"Thornhill will always try and write what we think is lacking, and that is no different here"
Thornhill are gearing up to release their new album 'Heroine' on June 03 via UNFD, and it is unlike anything you have heard from them before.
Taking inspiration from the drama, decadence and despair of cinema and injecting it into their love and admiration for forward-thinking heavy music, the result is a mind-melting, expansive and astonishing example of creativity at its most freeing. From the stories hiding within the cracks of every note to the characters that love and lose throughout its breathless run-time, it is a masterstroke from a band always searching for the next moment of enlightenment.
To dive into how it came to be, we spoke to vocalist Jacob Charlton, and found out how creating the album affected who he was away from the band as well as within it...
Where did the vision for this record begin? How did it start to build from there?
"I think that this record was going to happen at some point in some or other, but I don't think we would have got to where we are right now without the lockdowns. When you play so many shows, you figure out what you like and don't like about your own music because you're the one playing it every night. A lot of the writing for this record went into the live aspect, which was me wanting to be more theatrical and expressive. I just wanted more from myself and from heavy music. I think I was just a bit bored, at least with what we were doing. I wanted to push the idea of a frontman of a heavy band to be something bigger and more interesting. I wanted to also separate Thornhill from a lot of what you are hearing and seeing, even if it's good or bad.
"It's about doing something different, and that comes from taking inspiration from places that other people may not have thought about. So one of my biggest influences on this record is Elvis, and I've put that into the way I move and the way I sing, and they are elements that I couldn't have put into this without the time we were allowed. Like everyone, I feel like I used the time to work on myself and focus on who I wanted to be as an individual. Ethan went through a very similar change, and we worked together to create something that we actually wanted to hear. Thornhill will always try and write what we think is lacking, and that is no different here."
Pushing out of those expectations is so hard because it feels like so much within heavy music has already been achieved. Once you choose, you have to sit in those waters until you decide to do something completely separate. But remembering that you are masters of your own craft and that you can question your own decisions is an important skill…
"For us, we are always going to do what we want to do and what we think is right. I don't have much interest in doing one thing and staying stagnant. It's not what we believe music and creativity should ever be, but it's also not what Thornhill will ever be. It's always going to keep moving, no matter if it is what people want or like. It's always going to be different from what has been before. I don't think that creativity should ever follow a certain path. You write for yourself first. That's just what it is and what it has always been. You can't create unless you completely back your vision, and you won't succeed if you don't love what you do."
In terms of this album's connection to cinema, it's a very classic view of Hollywood and the world within it. When did that start to play a part in this, and when did it feel like you were onto something when incorporating it?
"I think that it was within the style of the writing process. Lockdown forced us to do something different. We were very used to being able to grind our parts out with each other and getting too deep, and it wasn't always the best time making music. But we couldn't see each other. When you have an idea or a vibe, you don't feel bad taking everybody else on the ride with you. You could follow wherever you felt and not feel like you were put on the spot or wasting anybody else's time. It was a really good way of us being able to push the boundaries that bit further.
"So, one of the biggest songwriting changes was that we were writing a lot to imagery and film. It started with The Hellfire Club, where I had sent Ethan a 30's ballet performance and said, 'This is what this song makes me feel like'. We finished the songwriting whilst watching that image on a loop. We did the same with 'Arkangel', which we wrote to Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The songs' moods were quite specific in that way, and it was the same with all of the vocals. I never had anything planned. I would just close my eyes and sing to what I wanted to feel. It would follow the mood of what I had been watching or playing with and then script the lyrics out in the same way as how Romeo and Juliet was written. There are quotation marks included when you look at them written down because conversations are happening within them. They were big moments in shaping the record, and a sign for us to keep on pushing."
There's a big case of, 'Well, why can't we do that?' with a lot of this record, which is such a good question to ask when it comes to being a heavy band. There's no reason that anything that appears on here should feel strange because it all makes so much sense to you…
"I don't think in any part of this process we were ever asking, 'Is this Thornhill?'. We were focusing more on if we actually liked it or not. Whatever we make is going to be Thornhill because we are Thornhill. I never really understand when people say that what we are doing doesn't feel like us because we are us. We're the same people we have always been, and it's still heavy music. We're just trying to give it to you in a way that you haven't heard before. I was incredibly keen to show that you can pull back the metaphors in lyrics and show off more on what they are about in the way you sing them. That was something that I didn't really understand up until now, and something that I couldn't really do on 'The Dark Pool' because I wasn't a good enough singer yet. And also, in the stage show, we are trying to give so much more than just music. We are trying to give a theatrical performance."
And the thing is that this attitude then accentuates who you approach playing old songs live, and then in three years or whenever the next album is out, you will be doing the same things to these songs with the attitude you have then…
"We are already talking about how we want that third record to be, and we have only just got this one out! But this is the only way I can function within a band. I like touring, but I love creating and bringing all of this to life. The Thornhill album cycle is always going to reflect where we all are in our lives and who we are as people. The band started when we were 18, so you are watching us grow through the music and through the imagery into men and adults. It's really exciting to see where that goes."
With this process, have there been any moments where you have listened back and thought, 'I didn't know that was a part of who I am and who I have always been'?
"It's definitely in the performance side. That's something that I never thought I could do. I never really wanted to be a frontman or a vocalist. I didn't know much about it when I first got into this. Nobody else could scream, so I did that. And there were just so many things about being a frontman that I didn't know existed, and nobody tells you about. It's your job to do so much whilst on stage and take care of yourself and your voice. My brother is an actor, and my girlfriend is an actress, and they are both so larger than life, and that's something I never really was before any of this. To grow in confidence and through experience, I have been able to learn exactly what it means to be a performer and push myself. I taught myself to dance, and that's something that I could never do before."