Thrice Guitarist Teppei Teranishi Discusses Recording the New Album and the Magic in Tiny Amps

Five years can be a long time. You can raise a family, start a business and sidle into a new life miles away from previously-known territory, both geographically and mentally. But even in uncharted sections of the map, vessels have a tendency to trace back to familiar waters. Teppei Teranishi, guitarist of seminal post-hardcore outfit Thrice, is one such vessel.

As of writing this article, it’s been almost five years since the release of their last album, Major/Minor. The album was followed by a farewell tour through 2012 that culminated with the band going on indefinite hiatus. Teranishi, known for his easy affinity for new instruments and interests, like building pedals, translated his creative energy into a focus on family and a successful leatherworks business dubbed Teranishi Studio. Now, with the release of To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere, Teranishi and company are gearing up to dive headfirst into the whirlwind of playing and touring.

To say the least, people are excited Thrice is back. Online fanfare has raged since the group played some one-off shows late last year and posted cryptic photos of themselves in the studio. The Baltimore Orioles’ right fielder Mark Trumbo even used Thrice’s latest single, “Black Honey,” as his walk-up song at a recent home game.

So how does it feel to be on the other end of a return to form? We spoke with Teppei over the phone about downtime, recording long-distance and the magic of tiny amps.

It's got to feel pretty surreal to be back in the fray after five years since Major/Minor. What have you been up to?

I've been up in Washington. I just moved back down to California a couple months ago, but my family and I moved to a little island near Seattle called Bashan Island. We were there for about five years, and I was doing a leather-craft and canvas goods kind of company.

Yeah, Teranishi Studio. Now that you’ve moved back to Orange County, do you still have a brick and mortar spot?

We never had a storefront; we just had a workshop and studio space. I'm doing it solo in my garage. It's just like with the band starting up again; I need to give that my full attention so the Teranishi Studio stuff is back to being a side project.

Yeah, that's got to feel wild shifting gears like that. By the way what, five years ago, led to that move up to Washington? More tranquil environment, a change of scenery?

Exactly. I've got three boys now. Having kids makes you rethink where you want to be and raise your kids. We wanted to get away and try living in a rural place in a small town. Living the slow life for a while was awesome. I loved it; I miss it every day. But with the band starting back up again it just made sense to be back here.

How old are your kids?

My kids are eight, six and three.

Have the older ones started delving into music yet?

Yeah, they have actually. My eight- and six-year-old both play piano. Obviously there are guitars around the house, so they tinker with that stuff. But they're both pretty musical. There’s always music happening around them, so it's kind of natural for them to gravitate towards that.

Thrice

Has having children altered the way you play and perceive music?

As far as how the band functions, it's definitely changed a lot. One of the main reasons we took the hiatus in the first place is because I had two kids at the time. Dustin [Kensrue] had three at that time. It was really hard being away from the family and touring as much as we were.

We just decided, “Let's just take a break for a bit, let life happen and we'll come back to it when we feel ready.” Now that we've “clean slated” by taking the hiatus, it allowed us to refigure out how we can make this work. We're doing shorter tours, maybe breaking up a tour that we would have done in six to eight weeks into two different legs and taking a couple months off between.

Was this the first instance of you guys recording scattered to the four winds?

Yeah, it definitely was. The last record, Major/Minor, for the last little bit of the writing and recording process, I moved up to Washington. But the bulk of everything was already done at that point, so this is the first time that we'd written, conceived and recorded an entire record with me being not in the same place.

Knowing that Riley [Breckenridge, drums] and Eddie [Breckenridge, bass] were still in California, were you and Dustin able to get together to work on parts? Were they able to get together and send you guys stuff?

The chemistry is always there, and we've worked together for so long that it really wasn't hard for us to find our step, I think."

Not really, because by the time we had decided to write a record and all of that, Dustin was already back in California. While he was living there, we'd see each other every so often; he'd come visit us on the island or vice versa. But at that point, we weren't really thinking about music.

How did it feel playing in a familiar outfit now with this considerable distance and time spent away from each other? Was it easy to ease sidle into a pattern?

The chemistry is always there, and we've worked together for so long that it really wasn't hard for us to find our step, I think. I would fly down and we'd jam together in person and all of that stuff. But it was definitely kind of different trying to piece together songs. It mostly happened digitally. We would just be swapping and sharing Logic files. Somebody would lay down something, share that and then maybe somebody would add something over that; it was just a slow building of songs, everybody kind of doing their thing individually.

Did you get your recording rig from California or did you get all new gear when you were up in Washington?

I actually wasn't doing any music at all. I guess I took the chance, with the hiatus, to do something other than music, which is why I fell into the Teranishi Studio stuff. I've been doing music for my entire adult life; so I thought it would be cool to do something else for a moment. Yeah, so all of the recording stuff stayed back in California.

