We’ve Got A File On You features interviews in which artists share the stories behind the extracurricular activities that dot their careers: acting gigs, guest appearances, random internet ephemera, etc.
If there were to be an official New Jersey Sweetheart, it would be Geoff Rickly. The Thursday frontman is — despite the harsh, visceral content of his music — one of the friendliest figures in the emo and post-hardcore scene, and also one of the most important. Whether it’s because of the seminal 2001 record Full Collapse (whose hit “Understanding In A Car Crash” still blasts at Emo Nite) or his association with My Chemical Romance for producing their lacerating debut I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, everyone in emo has heard of Geoff. He even dons the cover of Dan Ozzi’s 2021 book Sellout: The Major Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo, And Hardcore 1994 – 2007, screaming in a vehement crowd of fans who are screaming right back at him.
Aside from music, he has also been known for tumultuous reasons. He’s open about his recovery from a heroin addiction that began when Thursday were broken up. Also during that time, he made headlines after he was robbed and poisoned in Germany. To put it simply, he’s lived a life and has stories upon stories, which led to him becoming an author.
Rickly announced his debut novel Someone Who Isn’t Me on February 20. “People who would’ve never covered Thursday are covering the book,” he says about the press cycle. “NPR, GQ. This is crazy.” It’s the first title on Rose Books, which was founded by notable author Chelsea Hodson, who you might recognize from Nothing’s Dance On The Blacktop album cover.
Someone Who Isn’t Me focuses on Rickly’s experience partaking in ibogaine treatment in Mexico in order to overcome his addiction. It’s quite literally life or death; there were 19 fatalities associated with the drug between the years 1990 and 2008, six of which were from acute heart failure or cardiopulmonary arrest. The journey is riveting as he faces trauma head-on, almost time-traveling as he’s plucked into old memories like he’s reliving those moments. The book captures the same intensity that his music burns with.
Below, Rickly discusses his book, then bounces around his career, sharing stories behind side projects United Nations and No Devotion, his guest spots with Touché Amoré and Vein.fm, MTV’s ban on Thursday’s “War All The Time” video, the time he ran into Ian MacKaye at Rick Rubin’s house, and more.
Someone Who Isn’t Me (2023)
When did you begin writing the book?
GEOFF RICKLY: I started in the spring of 2017, right when I was getting sober. I always remember the date I took Ibogaine because the night that they gave us the capsules was the night before Trump’s inauguration. So while I was tripping, he was getting inaugurated.
I don’t think you included that in the book, right?
RICKLY: No. I tried, but it didn’t really fit it. Because of the tone of the book, anything that even referenced politics really threw things off. It really made it seem like I was going for like a ham fisted commentary on the world, even though it’s just what’s happening.
You write about different parts of your life so vividly. As someone with terrible memory, I’m curious of how you went about doing that.
RICKLY: Yeah, that’s funny, I have a terrible memory, too. So what I did was I made up a lot of the details. I was like, “This is fiction, I’m gonna get it close and then the rest is what feels like it should be in the context of the narrative story arc that I’m trying to build.” So it’s like, “These people are gonna be saying this now,” and “Maybe this person doesn’t fit in this scene so he’s out of here.” That’s kind of how I went about it. But a lot of the stuff that is from real life and is vividly from real life are things that were such big events for the band at the time that we would talk about it a lot between the members of the band and it became our own little myth of the road that we would be telling each other. Like, “You remember that time that we drove through the cicada swarm in the middle of Ohio?” It was a big event for us, and we talked about it in reference to other things.
So I tried to pick stories that both we had talked about so much that I could remember them or at least remember the retelling of them, and I tried to pick stories that I could use in more than one way. I wanted to build the characters, I wanted to build the themes of the story, and I also wanted to take a palette, especially in the band memoir part. I wanted to use a palette that I could use as a way to describe the sound of music. So a lot of the parts in the band memoir, I wanted to talk about what live music feels like to me without just talking about live music. That was kind of what I was trying to do — rebuild a color palette around different sounds and the sound of doom and the sound of joy, all these different feelings that I wanted to paint what music is like for me to experience on an experiential, fun level. That was the goal of it. But a lot of stuff got cut out, especially in that band memoir section. There were so many more chapters, and it really made it sag. Because it’s just a component. I didn’t set out to write a band memoir. The band component part of it had always been serving several functions, and I had to cut out even stuff that I was like, “That’s probably my best chapter in the book.” I just had to cut it, because it actually doesn’t serve all the things it needs to serve.
