NEW YORK – When the times get tough, thought-provoking music gets going.
Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and the late, great Johnny Cash all used their musical talents to loan a voice to those without one.
One band doing so today, oddly named Thursday, released their Island/Def Jam debut "War All the Time" on September 16.
Geoff Rickly, the scraggly lead singer for the quintet, provides a sense of comfort within a realm of instability. Rickly’s flat, earnest voice is tempered with hoarse backup shouts of urgency -- melding an everyman clarity with a jumpy, highly skilled rhythm section that manipulates standard time signatures at will.
The New Jersey group delivers social and personal commentary compacted into an artsy, aggressive deluge of influences -- ringing with tints of indie legends such as Sonic Youth and Philly’s progressive punk pride-and-joy Ink & Dagger -- while incorporating a sense of swagger akin to Iggy Pop or even a smarts-over-sex-appeal Mick Jagger.
Songs from "War All the Time" vary in their intent, and often sail into unexpected aural seas with purposely misleading titles like "This Song Brought to You by a Falling Bomb." Without hearing the album, one would think it oozes anti-war sentiment with its title and song names. But the first listen to "War All the Time" instills the true theme of the album -- the perils and beauty within love, not the horror of war.
Foxnews.com had a chance to chat with Rickly about his band's intent, their inspirations and what makes them tick.
Q. Can you say what influence, if any, the recently deceased Johnny Cash has had upon you or your band?
A. A few of the guys in the band have always listened to country and grew up on Johnny Cash. It’d be hard to say that any modern American rock band wasn’t affected by him directly. For me, recently his last record had a huge influence. It’s an incredible statement you can make knowing you’re about to die, and you put those feelings to music. It was really beautiful.
Q. What band or artist in particular has had the most affect on your life and musical vision?
A. Probably U2. My mom and I went to U2 when I was a kid, and it really brought our family together. It was a huge breakthrough in my family life, with records like "War" and "Joshua Tree." Just they way they talk about their hope in life, I’ve always loved the passion in their music -- and I try to put that same passion and urgency into Thursday’s music.
Q. How much attention do you pay to critic's reviews of your band?
A. It's impossible to ignore it, really, but I enjoy it sometimes. You get to see the various levels of interest and understanding on an outside level. Sometimes it can be really enlightening. You’re so close to the music that you're making, so it’s good to see a subjective, outsider view. Sometimes I get sort of bummed if the music is misunderstood, though.
Q. You're from New Bruswick, N.J., not too far from New York City. How did Sept. 11 affect you, as well as your music?
A. I definitely had the feeling that maybe everything was more fragile than I thought originally. I thought it was going to open people up to realize the problems with our policies and relations with the rest of the world. Ironically, looking at the city those days after, the sunsets were actually so incredibly beautiful because of the smoke and debris in the air.
Q. Do you think there's a reachable solution between fans and the record industry when it comes to the file-sharing revolution?
A. The RIAA prosecuting people certainly isn’t the solution. The music industry knows they’re in trouble and they don’t know what to do about it. I know a lot of kids download our music, but they also buy it. As long as they’re giving our music time, that’s all I care about.
On one hand, I don’t want the music industry to collapse, but it’s also run very badly as a whole. There has to be a solution somewhere, but I don't think it's near.
Q. Do you feel that the music industry's onslaught of image-first pop artists recently has paved the way for a content-based band like yours to emerge?
A. I was kind of hoping that was the case. Looking back to when I was in high school in the late '80s, early '90s, it was the big Seattle explosion with Nirvana showing people what substance is. I think now is the perfect time to show how shallow everything is in music.
I honestly think people just don’t care anymore. If it's fun and looks good, then people accept it. Justin Timberlake gets Pharrell Williams to produce his record, and all of a sudden he has credibility and isn't a Disney Mouseketeer?
Q. What led to the decision to title the album after a Charles Bukowski book?
A. I had the book sitting on my shelf for years, but never actually read it. And then I was going through a bunch of old books, and I started getting into this pattern where war was referenced with love. In some ways, Bukowski has a very different views than I do, but it seemed like the right title.
Q. Is there a song on the album that means the most to you, and why so?
A. The title track is one of the most important because it’s about growing up in New Jersey and in a lot of ways it sort of condemns it in one sentiment. "Division St." is very much about the same thing, my life and pains growing up in New Brunswick. I guess they're both geographically tied to my heart.
Q. Do you feel as if current times of war, economic troubles and disputed foreign policies, both domestically and globally, make now the perfect time for your album to come out?
A. Yes and no. I feel like maybe in a few years it will be apparent if the time is perfect, but right now it’s the most confusing time to put out an album called "War All the Time" that’s entirely about love. The only real political statement on the album is to pay attention to everything. People just accept the company line and don’t pay attention to any details.
It’s a very present-tense record.
Q. Is punk-influenced music the perfect format for social commentary? Or is music in general the ultimate outlet?
A. I think in a way punk has become a perfect form. I think initially they probably made uncomfortable partners. [For example] The Sex Pistols, which in a way was social commentary, but much more over-the-top. I think what makes it so effective is it’s very much about not conforming to the status quo, just being against something. There’s the "[expletive] everything that's popular" attitude, but then there’s also the people who say "I can say anything I want." It’s always turning, it’s always remaking itself. If something gets noticed, there’s backlash, which makes it a very self-cleansing system. In a way, you can’t just have one side in social commentary, so that arranges it all.
Q. The name of the album and some song titles lean towards anti-war sentiment, but the content mainly deals with personal conflict rather than political. Was that your intent when writing it, to set some preconceptions and then surprise the listener?
A. Yeah, I suppose it’s a defense mechanism. I’ve always been afraid to talk about love, so I’ve blocked it from my music for so long. And now talking about it being a war is protecting myself from being so vulnerable to it. I didn't want to completely obscure what I was talking about, but if you talk about it in terms of painful imagery, then you’re not as vulnerable.
Q. Your lyrics, and the lyrics of many bands similar to yours today, tend to be quite poetic at times. Do you feel as though the poetic and artistic credibility is often disregarded or completely ignored by many who simply view the hard-rock genres as angry, immature music?
A. It is largely disregarded because of where we’re coming from. I guess if the fans that think it matters and don’t disregard it I'm fine with that. But absolutely, lots do push it away. I know that our songs have lyrically more depth than 90 percent of music that’s out there now.
It makes sense, and I understand why. Most bands coming out are so young, so they think 'what do they know?' It doesn’t bother me, because we’re not striving for credibility from the scholarly crowd. We’re just trying to be really honest and do what's true to us.
Q. Your vocals are often in direct contrast with the screamy backup vocals. Is this done to develop a sense of drama and to give both the serene and aggressive their own dimension?
A. I think it does have that effect a lot of the times. It’s really natural with the other guys, letting them do their thing too. This record has less of that than the last. The last one has the spots where there’s really a lot tension and drama coinciding, and everything gets tangled and delusional after a while.