New Jersey’s Thank You Scientist are one of the most exciting young bands in music today. Blending classical and jazz elements with aspects of progressive rock and metal, the group is turning heads and rapidly building a following. With the guys currently on tour with Periphery, Wovenwar and Nothing More, I had the chance to catch the show on January 11th in Charlotte, NC at The Fillmore. After a stellar set featuring both old and new songs, I sat down with the band to talk about their upcoming album amongst other things. Here’s what they had to say:
First off, thanks for taking the time to do this interview! This is only the second night of tour, but how has it been going so far would you say?
Andrew Digrius [Trumpet]: Pretty smooth, definitely a lot smoother than the start of our last tour, we had some dates that were pretty stressful. This experience has been amazing so far, just getting down here has been pretty smooth and everybody we’ve talked to has been amazing. The whole vibe has been great, especially for just the second day. We can’t wait to see where it’s going to go from here.
Odin Alvarez [Drums]: I think from the last tour things are really streamlined, when we run into the same problems we have solutions prepared, and we’re more used to it emotionally, physically and mentally you know? Things get easier with repetition and cooperation.
Tom Monda [Guitar]: We started last time with a crew that didn’t work, so that added to a lot of stress, but now we have a nice crew going on.
The new bassist seems to be getting along well.
TM: Yeah! He’s only joined about a couple weeks ago, so he had a lot of stuff to learn. We’re changing the set list like every night just about, so he had to learn a lot of stuff. It’s pretty stressful for him I would imagine but he’s killing it.
Those two new songs you guys played definitely seem like they fit right in with your other stuff, but at the same time you can hear the natural progression there. Do you have more stuff you are working on for the new album? We haven’t really heard too much about it at this point.
TM: Yeah, we are going to write like one more tune which we’re about 25% done with and then an instrumental tune and then we’re done writing for the record. We’ll hit the studio probably in April, and hopefully it’ll come out by summertime and then we’ll hit the road. So it’s close, it’s on the horizon.
AD: I’m definitely excited for the new material too, I feel like we can speak about that. At least me personally, to hear the progression from the ‘Maps’ stuff to the new stuff. It’s taking more risks melodically, more risks rhythmically, kinda making it more orchestral in a way. In my head it’s like themed variations, like the first chorus is going to be different than the second chorus, and it might be subtly different but for us it makes it a lot of fun to play.
TM: All the orchestrations in every section are different, even if it comes back harmonically in the same way it’s re orchestrated in some kind of way.
OA: I think also the new material is representative of how we’ve matured in our writing and cooperating together and also with new lineups. Because we’d have a member change and then that person wasn’t on the last record and so then every new song written is a chance for them to express themselves.
It seems that things have really started to pick up for the band in the past year or so. What would you attribute that to?
TM: Our good looks.
AD: Yeah, our good looks mostly.
TM: [laughs] Nah, we bust our asses. We rehearse a lot, we nitpick every little section. Our process is maybe a lot different than a traditional rock band, but that’s not to say we’re not a traditional rock band. We’ll write the tunes and then we’ll score everything and then fine tune it after we score it. Just because of the nature of the instrumentation we need to make sure that, you know the chord voicings are agreeing and the voice leading is smooth and this and that, there are lots of considerations. All those things I guess help, because I guess people hear them.
How did the relationship with Claudio Sanchez come about? Did he just stumble across you guys or did you already know him?
TM: Adrian who works at Evil Ink Comics found us on Reddit, and he gave it to Claudio. Reddit picked us as a top artist of 2012, and it was sitting on Claudio’s desk for a while. When he moved to Brooklyn he started running in the park and he decided to give it a spin and he said he just really got into it and listened to it every day like that. Then we were doing this show at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, and one of Andrew’s friends had booked the show. Then she reaches out to Andrew and is like “Do you guys know anyone from Coheed and Cambria?” and we were like “Well we know who they are, but not really.”
AD: Yeah she was like “Are you really good friends with Claudio at all?” and I was like “I Wish!” because Coheed has been one of my favorite bands since high school, like I love their stuff. Then she said “Well he wants to be on the guest list for the show.” so we said “Yeah, put him on the list!” because obviously we wanted him there.
TM: The funny part about that was it was April Fools Day. So we thought someone was just fucking with us.
AD: Then we saw that big hair at our show though, so he actually showed up. He dug the show and we talked to him for a while afterwords and he’s the nicest dude I’ve ever met, he’s an amazing person. We talked music for a while and talked families, it was really cool.
You had a really close call with that gas leak incident recently. How has that affected you artistically?
TM: Yeah, we were writing at our rehearsal spot just kinda how we do on a Saturday morning, kind of a small group deal, hashing out ideas and and practicing things. Then our singer Sal started saying that he felt a little weird and light headed. We didn’t think anything of it at first though, we figured he was just singing too hard or something. A couple minutes later though and we’re all looking at each other like “Do you guys feel kinda weird? Yeah okay let’s get the hell outta here.” Then as we were walking down the stairs we couldn’t breathe and we were feeling like we were going to pass out. I started convulsing and it was pretty fucking scary.