Do you know how long the first draft was?
RICKLY: It was about 70 pages shorter. Maybe 180 or 190 pages, somewhere around there. Then it stretched up way, way, way over where it is now, like almost 400 pages at one point. Then I started cutting it back down. And so 12 drafts, five hours a day, five days a week for five years was the length of writing a book. So somewhere around 7,000 hours. I think my agent congratulated me on finding something that pays worse than music.
Do you identify with everyone calling it autofiction?
RICKLY: [Sighs] I guess. It’s clearly autobiographical, and it is fiction. I identify more with that than when people call it a memoir or an autobiography. But only because the things that I care about are novelistic concerns; they’re not the concerns of memoir, which I think can be quite good. I wasn’t trying to turn to the reader and tell them a story about my life. I was trying to tell a story, and I used the material of my life as scraps for a collage of something else.
I think the thing is, when when genres are still budding and becoming popular, they’re easy to malign and see as a monoculture. Then later on when they go out of fashion again, people see that there’s actually a lot more room in them and you can redefine them and have them be different things. And I lived through that once with emo where it was like, Thursday and Fall Out Boy or whatever. Now, all this time later people are like, totally different, have nothing to do with each other. There’s bands like Touché Amoré that are actually more in line. I think it’s easy to balk at a term like autofiction because it’s got so many associations with it, right now especially. But I read, I don’t know, maybe 25 to 40 titles that are the contemporary canon of autofiction. And I thought it was a lot of good stuff. I guess the complaint would be like, “It’s solipsistic, it’s people with no imaginations writing about themselves and self-mythologizing and being self-aggrandizing,” and stuff like that, but I mean every novel is like that [laughs]. Most novels are solipsistic, and maybe the writer has put himself in the place of a priest or whatever, or it’s about five different characters that are at an MFA program or whatever, but I get it, it’s still you.
I was surprised to see that you’re a fan of Marie Calloway. She got in a lot of trouble for going more autobiographical than fictitious and having these characters in her work that were obviously from her life. I was wondering if you were dealing with that struggle of having people around you in your work and trying to do that in an ethical way, because that’s obviously a very difficult task with autofiction.
RICKLY: I think she was ahead of her time, really, is why she got so much flak. I think if she did it now, people would be like, ‘Brilliant!’ But it is hard to know how to handle characters who wear the mask of people that sometimes will enact even some of the actions that people you know have made, but are also essentially not them at all because they’re just a couple sentences of this one aspect of them because they’re not the protagonist. They don’t get showed as a round, beautiful, full character, because I’m not writing War And Peace or whatever. I’m not going through all my characters and showing who they are as humans. They’re very flat. That was very hard.
In the beginning, I didn’t want to flatten any characters. I would basically make them unknowable, like ciphers. The book was too full of that kind of stuff, and rightfully, people were criticizing early drafts for that saying, “There’s nobody even inside these characters.” So I started to try and make them into characters. Then I had to really talk to the people that they’re based on and say, “Hey, I’m gonna put you in here, it’s not really going to be you. But you should read it before I put it out and tell me if you hate it.” Luckily, everybody that I sent it to was “Whatever!” and I suspect that at least one or two people that I sent it to just didn’t read it and now are going to be like, “What did you do? I finally saw the book came out and you wrote about me.” Well, yeah, I sent it to you forever ago to read. We’ll see. Hopefully, it’ll be good. I try and maintain good relationships with all the people around me and I guess I’ll find out.
I was surprised that the Martin Shkreli/Collect Records situation was in it. At first I thought it was just in passing within the first few pages, but then later on it obviously played a big role. I was just wondering how you want about including that.
RICKLY: That one I thought about a lot because I think, as a public figure, you lose track of who’s allowed to talk about you a little bit, because you open yourself up to it. I didn’t even really want to talk about Martin because he doesn’t appear in the book in reality at all. He appears in the book in dialogue in the beginning, and then when his likeness shows up, it’s like a hallucination who speaks about not being a real person in the book, but instead being what the forms of my anxieties have taken on has taken on, and it’s taken on the face of Martin as my version of something. Even the two sides of the character’s mind, who are fighting over this, are disagreeing about what Martin actually should represent.
