The Thons are a hard hitting punk rock band who record all their music live with no mixing or edits! They have just released their second studio album as well as a live album released on tape! Tomatrax caught up with Graham, lead singer and guitarist from the band to discuss their music!
How did the band form?
The original drummer Wyatt and I met years ago and spent most of our time in a bar. One day Wyatt mentioned he used to play drums ten years before in a Kansas City drone rock band and I had some therapeutic songs that needed to come out so we started spending our time in a practice space. We were messing around and our pal from NYC sat in on bass and after that I knew we needed to get a bass player in there to round everything out because it sounded way better. That’s when Frank came onboard.
Where did the name The Thons come from?
It was a typo when I texted Frank one time and I used it as a placeholder when we were a duo back in 2012. I just liked it. I didn’t want to think too much about it and I didn’t want an animal name which seemed to be really popular at the time. You know like “COLD PYTHON” or something. “Come see Cold Python we’re going to freeze you and squeeze you!” or something horrible. I don’t know I just didn’t want an animal name and I didn’t want to make a statement and pose for photos and shit. I just wanted it to be part of a group of people called The Thons who were like “oh ok here’s music for me.”
What made you use Thirty foot snake as the title track for your second album?
It just kinda represented how I was feeling at the time really well. We played this show at this hilarious place called The Horseshoe that technically doesn’t have a license to have live music or something. Before the show I went up to the sound guy and was like “hey someone told me we can’t play past 10 pm” and the sound guy was like “what? you don’t know what you’re talking about you can play til forever o’clock!” So we went up there and 9:45 pm rolls around, I’m in the middle of a solo and I can’t hear my guitar. So I look over and this sound dude is fucking around and turning every knob on my amp down and I lost my shit. I felt kinda bad for that but he was like “this guy came down and said it was too loud! I’m sorry, I’m sorry…” It turns out there’s a dude that lives in a condo above this place that clearly is a place you would not expect to get much sleep living above. So immediately the next day the song just popped in my head because I was like…who buys a condo above a dive bar and complains at 9:45 pm? Probably a condor that spits in my mouth and now I’m going to turn into a thirty foot snake. Anyways it just came together in two weeks and it just seemed like the thing to do.
Why’d you decide to offer both of your albums for free?
I built the website and I built this shopping cart thing to sell MP3s online. And I was just really like I put all this time and money into this thing and I think $5 is worth this new album. So I put it up at $5 and got a hundred people to the site when we released it and NOBODY DOWNLOADED IT. I was like SHIT I AM THE DUMBEST so I switched it to pay what you want and immediately people started downloading it. That was a big lesson for me. I was way too close to it I had to remember that the whole reason we make this stuff is to share it and connect with people and play live shows. So to summarize, I’d rather have 50 people listening to our music that I can have a conversation with than 2 people and $10 in my pocket.
You’ve made both your albums with no splices, edits or overdubs. Was it important to put together music this way?
Yeah Raw. Real. Rock., Thirty Foot Snake, and Live At Young Camelot were all done with takes happening all
live at the same time. First off we don’t have a lot of money so the idea of spending days in a recording studio is just not happening. Secondly I don’t think people really care. I don’t think tons of time on an album is really worth it when it’s gonna get squashed into an MP3 and listened to on ear turds. Also I think you can totally neuter a song by messing with it too much. I used to mess around with electronic music and I’d spend sixteen hours in one day on something and at the end I’d be like “what the hell is this? I don’t want to listen to this! This sounds like Mario Kart.” It would just totally blow. So I like setting these artificial restrictions like no overdubs to keep things very live, energetic and representative of a live performance.
You also recorded each album in one afternoon, was this hard to achieve?
It was really not that difficult. We had been playing most of these songs for a while and worked out all the kinks so it was pretty much just like show up, turn it on, rock, rock, rock, then pick the best takes. Each album was two hours of set up, four hours of recording and two hours of mixing in one day. I went in later to sit with Dave from Public House Sound Recordings and kinda listen to them and EQ stuff a little but there wasn’t much after the initial session.
Would you do retakes if mistakes were made?
Early 2014 me would say no and you can hear them on the records. Late 2014 me would say yes. We just went in and did two singles for Public House Sound Recordings and these are new songs that are more complex and just very different. We did the recording and I listened to stuff and I just totally messed up these vocals. I really ate shit on them. I sang the wrong words it was just dumb. I did this for every take. So yeah I’m going to go in and sing the right words so the shit makes sense. Also I use two guitar amps daisy chained together when we play live and this just does not come across on recordings as a big sound. I use a delay hip pedal and this helps a little but I’m likely going to double up guitar tracks of the same notes so it is bigger and wider. I’m 100% against doing stuff that we can’t do live like putting in little riffs that would never happen without a fourth dude. So it’s like 95% live.
