million dollars to record and tour then we’ve got a deal!
Andy: We’ve just tried to cut away as much of the nonsense of the “music industry” as makes sense for us, though it’s evolving. If there’s something that we’re willing to put the time and energy into doing ourselves, we’re always gonna do it that way. It’s a good way to ensure that your exact vision comes across to someone outside the band.
Obviously there is a sense of apocalypse and death in the music, but it comes across revolutionary rather than nihilistic. How does your view of social change play into this? Is it the end of the world, or just the time for massive social upheaval?
Andy: I live in a city that’ll probably be wiped out by climate change within 50 years, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to fight for a better life for me and others. So, I’d say it’s both. The end of the world should inspire the massive social upheaval.
Mitch: The end of the world is definitely coming, but it doesn’t have to suck. Why not try to make things better while you have the chance? Of course all of us struggle with the things we can’t really control; politics, global warming, bad movies coming out, but just because it’s a struggle doesn’t mean there’s NOTHING you can do.
What’s coming next? Any major tours or releases coming up?
Mitch: We recently wrote an album with our very good friend Emma Ruth Rundle! It’s being mixed right now and we’re still deciding on how it’s going to come out. There will probably be a tour or 2 once it’s released. Other than that I think it’s time to start writing the next full length. And again, if anyone from Atlantic records, or any other major label is reading this, holler at us. We’re tired of rolling our own t-shirts!
We will have to wait for our current apocalypse to be finished to see Thou on the next tour. We have added several tracks below from Thou’s Bandcamp, and we have added a track to our Antifasicst Neofolk Playlist on Spotify. Stay tuned for our doom playlist, which we are slowly, slowly working on and looking forward to kicking over to all of you.