I think if people were to reread the book — which I don’t expect anybody to do, because I read books once and they hit me hard; most of the time, I prefer my memory of what it was that I liked about it, rather than figuring out what the writer was doing — but if you were to go back and reread, you’d see that if something comes up in the beginning, or while the character is lost, then it comes back inside the hallucination as a bigger moment. When I was setting up the beginning about echoes and music, I knew that I wanted echoes to keep happening. The big project was for echoes to go in reverse in the hallucination where they got bigger, where the source, the beginning, was a small thing and then the hallucination was kind of like an expansion, the echo becoming bigger than the reality.
The hardest thing about the hallucinations was understanding that sometimes the plot was not only not linear, but that the plot itself had to be externalized themes. So thematic echoes, moving the plot along in place of a linear storyline, and trying to make that concrete enough for people to hold on to and understand theme as a part of story. That was one of the things that when it wasn’t working early on, people were like, “You got to ditch that idea. It’s really holding you back story-wise.” And I just had this really strong feeling that I thought of films and the way film uses visual language, and connects themes in a concrete way. I was like, “I really want to do something like that was writing. I really want the themes to be what propels it forward, rather than the plot in that section of the book.”
Though it’s heavy subject matter, I found your book to be like a popcorn page-turner. It felt like a movie.
RICKLY: I really worked hard on that. Even maybe the 10th draft that we went on submission with to try and sell, of course we went out on submission right before everybody in the publishing industry lost their jobs during the pandemic, so it was a very surreal feeling after working all this time to be like, “Is there no more publishing industry? What are we gonna do?” But the few notes that we got back, all of them were like, “It’s so beautiful. It’s so slow-burn and atmospheric.” After the fourth person said that, I was like, “Is it slow?” to my agent, and she was like, “I don’t think it’s slow. These people just have no imagination.” Then my dad read it, and he was like, “It’s good, it’s slow.” I was like, “Okay, I’m rewriting a bunch of it because I don’t want it to be slow.” I’m not trying to prove something as an artist. I want it to be accessible. I had another person, who I write movie stuff with, say, “You’ve been working all this time. You really gotta make it lofty and Shakespearean.” I was like, “No! No!” I would not do that. I’m not trying to prove that I’m a good writer. I want people to enjoy it. I want it to be accessible to the average person, even though I tried to put something beautiful in it. think it can be very challenging and you have to work very hard to make things accessible. It’s not just as long as you don’t use big words, it’s accessible.
So you were submitting the books to publishing houses?
RICKLY: Basically Monika [Woods] was like, “Look, we’ve already had indie presses inquire with us, just because they know I have your book. But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t go out to the Big Five and see if I can get you a million dollars. If I can, I’m gonna. I know that you’re interested in some other presses, but we’re gonna go on to the majors first and then see what they say.” It was like Simon & Schuster saying it was a little slow. She was like, “I don’t think you should really worry about the Simon & Schuster guy saying that you’re slow.” But I did take it to heart anyway, because I just thought, “It’s my first book, and I don’t know how to make things move the way I want them to move. I don’t know how to pace; why don’t I do some more work on it and see if I can get it closer?” I do think it helped the book. I don’t think the book was better being more atmospheric. I think it was maybe a little bit weaker that way, so now I’m happier with it.
Forming United Nations (2006)
RICKLY: That’s a fun one.
I read the idea traces back to 2000. Is that true?
RICKLY: Yeah. It was really early on. Daryl [Palumbo] from Glassjaw and I had been talking. I used to do house shows, and I lived with Tom [Schlatter] from You And I, who’s in Saetia now. That was sort of my world — the more screamy, grindy powerviolence stuff is what I loved. Chelsea [Hodson]’s husband, Mark [McCoy], his band Charles Bronson were heroes to me. I looked up to Mark for years, still do. So it was like, “Someday we should start something like this.” When it came to it, which must been 2005, I know that we started the band around the time Thursday started writing A City By The Light Divided, so whenever that was, we started the band.