You also released a live album expressly for tape release. What was the inspiration for a tape release?
People want them. Seriously everyone has tapes. Someone came up to me and said “do you have any tapes?” and I said “no but we’ve got CDs” and they just walked away. Dave our engineer suggested we release a live cassette. At first I thought it was kinda nuts but I have always liked cassettes. I like the compression and they lock you into listening more than anything except radio. I had been looking into some DIY gigs and the timing just worked out really well to do it at Young Camelot. They’re really cool dudes and had a pro recording setup so it was like one of those magic perfect things. They couldn’t remove my drunkenness though so that recording is pretty trashy. But you know, it was a moment in time and I’m still proud of it.
You also run a music blog on your site, where do you get the inspiration for the topics you write about?
I’m an internet addict. I’m always sharing stuff with people so I figured why not keep a stream of it going to share with people that come to the site for band stuff. You know, give them a glimpse of shit we’re in to or whatever. Stuff that influences us. Cool music I’m listening to. I’m really inspired by friends and lots of local Chicago based stuff going on. There are a ton of very good acts in this city right now across genres. It’s nuts.
Would you mind if people were on/using their phone during one of your gigs?
Ha ha ha PETER FUCKING FRAMPTON! I saw that article about him chucking a dude’s phone on stage and then something the next day about another performer freaking out about phones and I just don’t get it. You’re old balls. You’re like 60 years old and have had this wonderful life of doing something you love doing instead of living a life of regret. And here these people pay a ton of money to see you when you’re washed up and they pay top dollar to get in front and you destroy their phone for recording you? That just seems really shitty. In Frampton’s case it is entirely ego he went on to say something like “you’re here to see me! It’s about me!” on an interview. Like, man that is so shitty. So yes, I strongly encourage people to record and take pics if that’s what they want to do. I just think these people freaking out have forgotten what it’s like when you’re in the early stages of your career and you just want someone to listen. Also, fuck you I paid $100 to see you, I’m gonna take a video to show my friends if I want. I hope if I were at their level and I felt differently then I’d stop playing live shows and just be a sad bastard studio musician.
You started working on a video game to accompany your latest album, how has that been going?
Video game is like way way way too much of a compliment. It’s really an unfinished flash game that I started working on because someone said our new songs sounded like they should be in a video game. So I started looking in to it and I was like “I’m gonna make this amazing pixel art game with floating eyeballs and blah blah blah.” So I made this surfing level for this game and got overwhelmed with life. It turns out that it’s pretty difficult you know like, guess what making a video game IS NOT EASY. Our drummer Greg was playing it and asked to share it online and I was just like, meh if someone wants to play this thing then go for it.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
Yes a ton. I am one of the least music literate people around and I’m really autistic about music. I started writing music because I didn’t like much of what was out there. It was really a therapeutic thing too. So then I listened to it all the time because it made me feel really good. I replay songs dozens of times when I find something I like. Like the most random things.
I just saw that Guardians of the Galaxy movie and I played Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love” 50 times in one day. Like I was unable to get up because I was listening on a computer and I just kept hitting replay. I really had a moment where I was like…has anyone died from listening to Redbone? Jesus. It was nuts. I’m actually kinda afraid to listen to it again.
We record all our practices and I listen to them a ton. Dozens of times each practice. I typically use gibberish words for vocals and I listen to the practices until things start sounding coherent. Then I’ll go about writing lyrics. That’s how 90% of the songs come about. You can find so many little subconscious nuggets in practice recordings that can be turned into new songs it’s a lot of fun.
What other music do you listen to?
I listen to a lot of local Chicago bands. I’m not going to list them because there are a ton and I will forget someone, but if you go to our website I have a “Buds” page set up that lists all these bands we like or have played with and think are cool. I’m constantly finding new ones I need to add to our site. In terms of classics I’ve got Buzzcocks, Black Flag, Naked Raygun, Theoretical Girls and Bowie on my phone, too.
What do The Thons have planned for the rest of the year?
Well this year we’ll have 8 new songs out on our next album titled “Hot Fun.” It’s gonna be surfy and a little psychy and definitely rocky. I’m really excited about this one because it came out of nowhere and I really dig it. We’ve got another album called “More War” that we put on hold to do “Hot Fun” because it just felt right. I want to have “More War” out early 2015 because with all the shit going on in the world it’s really rather timely. And then I’d like to follow that one up with another album of just like all these unrelenting pop songs I have in my head. Just real like this is pop and we are not afraid. It’s just like out on its own pop. Pop pop pop. Maybe we’ll call that one “Raw. Real. Pop.”
Check out The Thons’ website to find out more!