The Thursday drummer details the wondrous journey that is 'Past Lives'.
Words by Luis (@heaviestofart):
Formed from boundless creative ambition, musical affinity, and a long term brotherhood, L.S. Dunes came forth as a powerhouse brimming with an insular compositional intention turned outward. As a supergroup with members consisting of frontman Anthony Green (Circa Survive, Saosin), guitarist Frank Iero (My Chemical Romance), guitarist Travis Stever (Coheed and Cambria), bassist Tim Payne (Thursday), and drummer Tucker Rule (Thursday), the predetermined expectations exist, but they do nothing to alter the hard-hitting compositions they've laid out over the course of the last couple of years, the likes of which have materialized into their debut record, Past Lives. Arriving on November 11th via Fantasy Records, Past Lives is the byproduct of friends coming together to stray from the sonic formulas established by their core band affiliations and please new ones, resulting in a seamless integration of distinct musical backgrounds for one joyous listening experience. Several listens in and it remains as vibrant as the first, making this one thrilling feat that listeners from across the musical spectrum should dive into.
We welcome Tucker Rule to a conversation on the symbolic Gordon Douglas Ball poppy painting that graces the record's front cover, musical intentionality, bridging distinct experiences into one, and more:
Tucker, we'll get started with what people see first: the cover illustration. You of course worked on that with your longtime friend, Gordon Douglas Ball, who delivered a representation of the friendship and camaraderie that drove the formation of L.S. Dunes. What were you envisioning when approaching this visual element of the debut and what sparked the collaboration with Gordon?
Tucker: We had all types of ideas and we weren't sure what we were going to do at first, but we knew we wanted to keep it in the family. This record is so important to all of us, so having as many friends involved to take the ride was very important. I remember one day, Frank (Iero) and I got together at his house and went back and forth discussing what would be cool. We started going through options and decided to check out more Gordy's stuff. I'd always loved the pictures of poppies, so I hit him up to put together some custom poppies. A couple hours later, he had it, done and painted.
He's my best friend and it means so much to have him along with us, doing this. The same with the video that we just put out for 'Bomb Squad'.
We had Steve (Pedulla), the guitar player from Thursday, and our really good friend Nathaniel Shannon, shoot the video. We had Stu (Richardson) who plays bass with Thursday mix it. We tried to get as many of our people as we could involved in this. It's not calling in favors either, it's calling on our friends.
It's more than a mere business transaction, it's purely genuine and honest. One could see that from your stage dynamics in the few shows played so far, the cover, the music video, and of course, your history together.
Tucker: For sure, and I feel that the cover is so striking and symbolic. It's so different than anything that's really out there right now. We can call them poppies. There's five of them and there's five of us, so there is a correlation there. I just love the imagery, it's simple. We wanted the cover to be a piece of art, like a true painted piece of art, and that's what it is. It's an actual painting.
It's simple yet symbolic, which goes back to kind of the reflective and introspective nature of the record. Where do you feel that the painting intersects and becomes one with the lyricism of 'Past Lives'?
Tucker: I think the imagery doesn't give away what the band's gonna sound like, you know what I mean? You don't really know what type of music it is. If you're just a random person coming off the street and you haven't heard any of the songs, you don't really know what to expect from it. It's like going to a bookstore and choosing a book because of the cover. We kind of wanted to go with that effect. In some ways, it's kind of a haunting image. We're each individuals, but we're all the same kind of deal.
You touch on a great point; nobody knows what to expect from L.S. Dunes. Despite the sonic affiliations that exist because of each of your own bands, it's an entirely new project built to please other creative ambitions. Would you say that it was freeing in some sense to embark on this boundless journey? One can say you've freed yourself from having to sound like Thursday or My Chemical Romance.
Tucker: Definitely. For example, when composing and performing for Thursday, I can only speak to Thursday. We as a band have to kind of go in the same Thursday vein. We would obviously do it differently and creatively, but we already have a defined sound. You have to stay true to yourself and stay true to the band.
With L.S. Dunes, we really could do whatever we wanted to do because there was zero expectation. We did this mostly undercover. Nobody knew that this was happening, so we literally could do whatever we wanted without having anybody or any outside influence expecting anything in particular. The record was completely done for months before we even said a word to anybody about it, which was kind of frustrating because we'd been working so hard on it. It was a part of our lives that we couldn't talk about, and that's tough. It's tough to hold that secret, especially when you're so proud of it, so it's definitely freeing to be able to write whatever you want. It's definitely freeing to finally be able to talk about it and share it with people.
I can imagine. You're now seeing the singles, the artwork, and the videos being enjoyed and dissected by all through their own unique lens. Is it cathartic in some sense to finally see this out? You mention the frustration of having to keep L.S. Dunes under wraps for so long.
Tucker: Absolutely, man. We've all been in love with this from day one, you know what I mean? We want other people to love it, too. Being able to see people get the tattoos, drawing, and create their own merch, it's just really inspiring to see, sort of like building a little community. It's definitely cathartic because we knew we loved it and we thought it was good. You never know what other people are gonna think, so it's nice to see that people are giving it the same reaction that we felt when hearing the songs for the first time.
The enthusiasm is definitely there, especially in hearing you talk so passionately about it all. For many bands who have been in this for a while, traversing through the significant changes in the industry has bogged down the joy in composing, others abandoned music completely. You're the exception. Is it safe to say that L.S. Dunes brings about a newfound energy that is often felt when starting off a new band? You're developing a new sound, a new image.
