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Thrice: Major/Minor By Riley Breckenridge

Andrew Kelham
Andrew Kelham 12 September 2011 at 16.01

Thrice’s new album dissected by drummer Riley Breckenridge.



Thrice fans are in for a massive treat this week as we give you four, FOUR, track by track evaluations of the band's stunning new album 'Major/Minor'.

Today we see what album seven means to drummer Riley Breckenridge, Tuesday we'll pass the torch to guitarist Teppei Teranishi, Wednesday will see bassist Ed Breckenridge step up before guitarist and vocalist Dustin Kensrue concludes on Thursday.

Over to Riley, check back each day for a new perspective on the record!


01. Yellow Belly
"At some point during the writing of this record, Dustin suggested that I hole up in our studio by myself and record some ideas for drum loops that I had floating around in my head so that he, and Teppei and Ed could write riffs over them. In years past, we’d sort of functioned the other way around, with guitar or bass riffs determining what sort of drums we needed for a song, but I think switching it up a little bit this time around was really beneficial. The beat at the beginning of this song, and that the core of the song is built around, was a product of one of those drums-only sessions. Later, Teppei, Ed and I had a few jam sessions as a three-piece, and we cranked out a majority of this song in a half a day (although a lot of arranging and re-arranging needed to be done). The Pixies-sounding riff over the outro was something that popped into my head in Costco of all places, and I ended up quickly scatting it into my iPhone as I pushed around an unwieldy cart up and down aisles of five-pound bags of pretzels and discount electronics. Inspiration has a way of showing up in the most bizarre settings."

02. Promises
"The beat in the verses was another product of the drums-only sessions. Once they had the file, Teppei ended up demoing a pretty percussive guitar part that sat really well with the drum idea that became the A verses of this song. Ed came up with a bass line that became the core of the B verses, and during another three-piece session we meshed the two vibes to turn the verses into what we ended up tracking for the record. This was one of the songs I had the toughest time seeing through to completion, but in the end it’s ended up being a song that I really enjoy. I love Teppei’s playing on this song. It’s a great mix of aggressive stabs, soulful riffs, and beautiful arpeggios. Ed’s bass line does a great job of holding it down while allowing space for other things to shine. And once Dustin got his melody nailed down for the choruses of this song, I had it stuck in my head for months. While it can be difficult at times (and especially when spending months and months writing a song), sometimes it’s just best to be patient and see things through. You never know what can happen."

03. Blinded
"Since my neighbors would probably burn down my house if I played real drums in my garage, and my V-Drums are barely functioning, my home recording has been limited to what I can program in Logic. I bought Toontrack’s EZDrummer just before we started writing for this record, because I wanted more realistic drum sounds for the demos I was bringing to the rest of the guys. The beat for the intro of this song (and in a way, the choruses as well) was one of the first beats I built in the program. (The beat ended up having a little nod to Glassjaw in the choruses.) I can’t recall if I wrote the guitar part over it, or vice versa. While we all liked the part, we had a pretty tough time finding a home for it. It ended up in a really rough demo that survived some early revisions but it never really felt “right”. We finally wisened up in February (after a holiday break and some grieving after my dad passed away) and rebuilt the song from the ground up, using it using a new drum idea for the verses that Dustin had, and guitar part Dustin and I had come up with after a few hours of trying to write something that felt right alongside the original part. From there, it was pretty smooth sailing. Sometimes you’ve got to destroy something in order to save it."

04. Cataracts
"I think our collective appreciation of Fugazi made its presence felt in this track. This was a product of a three-piece jam that Teppei, Ed, and I came up with while Dustin was doing some solo shows. Ed’s bass playing on this track is some of my favourite playing he does on the record, and the bass line in the part after the first and second choruses might be one of my favorite bass lines he’s ever come up with. It’s an incredibly fun groove to play drums to. We had a tough time finding a bridge for this song, but I ended up squeezing in an old idea that I’d come up with after listening to a fair share of Shiner and Rival Schools that really felt at home once we did some tweaking to the chords we were using."

05. Call It in the Air
"This song stayed fairly true to the arrangement that we came up with in the Fall writing sessions. And when we reconvened after the end-of-the-year break and the passing of my dad, the story that the song had been telling (instrumentally) really took on new meaning to me. It starts out feeling so hypnotic and delicate, which (put very simply) is what life felt like during the initial stages of my dad’s battle with cancer. I felt so mesmerized by fear, and so overwhelmed by helplessness, but so aware of the gravity and delicacy of the situation. The turn that the song takes after the first chorus in to a much darker more aggressive tone really represents the darkness and heaviness I felt while I watched that horrible disease take everything away from him. And the percussive, cathartic ending does a pretty good job of capturing some of the rage I felt when I lost him."