When it finally all came together, which was quite a bit later — we’d written some songs but it came together quite a bit later — I think Ben from Converge was playing drums, Jim Carroll from American Nightmare and Clouds was playing bass at one point, Jonah Bayer who’s a writer and his sister is Vanessa Bayer from SNL was in the band. I think it was rounded out by Lukas [Previn] who had been in the Scissor Sisters and some other stuff. We just started making these really fast, aggressive songs. I was on tour in the UK with My Chemical Romance after we had finished the record. Before we had decided what to do with it, I went on this like mission to find James Cauty from the KLF. I’ve been a fan of the KLF since I was a kid, I really loved James Cauty’s art and collected it when I started Thursday. When my band members were buying houses, I was just buying art and getting really into art and stuff.
So I tracked down James Cauty, and I told him about United Nations and what we were doing. He said that he would do the art for the record, but that I had to tell everybody that we stole the art from him because he didn’t want to go back to jail. And I was like, “Oh, boy. He doesn’t want to go back to jail? What does that mean?” He had burned a million pounds on the steps of Parliament. He had done mail fraud by by drawing gas masks on the Queen on all the stamps and sending them through the mail. So he was like, “I’ve got an idea, but I don’t want to go to jail for it. So you stole it from me.” I was like, “Alright, that’s acceptable to me. I’ll say that we stole it. You can give me the files as an art project for me to see. I’ll be the one stealing it and disseminating and that’s how we’ll do it.”
So we get the art back. It’s the Beatles’ Abbey Road with the Beatles on fire. The inside is even worse. The inside has some huge things about copyright law in it. It has cops beating down artists. The label of the vinyl itself has Bugs Bunny wearing a suicide bomber vest. On the back, he’s blown up and it says, “That’s all folks,” and it has a little picture of George Bush. I was like, “Holy shit… Okay.” We put the record out and the very first week — this is how long ago it was — MySpace decided to do a premiere of the record, and we had the most successful launch since Snoop Dogg. Only us and Snoop Dogg were the two top launches at MySpace, and they had one every week so it wasn’t like they never did them. And it was because of this artwork and because the songs were so fast that they were almost unintelligible, so most people had never heard anything like it before. And also because the band photos just had us all wearing Reagan masks, so nobody could know who we were. Something about it captured the imagination.
We were like, “Holy shit, we’re going to sell ton of records.” All these stores were ordering tons of records, and we sent them all to them. Hot Topic ordered like 20,000 or some crazy amount and called the label and were like, “We have to destroy these.” We’re like, “What do you mean?” They’re like, “The copyright violation is so bad, that it’s illegal for us to be in possession of them actually. So we’re gonna destroy them.” They sent us pictures of them rolling a steamroller over a bunch of our CDs and records.
So that was super extreme. We thought we were done. And then after that we got a cease and desist from the actual United Nations saying that we’re violating a super trademark, which is heavier than a trademark, which I had never heard of a super trademark before. I didn’t know that there was all these other rules that protect a super trademark over trademark law. So we got sued by the United Nations and our label’s like, “Obviously you can’t be called the United Nations anymore.” I was like, “What if we just fought it?” So they sent us a cease and desist, and the very next thing we did was we made a demo tape for songs and we wrapped the cassettes in the letter, and we just sold those. We’re just like, “Let’s just keep being more and more antagonistic and see what happens.” That was just sort of its own art project. I was using drugs at the time, so nothing seemed scary. I just was not afraid of the law at all. We just kept pushing it and pushing it.
And the next record, we used Ben Frost, an artist from Australia who was a huge fan of James Cauty, who was just like, “Oh, that’s what I do. I violate all these trademarks like crazy.” So we had Nevermind The Bombings, Here’s Your Six Figures as a 7″, and then Temporary Residence signed us to put out our next record. By the time we finished that box set, we had all this stuff going on, we had songs with multiple endings because we had found a patent for vinyl that forked, and so the needle would follow different paths. We were really having fun with it. And finally, we found out the guy that was suing us on behalf of United Nations actually got fired. Because I guess this is just not that important. Somebody eventually there was like, “What are you doing? These are just some idiots in a band. This is protected as satire. Why are you harassing them?” You know? We ended up going up against the United Nations and winning somehow.
Was the band definitely of its time and that’s why not much has happened in a while?
