Hard-hitting art – music included – has the power to change hearts and minds. And that’s what the singer and guitarist of Thrice Dustin Kensrue is counting on.
“Music is an emotional way to get around people’s defenses,” says Dustin Kensrue with the same meditative tone he sings with on Thrice’s eleventh record, Horizons / East.
This is one of the critical and unique functions of art; the one who freed spirits and brought down tyrants through distance and time. This is why despotic regimes such as Nazi Germany’s Third Reich banned what they saw as “degenerate art.”
Kensrue began to change his mind when he began to question his Christian faith. After a long, unsettling but instructive journey, the desire to share what he finally understood served as the driving force behind the band’s latest album.
“I think that, in general, the idea of the record is [to be] hopeful in the sense that we can see how we are in these closed thought systems, and at least yearn for a way out. I think desire can lead to a way of being less sure about things, but more open to the reality in front of you. Accepting uncertainty is very scary as human beings, but when you can get to this place it’s not as scary as you thought it was. It’s actually quite invigorating. “
The first song on the disc, “The Color of the Sky”, portrays a protagonist trapped behind a literal wall (“He circumscribed the city / They said beyond that nothing lived at all“) and his resolve to” find a passage “and see for himself what lies beyond. It is a physical representation of the concept of transition from an enclosed space to a more open space; visibility to clear visibility.
Lyrics of “The Color of the Sky”
My first and first memory
look in wonder at the wall
He circumscribed the city
They said that beyond that, nothing lived at all
But I came to wonder if all the stories were true
So one night I made my decision
I resolved that I would find a passage through
“I took this trip myself in a way,” Kensrue says, “and it’s liberating and beautiful. I wanna at least leave a card [for others] and say, ‘Hey, there’s something here.’ To be everywhere … was the start of a lot of changes, ”he says of the group’s 2016 record.“ This one is more zoomed in and reflective, as well as looking to the future. I hate to say it because it looks like I’ve arrived, but I’m on a trip that I wasn’t before.
But opening minds is much easier said than done, and it couldn’t be more evident after several years of living in America, as partisanship and tribalism have become the most severe and corrosive since the days of the civil war.
“The last few years have been an extreme example of how easy it is to polarize and hang out on your own,” Kensrue says. “I’m definitely more on the liberal side, but I want to be just as critical. The more we can let go of that kind of thinking and keep everyone up to the same standards, the better. Try not to find yourself so firmly entrenched in some sort of partisan situation. Have your convictions, but [know that] your group is not always right just because you often agree with them. This goes for any situation, not just politics. “
“I think a lot of what’s going on right now is we see, especially in America, the individual has become everything. There are some amazing things that come with the liberation and freedom of individuals … but we also have a lot left, in terms of functioning as a group and taking charge of the group.
One need only look at the delta variant disaster of COVID-19 to see how the selfishness of the individual has overpowered their ability to take responsibility for the safety of others. The debates on masks are over in literal fights at local school board meetings across the country, putting the “freedom of choice” not to put one’s mouth above the lives of neighbors. There is now a false choice between the individual and the community, when in reality the two can coexist.
“I hope there is a way to synthesize these two things. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think it’s the way to go. How can we maximize human freedom but also realize that you live in a society where everyone is [can be] supported? For me, my life is impoverished living in a society where people are literally impoverished. I truly believe that we are all connected.
To illustrate this point, Thrice made a conscious effort to weave the concept of interdependence into the lyrical composition of Horizons / East. The last track, “Unitive / East”, asks the question “Is there a me without you? and ends with imagery of “new grass under dark skies”, bringing the listener back to the story that begins the album. The idea of the one and the many is reflected in the musical structure of the song, starting with a lonely beat and building up to 11, before settling down.
“I have no hope in the optimistic sense of the word,” says the songwriter. “But I’m determined to hope, because hope leads to action, and over time you can make a real difference. Even though it sometimes feels like things are stopping or even going backwards, there are movements throughout history that are encouraging. “
The record is imbued with Kensrue’s belief that opportunities and possibilities can arise from even the worst of situations. Sometimes we have to listen to our own human nature, but other times we have to move beyond it to get to a better place. While we can’t seem to argue or try to convince the other side that we’re right, Kensrue is hopeful that the emotion and beauty of music can persuade people to look beyond what they have. always assumed to be true. Once you can open your heart, then the spirit will follow.
Thanks to Dustin Kensrue from Thrice for the interview. The band have just released the new song “Summer Set Fire to the Rain” which can be heard below. ThriceThe album ‘Horizons / East’ arrives September 17th via Epitaph Records. It is available for pre-order here and to distribute via these platforms. You can also catch headlining tour dates with Touche Amore, Jim Ward (on select dates) and Self Defense Family starting September 24 in Houston. Dates and ticketing information can be found here.
Three times, “Summer has set the rain on fire”
Thrice, Horizons / East Album artwork
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