So we went outside and chilled in my car for a while and just tried to collect ourselves. It wasn’t getting any better though so we were like “Let’s call 911, there’s something wrong in there.” We had a feeling it was carbon monoxide obviously, because we couldn’t smell anything and we couldn’t see anything. We called 911 and they came down and we got rushed to the hospital. The fire department said it was 1,000 PPM’s of carbon monoxide so if we had been in there for 30 more seconds we would have passed out, and then at about 2 minutes we would have died. It was a close call for us, but 2 of our neighbors in the room next to us died actually, it’s crazy.
OA: It was kind of scary for me too because I wasn’t there during the final incident, but I had been there in the weeks prior. I was by myself practicing drums and I’d be there for a good 5 hours maybe. I remember sometimes I started feeling really sleepy, first I was having a good day and really jamming out and then 2 songs in I started to feel really weak and tired and fatigued. Then the next days I would get unbelievable migraines at work all day and I threw up at my job. Thinking back on it after the incident though, that was totally it.
TM: Yeah in hindsight all these things have made sense, like how we would go in there and practice and just feel a little spacey. So it must have been a small leak that over time exacerbated. In one of the new songs that we played tonight, we came up with the vocal melody for the verse while we were poisoned with carbon monoxide. It all really puts things into perspective though, you realize how fragile things are. We were just going to rehearsal, not bothering anyone and not doing anything stupid, and we could have died just from doing what we like. So definitely it’s a wake up call, that you know, it could end at any time.
Scary to think about, glad you guys all came out okay though!
You used a wide variety of instrumentation on the last album, even though some instruments only appeared briefly in certain tracks. Are there any instruments that you haven’t used yet that you want to utilize on the new record?
TM: I know we’re bringing in a string quartet, and Andrew is talking about experimenting with different things like maybe a french horn.
AD: Yeah, definitely a french horn, and maybe some more trombone.
OA: We were talking about a gong, I need to get a gong somewhere in there.
TM: Since James [bass] joined the band, James plays upright bass so that’s going to be on the new record. The shamisen will probably make a return as well.
TM: Yeah it’s like a Japanese fretless lute, you can hear it in the intro to “In the Company of Worms” and it sounds like an ancient banjo. I had a small half-size one, but I’ve gotten a full-size one since then and it sounds pretty rad. We’ll try to incorporate as many different things as we can musically, whatever works for the tune and sounds cool. Ellis [saxophone] plays a multitude of woodwinds and brass as well.
Do the group have a collective favorite album as a band?
AD: I think the fact that we have so many different influences, that’s really what affects our music the most. We all come from different places, I myself have a jazz and classical background. We all come from different realms and went to school for different things though, and I fell like that’s why we have such a mixture of different vibes and feelings and improvising through composed stuff. We all hear different things in our heads but then we’re all able to incorporate that at the same time into something cohesive.
OA: We introduce each other to a lot of music too because we all have eclectic taste and that furthers that process.
TM: We definitely have a lot of common ground that we bonded over which is why we got together and played, like me and Andrew met in a jazz ensemble in school. I met Ellis because he went to school with me and he played sax, and James I met at a jazz gig we did together. I was just subbing for another dude, and Odin I met because he played in local rock bands. There common ground with all of us and music that we like, whether it’s jazz or classical or rock or metal stuff, whatever. Like Odin was saying we share a lot of music and are always turning each other on to cool stuff, and ideas always sneak there way into the songs that way.
Are there any recent albums that have come out that you guys really enjoy?
TM: Like new albums that just came out? The new D’Angelo, and the new Flying Lotus is amazing. We were just listening to Snarky Puppy. Also maybe some stuff that you wouldn’t expect from listening to our music, like Fiona Apple…..Faith No More, you know the old classics too. The new Flying Lotus is one of my favorites though if I had to pick a recent thing.
We’ve covered it a little bit, but is there anything else you want to say about the new album and plans for the band after this tour is over?
TM: Yeah, hit the studio in April like we said, and then tour the shit out of it for a long time. You know, I’m just excited to get this lineup captured, because James and Ben weren’t on ‘Maps’ and I think it’s helped our sound a lot to have these guys on board. We want to keep it exciting and keep pushing ourselves.
AD: We’re just all ready to get the new album out, we’ve been working on it for a while.
We can’t wait to hear it. Thanks for the interview guys!
Catch Thank You Scientist on tour at the following dates in support of Periphery:
01/16 House of Blues – New Orleans, LA
01/17 House of Blues – Houston, TX
01/18 House of Blues – Dallas, TX
01/20 Sunshine Theater – Albuquerque, NM
01/21 Club Red – Phoenix, AZ
01/22 House of Blues – Los Angeles, CA
01/23 Yost Theater – Anaheim, CA
01/26 The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA
01/27 Hawthorne Theatre– Portland, OR
01/28 El Corazon – Seattle, WA
01/30 In The Venue – Salt Lake City, UT
01/31 Summit Music Hall – Denver, CO
02/02 Varsity Theater – Minneapolis, MI
02/03 House of Blues – Chicago, IL
02/04 St. Andrews Hall – Detroit, MI
02/06 Opera House – Toronto, ON
02/07 Corona Theatre – Montreal, QC
02/08 Upstate Concert Hall – Albany, NY
02/09 Waterstreet Music Hall– Rochester, NY
02/11 Paradise Rock Club – Boston, MA
02/12 Irving Plaza – New York, NY
02/13 The Fillmore – Silver Spring, MD
02/14 District N9ne – Philadelphia, PA