RICKLY: We wanted to do more, but Thursday got back together and got busy. And honestly when Trump got elected, I felt like there just wasn’t anything politically interesting to say. United Nations tried to make politics absurd, and there really is no exaggerating, the era got ahead of us. I couldn’t figure out what to say that was beyond the times. I just didn’t find things funny as much anymore. It’s already like, “You can just watch a clip of him right now.’ Some of the guys were were like, “Now’s the perfect time.” And I was like, “No, it’s not funny.”
Did United Nations invent the Armed before the Armed?
RICKLY: When I saw the Armed launch, I was like, “Okay. I like that.” It feels like a continuation. I don’t think United Nations is the beginning point and the Armed is the end point, but I do think we contributed to whatever the project is that we’re both on the timeline for. I think there are other bands that started doing stuff like this. I think even the KLF was doing some stuff like this. They did some really offensive stuff in the ’80s that was interesting but would never fly now. They went to [the BRIT Awards] and had machine guns with blanks and fired into the crowd. This kind of provocative thing that we were doing with a lot of different moving parts — we’re not the beginning, and I think the Armed would say they’re going to be other people that are influenced by the Armed because the Armed are adding a lot of cool stuff to it. Primarily the thing that the Armed add to it that I think is so fascinating is the pop sensibility stuff. But the cult-like thing, the powerviolence played by like semi-anonymous people that are actually people from other band, saying certain people are in the band when they’re not in the band — that is very much of the same project. So when I saw it, I was like, “Oh, alright!”
I also read that you once said that you were planning on a Kidz Bop album.
RICKLY: We made a couple of those songs. Wow, I forgot we had made those. I had this great instrument called an omnichord. I have made a couple of versions of United Nations songs using the omnichord. It’s interesting because Lukas from United Nations also played with this musician Raffi. [Lukas] has an extensive musical background. His father [André Previn] was an extremely famous classical musician and was married to Mia Farrow a long time ago. But I knew that we could pull it off because we have this one musician who could do anything in the band. He is a consummate player. That was something we were working on for a second, but I was getting high all the time back then. I would have a great idea and then move on to another different idea.
I don’t know if you know that Nation of Ulysses album, Plays Pretty For Baby, but I wanted to call the Kidz Bop album United Nations Plays Pretty For A Bunch Of Fucking Babies [laughs]. But I don’t know. I started feeling like transgressing and having a kids album with a profanity in it… It gets boring. Transgression gets boring, basically. I was over it for a moment. If we bring it back, I’d want it to be a different kind of transgression. I actually have a name for a new United Nations record, but I don’t have the record. The name is The New Modern Art. I thought it being extremely pretentious could be another way of transgressing.
MTV Banning The “War All The Time” Video (2003)
RICKLY: We could’ve probably fixed that by cutting the couple of things that they wanted us to cut, which they thought were oblique references to suicide. They weren’t wrong. But we didn’t have anybody working at the label because after War All The Time came out the majority of our team, like 40 people, all left the label and went to run Atlantic Records, I think it was, or Warner. Anyway, some other major label. There was literally no one there to field MTV’s calls or the reasons for why it was banned or tell the band what we had to do. It was. It’s funny to spend $250,000 on a video for us and then leave and not have anybody there to even pick up the phone for MTV. It’s just such a encapsulation of what’s wrong with major labels. It’s got all these resources, but you don’t have the passion or the vision to follow through. If it was me, if I was still running Collect and I had $250,000 to make a video, I’d be staying up all night to figure out how to fix it and make it so the band got the use out of it.
Emo’s Not Dead Cruise (2022)
RICKLY: One of the most interesting stories I have from that cruise is when we found out that all the bands eat the buffet with everybody else — the people that paid to be there. The fans and the bands are all supposed to eat together. Which is fine. I have no problem with that. But right when we were first walking in the first day to eat, this guy was like, “Oh, Tucker,” and starts talking to Tucker while Tucker is walking in to eat. The guy’s wife is like, “Come on, leave him alone. He’s just trying to eat.” And the guy goes, “I paid to harass him!” That was the first day. I was like, “This is gonna be fucking brutal.”
Also, I thought it was very funny that on the phone I was like, ‘Hey, I’m back on my feet right now, but last year I fell off the stage and broke my ankle. Do I need to worry about the waves?’ They were like, “It’s a huge boat. You don’t feel a thing. You’ll never notice that we’re at sea.” And I was like, “Okay.” On the first night, there’s a storm! The amps are rolling across the stage. People in the mosh pit are falling down. I was like, “Okay, you don’t feel the waves…” Our whole crew was throwing up. Thank God everybody in Thursday has a strong stomach because we were all just playing and our crew was on the side stage just throwing up. It was so ridiculous.