06. Treading Paper
"This is another song that came together pretty quickly. Aside from a few chord changes, really nailing the dynamic shifts throughout the song, and nixing a pretty out-of-place motorcycle-rock bridge, it stayed pretty true to the way we had it demoed during the Fall writing sessions. While it’s not the most diverse song from a drumming perspective (with the feels in the verses and choruses being nearly identical), it feels really good to lock into those parts with Ed, and I’ll take something suits the song and that’s fun to play over something that is a chopsshowcase any day."

07. Blur
"It felt like it’d been a while since we wrote a song as up-tempo as this one, and it felt damn good to do it again. It took a long time and a good amount of rewrites, revisions, tempo changes and time signature tweaks to get it to a place we were all happy with, but I’m glad we stuck with it and saw it through. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the record because it juxtaposes some of the more aggressive stuff we’ve done in a while with some really jazz-influenced chords in the verses. Lyrically, this song speaks to me the most, because it deals with a sensation I was trying to capture in photos right around the time my dad went into hospice care. I was taking a bunch of slow shutter photos and when I shared them with the rest of the guys I wrote: “I like them (the photos) because they signify a feeling that I’ve been having a lot over the past year and a half, with so many life-changing events happening so randomly, so seemingly stacked on top of each other, so overwhelming and impossible to comprehend. With so many why's and what next and how comes, at times it feels like the speed and instability of things (as of late) makes it difficult to focus on an individual moment. That’s what these pics feel like to me...an attempt to focus on a moment, but only being able to grab bits and pieces of it before it passes you by or pulls you in another direction.” That was life for me at the time, and I think Dustin did a great job of capturing that in the lyrics for this song."

08. Words in the Water
"This is another track that took an awful lot of honing to get it to where it ended up, not necessarily in how it was structured, but in the feel of the verses, push and pull of the dynamics, and the key of the song. The song spawned from an idea of Ed’s that was much more atmospheric and mellow than what you hear on the record, but as has been the case with a lot of our music over the years, songs usually end up turning out best when they’ve strayed a bit from their original demo and become a collective effort. It’s always a challenge to give up control of an idea you bring to the table, but a lot of what has made us be the band that we are, is realizing that we are a just a sum of our parts andindividual influences."

09. Listen Through Me
"This is one that was born of one of Ed’s ideas (a mathy finger-picked arpeggio), but that came into its final form after some tweaking of parts and chords by Dustin. It took us a while to fine tune this one, but in the end, I think we got it to a pretty good place. The rhodes/delayed guitar in the pre-choruses was pulled from something I had made a demo for that had a pretty mellow Talk Talk vibe. One day as I was driving somewhere and listening back to some early demos of [song title], that rhodes/guitar line from my demo popped into my head. In an effort to keep from losing the idea, I pulled into a parking lot, played the demo of “Listen Through Me”, pressed record on my iPhone, sang the rhodes/guitar line over the snare roll, and probably looked like total weirdo in the process. I got home and tracked a really rough demo, shared it with the guys and it stuck. I’m really glad it did, because I feel like it adds an ethereal quality to those pre-choruses that sets the choruses up to be even more heavy than they actually are."

10. Anthology
"Dustin had the core of this song (guitar and melody) on a really rough demo, and when he shared it with us, it grabbed me right away. Teps, and Ed and I took the liberty of jamming on the core idea, spicing it up a bit rhythmically, and adding a bridge, and tracked a fairly complete, albeit rough, three-piece demo back in September that ended up sticking. Aside from a few revisions to find a key that Dustin’s vocals felt most powerful in, we didn’t really mess with that original structure too much, and this ended up being the song that came together the quickest. Given the amount of reworking we did to the other songs on this record, it was a nice respite."

11. Disarmed
"The working title for this song was actually “Molly” because we joked that it had a similar vibe to “A Song For Milly Michaelson” from the Air EP of The Alchemy Index. The choruses were built out of an idea that I brought to the table fairly late in the writing process. I think it was slightly inspired by a spell in which Mogwai was dominating my playlist. We bumped up the tempo a bit and pushed it up a few keys from the original demo so, and it ended up sitting pretty nicely with the part Dustin came up with that we’d built the song around. The outro came from a section of an idea I programmed in Reason, and that I’ve had kicking around for a couple of years, that drew inspiration from a lot of the post-rock stuff I was listening to. It was tough to settle on a track to end the album, but I think the uplifting, hopeful feel of the end of this song really wraps up the record pretty nicely."

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