Thrice - "Black Honey"

Was that scary or exhilarating to venture outside of your comfort zone?

I guess a little of both. It was definitely scary, and a gigantic learning process, and I'm still learning every day. Not only is it a totally different industry and discipline, but also there’s the business aspect of it. Just trying to run my own business was a totally new experience.

Having that distance and time, not being engaged with music at all, did you sense a shift in how you approached music when you were getting back into the Thrice stuff?

I don't know about a shift in perspective. We talked about how the band chemistry was there, but for me it definitely took a long time to warm up and get my brain back into music mode. Creatively, I had been so focused and involved with the other stuff that I hadn't really even thought about music in so long. It was like a full 180, brain-wise. And so that definitely took me a moment, and I think that was the biggest struggle for me. Also, just finding my confidence as a guitar player took time, too. It sounds weird, but I didn't touch a guitar for so long. I guess I never drew a whole lot of identity from being a guitar player, so I had to re-acclimate myself and think of myself as a guitar player again and be like, “Oh yeah, I know how to do this.”

That's one of the most stunning moments in my life: hearing the man who gave the world “Deadbolt” say that he had to get his confidence back.

[Laughs]

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When you guys were recording, did you bring in someone outside?

We worked with a producer this time, this guy Eric Palmquist who is super rad. He's up in L.A. He's got a studio and so we did it there. He manned the whole recording process and everything, so I definitely got to sit back on that one. We had some ideas for producers, but there are a lot of logistics that need to line up: who we can actually afford, who is available when we need them and all of that kind of stuff. Somebody at the label suggested Eric, and we vibed pretty well and liked the input that he had.

With your rig, the one word that comes to mind is “streamlined.” I remember back around the Artist in the Ambulance days, you had this expansive pedalboard. Now you've got a Line 6 M13 and an AC30? Was that a decision to pare back or was it something that organically developed, stripping away components as you progress through making new albums?

I guess a little bit of both. As I get older, I just like simplicity. Even with my design stuff, I approach things in a very pared back, minimal way. I like simple things, and so naturally I want everything I do to be as simple and trouble-free as possible. I found what works for me. It's not broken, then don't fix it.

Yeah, is there any gear that you're excited to bring out with you on this upcoming tour?

The pedal situation is going to have to be a little different. Honestly, if I had it my way, I would just plug my guitar straight into my amps. But we did experiment a bit more with pedals this time, so I'm trying to figure how I'm going to work that into my live rig.

We actually didn't use my AC30 at all in the recording process. Eric was like, “What amp have you used the most on the last two records? Maybe let's not use that one.” [Laughs] I was definitely down to try whatever, so we ended up using a 6G6 Bassman I have. But Eric would run all of the amps that we had simultaneously; so we had maybe four or five amps running and he would mix and match the sounds to pull out what he wanted. We had that Bassman, Eric had a Marshall JCM800 or something. One amp in particular that I really liked was a Watkins Scout; I had never really heard of it before. It's this tiny amp, I think it's maybe 10 amps, but it sounded really cool and the way it broke up was really sweet, and it has a nice kind of tube compression.

What was the guitar that you were using while recording? Were you still doing the baritone thing?

Yeah, so there are a couple of baritones. We had my baritone Jaguar, and then we actually broke out my Les Paul, which I hadn't used in a while. It's wine red, maybe a '74 or '72 — I don't even know — Les Paul Standard. I had used it a lot on the earlier recordings, like Illusion of Safety and Artist in the Ambulance, I think I used it on. But anyway, we ended up breaking that one out and it ended up seeing a decent amount of action.

I saw you guys 12 years ago and always associated you and Dustin with a Les Paul and an SG respectively, and then maybe around Vheissu I started to see you guys sport the Fenders.

I had a black Les Paul Custom that I used to play all the time but that got stolen. Yeah, I was pretty bummed about that. But you're right, around the Vheissu era is when I got a Tele and I started using it pretty extensively from there.

Thrice Performing Live

What I noticed with “Blood on the Sand” is a more political and social element that reminded me of more-pointed, politically-oriented tracks like “Cold Cash and Colder Hearts.” Did the current social and political atmosphere play a role in Thrice's decision to come back and start writing again?

I don't think that had anything to do with starting to write again. But obviously this is the world that we all live in. It's always going to have some kind of effect on us and our lives, which I think is going to naturally come through in whatever music we're writing.

With the record release, what do you see for the future? Are you excited to get back out on the road?

Yeah, definitely. It's going to be fun trying out these songs. That's always exciting. I'm excited to be back out on the road and be traveling. That's one thing I did miss, is traveling. I didn't necessarily miss being away from my family, but it's going to be nice just being out on the road with the guys, and a lot of our crew are going to be out with us. We're all really good friends and everything.

Photos by Jonathan Weiner


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