Covering The Smiths (With David Wain And Others) Plus Springsteen For Two Minutes To Late Night (2022)
RICKLY: It was a cool thing that they did — the Two Minutes To Late Night crowd having all-star covers that started out of everybody being bored out of their minds from not being able to tour. I thought it was pretty cool. I had a good time with David Wain and everybody because I’ve always been a huge fan of The State. I love the comedy stuff that he’s brought into the world. I love that song, so it was really fun. The other one, the Springsteen, they usually don’t have one band do a cover, but they had a friend of the show who was battling cancer, and his favorite artists are Thursday and Springsteen. We hadn’t really recorded anything as a band since we broke up 10 years ago, but this is a good reason to record something.
How was the Smith song chosen? Did you choose it?
RICKLY: I didn’t choose the song. I was brought in at the end.
What’s your favorite Smiths song?
RICKLY: Probably “This Night Has Opened My Eyes.”
How do you feel about Morrissey?
RICKLY: I mean, it sucks. I’m not gonna lie, I’m a Robert Smith guy. And that’s like a Blur versus Oasis type of thing. I’m always team Robbie, no matter what, guy’s the best. We went on tour with them. He’s legitimately a great guy. So it doesn’t crush me that Morrissey has some janky political opinions because I never swooned over him. I just thought, “What a great voice. What a great singer. Those are great songs.” That’s kind of it.
We played a festival with him and I watched as as driver picked him up in a silver Mercedes at the backstage and drove him the 150-200 feet to the stage. He got out in a nice British raincoat and looked down at mud ahead of him and sighed and the driver put down some cloth for him to walk across to the stage. I was like, “Yeah, that’s Morrissey.” I actually was very gratified to see that happen. I was like, “Cool. He’s not a character.” Like he’s a character, but he’s not in character. That’s fucking him.
Working With Dave Fridmann (2006-2011)
Dave Fridmann produced three Thursday albums. He’s known for working with weirdo psych bands and more hipster-friendly artists. So how did you get linked up with him?
RICKLY: We were looking for a producer after War All The Time, and we were talking to a lot of people. We talked to Rick Rubin. We talked to a bunch of people. Dave really wanted to do it. He saw that out of our side of music there wasn’t a lot of interesting stuff, but he thought Thursday was very good. He wanted to help bring out some of the areas of the band that he thought people missed. He was like, “People think you guys are some kind of emo band or something, but you guys are doing the weirdest stuff. You guys are already doing ] very, very strange stuff, and I just want to highlight some of that stuff. I think it’d be really fun.” Much to the chagrin of people who were huge fans of Thursday and mistook us for a band like Thrice or the Used when they heard Dave’s records because he brought out the stuff that they weren’t focusing on as much. It threw them for quite a loop.
I also think that at the time, people consider themselves to be like snobs or hipsters, who are probably all like investment bankers now — they were not going to be convinced anyway because they just wanted to wear a Strokes T-shirt and be cool. They don’t think that we belong with Stephen Malkmus or something. It’s like, those people don’t know shit. Us and all those bands had a ton of respect for each other. I’m not gonna worry about what the average Pitchfork reader thought at the time, especially in the intervening decade. Now everybody that grew up and are the hipsters think that, for whatever reason, Thursday’s good. I don’t know why. You can’t dictate what the public thinks, as much as I would have liked to because I want to be cool, especially when I was young. Now, I don’t care anymore. Being cool is like… I couldn’t if I tried, and what would I do with it? I’m not going to start going to parties. I’m not even single. I mean, what would I do with being cool? I just honestly don’t know.
You talked to Rick Rubin?
RICKLY: Yeah, we went to his house. It was so beautiful. There are a couple of things. One, we waited in a chapel with stained glass windows. That was a very strange thing. Then he came and asked us what we wanted to change on our next record. I said that I wanted our record to be less real and more true. He said that he thought that was the best answer he had ever heard. And then he also didn’t have time to work with us [laughs].