Tucker: I can only equate it to this. I remember writing Thursday's 'Full Collapse' (2001) and being 20 something years old, being so excited that we wrote music. 20 years later, here I am, again, with that same exact excitement for a brand new band. I'm 43 years old now. I shouldn't be excited about stuff like this, I shouldn't even be doing music. That's not the responsible thing to do as a father and as a family man. Music is so fucking crazy now and the industry is so crazy. People still ask me, "Oh, you're still doing that?" Yes, I'm definitely still doing it. I definitely feel a renewed joy and a renewed love for music, writing music, and putting out this record.
During the pandemic, everyone figured the music industry is dead. We were all clamoring to figure out other jobs or what we were going to do, but you know, me and my friends decided to start another fucking band. I think I could speak for all of us here when I say we have that boyhood excitement of putting out our first record all over again.
It's amazing to see it all come together as a byproduct of the friendships you've built and the families you've formed along the way. You're parents now and your responsibilities outside of music are far greater now than what they were. Reflecting back on 'Full Collapse' and those early Thursday years, in what state of mind does 'Past Lives' find you in?
Tucker: L.S. Dunes has showed itself to be a full time band very early on. It started out as something that we thought we'd get to eventually, but it's definitely turned into something greater where we know we won't be going to be home a bunch. It will be well worth it because it's something that we're all so excited to do. We were so excited to get in a room and play together because this record was all written remotely. The time spent in a room together and playing the songs has been only a few hours over the past two years, so there's definitely a renewed sense of excitement with being around friends playing shows again.
You don't even have an album out yet and people already have tattoos of the band imagery, which speaks to the anticipation of your work. What does it mean to you, as a musician, to have your material connected with on an emotional and even spiritual level? Thursday has that effect, as will L.S. Dunes I'm sure.
Tucker: I'm super grateful and I can't believe it. I'll be honest with you, I feel unworthy of it. It's crazy to see people connect with something so early on. All I can say is I'm grateful, yet unworthy.
The fan response throughout the years is evidence that you are indeed worthy of it, my friend. Sometimes musicians write for themselves and it then becomes somebody else's as they form their own own interpretation and engagement with the record. Was 'Past Lives' more so an effort to please the group's creative and emotional ambitions or was there a direct intention in mind?
Tucker: We needed this, so this was purely for us. We didn't realize how much we needed it until we wrote the first song and then wrote the second song. We would wake up in the morning, hoping that the Dropbox would be populated with another riff that we could work on. I would go to bed at night thinking about what drums I laid down that day and what I'm gonna do the next day. I fucking needed it, we needed it.
The songs started to present themselves, kind of in an order. It was like, "Oh man, people need to hear this." It quickly became something that was just solely ours to now something that we literally cannot wait to get everyone else.
Songs are a living, growing being that continue to develop and you've had the chance to play the material live at Riot Fest, Aftershock, and more. As you noted earlier, L.S. Dunes is becoming a full-fledged entity rather than a small studio project. Having seen the live audience reaction and talked to people about it afterwards, has your perspective on the material changed at all? You mention going from writing for yourselves to writing for the people.
Tucker: Absolutely. It's just so wild to think that people also might love something that we're so in love with. There are gonna be people that hate it, but that's good. It's art, it makes you feel a certain way.
Listen, we've known each other for 20 years and we toured very early on together. You know how it is with touring bands. You connect early on with the other bands and then you all tour and you go in separate directions, so you might not see these friends for five years, ten years, except for a festival here and there. We're just really looking forward to getting on a bus and getting in a room together, just sharing this and watching people sing the songs back to us. The connection happened so early on. It was something that was just ours, and then all of a sudden, it took on its own life. We're just literal passengers right now.
We weren't trying to write for anybody at first. Frank's got a gigantic audience, Travis (Stever) does too, but we weren't trying to write for anybody in particular. These were literally just things that we needed in our day to get through the day, things that we would listen to. I would listen to this band.
That's the most important part, that you're satisfying your own creative and listening needs as musicians. As someone who has been doing this for a couple of decades, it's a personal refresh for you all. Hopefully, this is just the start of another fruitful endeavor.
Tucker: We're already writing new music, that's what we do. That's what we do best. Our schedules are the toughest part of this band. It's not the writing of the songs, it's not the playing of the songs, it's the schedule. We're just going to keep writing and keep having fun. We're lucky that all of our bands are touring right now because we get to talk about this, we get to talk about it on stage, and we get to know the feeling of what it's going to be like when we get together on the road. I can't wait to do this with L.S. Dunes.
Count us in for more! The energy surrounding this band have been nothing but positive and may it continue that way. Thursday's music has really changed the lives of many, as has My Chemical Romance, Circa Survive, and Coheed & Cambria. From a songwriter and performer perspective, does it ever get easier to put ideas and emotion on paper and see them develop into full fledged tracks? Or is it still as difficult as it once was?
Tucker: It's always hard. I think the day that it gets easy is the day that we should hang it up. I don't think that music and art is meant to be easy, and is meant to be taken lightly. It's not meant to be, for lack of a better term, shit out. I think that the more difficult, the more hurdles, the more worth it, it will be. We started writing because we wanted to challenge ourselves. Travis has a different style than Frank and Tim has a different style than we all have. We're all used to riding with our own bands, so the challenge of of riding with one another as a new thing was something that really clicked and really made us tick. A little resistance goes a long way. Friction creates fire and you can't do that when you're out of matches.
Past Lives arrives on November 11, 2022 via Fantasy Records (Order).