Tools Of The Trade: A Conversation with Teppei Teranishi of Thrice

Teppei Teranishi is a man of many arts.

The 37-year-old multi-instrumentalist who teamed with vocalist Dustin Kensrue in 1998 to form Thrice, one of most influential bands in the post-hardcore genre, is a craftsman in every sense of the word.

Songwriter? Check. Crafting beautiful, made-to-order leather pieces for his side business? Check. Manning the controls on the other side of the glass as a producer? Yes, that, too.

You get the idea.

At the top of the heap, of course, is still his six-string work in Thrice, now nearly 20 years and nine albums in. The quartet’s resume of recorded material has been as impressive as any in their field, from the groundbreaking “The Alchemy Index” EPs, to latest album, “To Be Everywhere, To Be Nowhere.”

Teranishi, Kensrue, and brothers Eddie Breckenridge (bass) and Riley Breckenridge (drums) are in the midst of a co-headlining fall tour with longtime touring mates Circa Survive. The tour will make a stop in Clive on Dec. 6 at 7 Flags Event Center.

Teranishi took a short break while on the tour recently to give ListenIowa an update on the band’s longevity, its self-imposed hiatus and what’s in store for Thrice fans.

How is the tour with Circa Survive going thus far?
It’s going really well. We’ve been friends with them for a long time now. The last time we toured together was about 10 years ago, so it’s good to share the stage with them again. It’s good vibes all around.

It probably helps to have road mates who you know.
For sure. You see everybody every day. It’s a huge blessing.

Thrice has some miles under its belt at this point with nine albums in nearly 20 years, and you’ve become known as one of the more influential bands of the post-hardcore genre. What have you learned along the way?
I feel like we know what we’re doing now. When you’re starting out, you’re green at everything. One of the biggest things now is that we have a bus. (laughs) When you’re young, peppy and have a lot of energy, it’s fine to have a van, but we wouldn’t be able to tour like that these days.

That’s called paying your dues.
Exactly. (laughs)

Your last album, “To Be Everywhere, To Be Nowhere,” (2016) has been out for awhile now and was the album that brought you guys back onto the radar after a self-imposed hiatus of a few years back in 2012. Were there any thoughts of, “Can we do it again?” when you made the album and returned to the public eye?
It wasn’t necessarily a huge concern, but you never know. That being said, I think that it’s been that way for every single album we’ve put out. It’s, “Here we go. Are people going to like this?” It was a fairly big unknown. The hiatus wasn’t as long as we thought it was going to be, I don’t think. But it worked.

How did you get to the point where stopping the Thrice machine was necessary?
A lot of factors played into it. Mainly, it was the season of life that we were in at that point. I had had kids, and Dustin was in the same boat. It felt like it was the time to take a break from touring. We’d been doing it for 15 years at that point. Our entire adult lives had been immersed in touring and recording, so it felt like time to sit back and let things happen.

And it probably wasn’t the easiest thing being “married” to three other guys in a band for that long either.
It was time be married to my wife. (laughs)

You teased the 10-year anniversary of the “The Alchemy Index” prior to the current tour by saying that something special was coming up. The surprise ended up being a four-song suite from that time period midway through the show.
I feel like a lot of people are doing full album tours, and we briefly talked about doing it, too, but decided to do one song from each album in a sort of mini-suite. It’s working great.

Looking back, was the “The Alchemy Index” time period a special one for the band? Making a series of four EPs, each of which represent an element of nature (fire, water, air, and earth), is a unique concept.
That time period was different for us. It was our only concept thing we’d ever done. Normally when we write, it’s open-ended. But this time we were able to write within boundaries that we’d set.

Did that make it more difficult?
Actually it didn’t. We’ve talked about that. It’s almost freeing to have some boundaries to work within, and toward. Having absolute freedom can be creatively stifling at times.

Where do you see yourself headed as an artist? You’ve got your leather crafting business that you started that became fairly successful, and side projects as well.
I don’t know, really. While we were on hiatus, I was doing leather work full-time. Once the band picked back up, I knew I was going to have to push that aside, but I’m still active on the side with it.

Was there enough interest in your leather work at that time that you could have done it full-time if needed?
Oh yeah. People would ask me if I missed playing music, and the honest answer was, “Not really.” Creatively, I was scratching the same itch. It was immersive, creative work. It was nice for me to be able to do something other than music. We’ve been doing this since high school, and my entire adult life had kind of been just one thing. It was fun to be able to pursue this other side.

You’re of Japanese descent and grew up in a household dominated by that culture. Looking back, have you incorporated anything from those formative early years into who you are now, both professionally and personally?
It was a Japanese culture in my house, but my parents were pretty liberal. They were easy going. It’s still a huge part of my life, and the older I get the more I realize how much it’s shaped me. I’m super proud of it.

Did it influence you musically in any way?
It’s hard to quantify really. I’m sure it had something to do with something. Your creative influences are a conglomeration of your life experiences. The one direct influence I can think of would be on the album “Vheissu” we had the song “Music Box.” That was based on the time I bought a wind-up music box in Japan. It played a really traditional song called “Sakura, Sakura.” I started playing around with it and ended up writing a song around it. Not only was the song based around that riff, or whatever you want to call it, but the actual music box that I bought ended up being in the actual recording, which was special.

What does the future look like for Thrice?
This (tour) is the last thing we’re doing on this album cycle. We’ll be going home and holing up and doing some intensive writing hopefully. We’re compiling ideas and trying to make the beginning of songs right now and hope to start recording next year.

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