But the best misunderstanding that happened between us is when he was like, “So who’s the main influence on you guys?” We all were citing different stuff that we’re into, and we realize everybody in the band has different influences. The only thing we agree on is that Fugazi is awesome. He’s like, “Yeah [pats his chest] Ian [MacKaye] is here.” And we’re like, “Yeah, [puts hands over heart] Ian’s here.” He’s like, “No, Ian’s here.” We’ve just been in the chapel waiting for him, so we’re like, “Yes, Ian’s here [in our hearts].” He’s like, “No, he’s taking a shower. He’s in the house somewhere. He’s here.”
Why was Ian MacKaye there?
RICKLY: We were in LA for Coachella. We were playing Coachella and the Evens also played Coachella. It was the only set that all of us wanted to watch together — we wanted to see Ian play with the Evens, which is his band with his wife.
Guesting on Touché Amoré’s “History Reshits Itself” (2009)
Were you passing the post-hardcore torch?
RICKLY: I released that record with my label and 6131. I had known Jeremy [Bolm] for a long time. He was a Thursday fan that had an early fan club called ParisInFlames.net. I kept in touch with Jeremy because I actually liked him. I thought he was smart and he had an unbelievable love of music. You still can see if you go on his Instagram. He’s the biggest record collector I know. I’d gone to see some of his other bands and been like, “That’s cool, Jeremy!” and then he sent me the Touché demo and I immediately called him and was like, “What the fuck dude, this is amazing. I love this.” That was a big moment for me when I realized how good they were. And yes, very much tried to pass the baton.
Guesting On Vein.fm’s “Fear In Nonfiction” (2022)
RICKLY: We had taken them on tour after Errorzone. We just love them we would like laugh about how good they were, and also be like, “They kind of are like Slipknot. They’ve got some Slipknot in them.” They’re not like purist hardcore, but somehow they do it in a way where it’s sick. It’s fully legit. We love this band. It’s just like, why are they this good? Even the stuff that in the beginning, I was like, “That’s crossing into being a little bit nu, should that be good?” But it was always good. We were just into it. We hit it off with those kids. I love them. When they asked me to be on the song, I was super into it.
Then unfortunately, it was during the lockdown. I had to record my part in my bedroom and hand it off to them. I do think if I was there when they were finishing the record, I would’ve asked them to turn me down in the mix. I feel like I’m so loud when I come in. I’m also extremely Auto-Tuned, which is because I wasn’t in the studio. I was recording myself; I didn’t have anybody being like, “You’re flat. You’re flat.” It’s the best part about having a producer, is somebody being like, “The last note is sharp every time. This is the note.” And you go, “Oh, yeah. Okay.” So instead I just sent them like, “Here it is!” and they’re like, “Well, we’ll just tune it.” They tuned it so much that it’s tuned and loud. I sound so emo on it. It’s the most emo I’ve ever sounded [laughs]. So I was kind of like, “Okay…” I love that song, but my part is my least favorite part of the song.
What do you think about bands like Vein and Code Orange morphing into nu-metal?
RICKLY: Um… I hate nu-metal. I’m not a person who’s like, “Nu-metal is sick” — like, I hate it. I always hated it. It was why I was so into hardcore and everything. I was like, “No, none of this shit.” I don’t like hair metal. I don’t like nu-metal. I don’t like anything like macho or posturing tough guy. It rings false to me. It’s not because I just hate the sounds and all that. It just rings really false to me, which is why I can love the Deftones and not nu-metal. There’s some shared sounds, but the Deftones are amazing. They don’t suck, unlike most nu-metal bands. So it’s not my favorite direction for it to go. But I do think that this generation’s version of it is way cooler. Although I read this really long essay about it and I think that Dean Kissick said too about a progressive message inside a regressive genre is sort of the du jour mode of expression today. I don’t think he’s totally wrong about that. It’s strange to see an old form take on a progressive meaning. But I do think it’s a lot better. I think this version is better. I haven’t listened to the new Code Orange, so I can’t really comment.
Producing My Chemical Romance’s I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love (2002)
How did working with them on their first record impacts you in the long run?
