Thou’s Heathen: Studio Report Outtakes

In early 2013, Thou vocalist Bryan Funck sent us wonderful responses on the writing and recording of Thou’s 2014 album Heathen. The issue: we only had enough space for our customary studio report and had to cherry pick details. As people begin to consider their best-of lists Heathen will doubtless be one of the albums that makes short lists. We decided to dust off Funck’s responses and give them a proper airing on the Deciblog. You can get in touch with Thou here.

Is there a working title yet? Release date?

The title of the record is Heathen. We haven’t really set a release date. Maybe sometime this summer. Maybe a little sooner. It depends on how soon I finish the vocals. We also need to get Emily McWilliams to come down and record vocals over one of the tracks. Then get James Whitten to mix everything. Then deliberate over the mixes for a bit. Then Adam Tucker for mastering. We’re kind of taking our time, since we’re not rushing to get it done for a tour or anything. But we’re all pretty excited about the record, so I think we’ll get it out as soon as we can.

What kind of progressions are you looking to make from Summit?

It’s more expansive than Summit in some ways, but maybe that’s just because it’s almost twice as long. We also wrote some small pieces that will bridge the songs together, trying to make everything flow from beginning to end without that kind of start-stop between songs. The sound is somewhat similar to the Summit stuff—very heavy on melody. A lot of the celebratory elements from Summit are also there with this one, though the songs still have that melancholic quality.

Any themes or ideas you are working with in particular?

Nature worship, living fully in the present, physical gratification, physical pain, anti-intellectualism, the celebration of ego and all of the senses. Heathen and Magus (the next full length on the agenda) explore some of the ideas from Summit from the viewpoint of two extremes: the corporeal and the esoteric. Thematically, the ideas in these three records are vaguely similar to Kierkegaard’s three stages of life but without the imposed hierarchy.

Any challenges yet in writing the new material?

Mainly time and physical constraints. In August 2010, we started going out on tour every month through January 2012 and then we did some smaller jaunts in April and May and then a European tour in June. We would have a little time between tours, but being together so much wasn’t really conducive to us putting a lot of effort into making time for writing, especially when we were usually using practices to work in more songs to play on the next tour. And everyone was also in and out of town with other bands or doing personal stuff. We wrote one of the Heathen songs as far back as August or September 2010, knocked out the second song sometime before the Europe tour, got another three done after Europe, and then finished the other three just this past December.

We also have some geography issues we’re dealing with. Andy moved to Oakland this past August. He came out to Baton Rouge to visit his family for Christmas, so we used that time to finish writing Heathen, work on some other new songs that weren’t gelling with the full length, write that EP with The Body — and then record everything.

Lots of splits were released in the runup to this record — did this affect writing of the new material at all?

No, I think we only had a few splits between Summit and Heathen — the stuff with Cower, Hell, and Kowloon Walled City. We recorded all of those songs in one quick session. It didn’t really keep us from working on this record. After we did Summit and To the Chaos Wizard Youth, we wanted to do something fun. We started working on a Fiona Apple tribute record, but it didn’t come out quite like we envisioned, so we dropped that, and the thing with Cower came up. We went through some different permutations with those songs, trying to write more straightforward, “hardcore” ish material with Andy playing drums and Josh playing second bass. That didn’t work out super well, so we just wrote like we normally do salvaginga few parts from the earlier writing.

We had one song too many from that batch, so we decided to hit up Matthew Williams about doing the Hell split. And we recorded the Soundgarden cover for the Kowloon Walled City split at the same time. We went to Europe with Moloch right after finishing this stuff. It wasn’t really until we got back that we started working on new ideas for a full length, though it was pretty soon after that Matthew Thudium had the first song pretty fleshed out, which more or less dictated the direction we wanted to take the sound of Heathen.