RICKLY: I think it’s one of the things that’s kept young people interested in my music. I’m not saying they only like it because of My Chemical Romance, but I think a lot of young people find out about Thursday because of my involvement with My Chemical Romance. The thing about music is it’s so hard to find which band you want to listen to. There’s so many bands, so having an association with somebody is extremely helpful. I think Sonic Youth having an association with Nirvana was extremely helpful for them for many years, even though Sonic Youth is just amazing. But we all need some way to get in the door with the kids, so they really helped. I’m still very, very proud of that one.
The experience of working with them was so exciting, because I watched them go from bumbling kids with some promise to me lying on the floor recording the last song on the record and having a vision of what their future would be. I knew without a doubt they’d be massive. It was so strange. It was almost like, when I think about it, time is a construct and there’s ways to see through time because I fucking saw it. I was telling Mikey [Way] and he thought I was just very encouraging. He’s like, “You don’t think we’ll ever be as big as Thursday, do you?” I was, like, “You’re gonna be so much bigger than Thursday. We’re going to be opening for you in stadiums.” That literally happened.
They feel like one of those bands that are just constantly getting rediscovered. Even when they were inactive, they were cultivating this huge following.
RICKLY: I think they changed a lot of music in the scene, but also they anticipated, in a way that nobody would have seen, the way culture in general would change. Sexually fluid comic book characters, mixed with old, classic rock — they managed to see where K-pop would go and where so many different things would go and they didn’t know they were seeing the future either. They were just instinctively drawn to it. It’s just made it so the kids keep on finding them, not because it’s the power of emo. They are just on a whole different level. Even the way that Gerard [Way]’s friendship with Frank [Iero] became a sexy fanfiction [laughs]. Every possible thing that could go that way did and they nailed it. So much bigger than their music. It’s not just the music. It’s not one song. It’s this whole thing, this whole lifestyle.
No Devotion (2014-present)
RICKLY: I almost don’t even want to say anything about No Devotion because it’s so beautiful. On some level, it is the best thing I’ll ever do. And nobody knows about it. It’s almost entirely a secret. Every show that we play is cursed. I don’t know if we’ll ever end up on tour for real. It just feels like at some point I’m going to die and then people are going to discover it and they’re going to be like, “Oh my god, he has two amazing records under this No Devotion band. How did none of us know about this?” It’s weird. I don’t even feel like I can promote it just because I think it’s so beautiful. It means so much to me. Those two records, I think they’re perfect little hidden gems that either people will figure out or they won’t.
How are the shows are cursed?
RICKLY: The band in general seems so cursed. All the guys in the band, except for me, their last band had such an awful ending. As soon as I found them and helped them pick up the pieces, we made Permanence, which was such a beautiful record. The week that it came out, the record label imploded. All the stuff with Martin and Collect. Then the very first night of tour, I was trying to buy heroin in Germany and instead I got beat up and mugged and drugged. You kind of set yourself up as a target if you can’t speak the language but you’re seeking heroin. It’s like, “This guy isn’t gonna go to the cops. This fuckin’ guy over here.” So that happens immediately on our first tour. When this record got finished and amazingly we went out to the UK, and the album was already out of print.
So it just felt so cursed that we had these opportunities and they just all fell through. When it was supposed to come out over here, we had a big tour with Cursive booked, and I fell off the stage with Thursday and broke my leg. So we had to cancel that tour. Then we got out on tour with Jeremy Enigk from Sunny Day Real Estate supporting us and the second night the whole tour got COVID. We couldn’t get me a visa for this festival we were supposed to play in the UK, so we canceled that. Then we all flew to the UK to do a tour with L.S. Dunes, and the very first night our hotel caught on fire. While we were outside waiting for it, one of our members had a family emergency and had to fly home right away, so we canceled that.
It was just one of those things where I was like, “Maybe we’ll never play.” Which is too bad because I just love the records. I can’t compare it to Thursday. Thursday’s had this huge impact. I think nothing sounds like Thursday. Thursday made its own mark on the scene. No Devotion does wear a lot of influences on its sleeve. There’s a lot of Depeche Mode and New Order and Cure. But I just think it’s so beautiful. I love it so much. It’s the kind of music I dreamed about making when I was a kid listening to PJ Harvey. I wanted to be PJ Harvey when I was a kid.
It’s really very synth doom pop. I think it’s some of the best I’ve ever done, especially the new record. Our first record was more popular with the kids because it had more Britpop in it. But the new one is way more Portishead/PJ Harvey. It’s really, really dark, and I think it’s so pretty.