Isobel Abbott-Dethrow sat down with members of St. Louis band Thames: Sean, Connor, Noah, Zander, and Gabriel.
Isobel: How did the current lineup come together?
Zander: Gabriel and I were friends at Webster; we met at the orientation our freshman year. Sean and Gabe already knew of each other.
Gabriel: Sean and I were in a band together called Deep Observation.
Sean: I don’t think we sucked. There was some Tame Impala stuff going on.
Gabe: We didn’t suck, but we weren’t awesome. The lead singer of that band literally found Jesus and moved to Florida without telling us. Sean and I decided to start a solo thing, but he didn’t want anything to do with it.
Sean: I just thought I couldn’t do it. Gabe was showing me all these ideas he had on the guitar; there were so many ideas and I didn’t want to do any of them.
Gabe: It was a harsh break-up. I showed him fifteen different ideas in the space of twenty minutes. He basically stood up and said, “I can’t do this,” and kicked me out of his house–we didn’t talk for three months. Then he came back and said he felt bad about he ended things. Around the same time, I met Zander at Webster. Two months later, I was going through West Hall and he was up there, one of our friends asked Zander if he was trying to party; then we became friends. That’s how the three of us met.
Zander: We had a different bass player and a third guitarist that ended up not working out. We found Connor through our friend Peter. Connor came over one day and we had the bright idea of getting a fourteen-year-old in our band.
Gabe: Noah came to fill in for Connor who was doing way cooler things than this. Sean had a master plan to add him to the band permanently.
Sean: I suggested that Noah filled in for Connor on bass for some shows which Connor couldn’t make. In the meantime, Noah started to become tighter with everyone. The Arctic Monkeys gig was how all five of us had a reason to play a show together.
Noah: Sean lured me in. I played one show, then went two months without talking to anyone in the band. I was already in two bands, figuring out which one to quit, and it ended up being both of them.
Isobel: I feel like you guys set yourself apart from the other STL bands that I know of because of your image. I would describe it as a dreamy, floral, incredibly distinct theme. What drove you towards this aesthetic?
Zander: I will never forget when I said, “Hey guys, there’s this band called the 1975.” They have a video for their song, “Girls,” where everything is in black and white. When their debut album came out, they got a lot of flack for being a “pop band,” yet they’re not a self-proclaimed pop band. So, they did the video in black and white to make fun of themselves. I wanted to do something like that, and Gabe and Sean both told me, “no”. Then a year later, when Gabe decided to like the 1975, we began to make things more colorful. I guess we all became really good friends and stopped taking those things as seriously as before. We decided to express ourselves more like that because we’re all funny and stupid.
Gabe: We hit a point after our third EP where we needed to rebrand ourselves. We felt stuck and thought we were capable of a lot more. We did an overhaul of our image, sound, and got really sincere about our merch and online presence. Up until then, we didn’t know how to do any of that stuff and we had a big band meeting where we listed what we wanted to get done, our aspirations, and goals. It all fell in place.
Sean: A lot of it is pretty natural. I don’t think it’s something we put a lot of effort in, defining what the image is. Every time we have some new music out, looking at what our website or photos looks like, they look different. It really feels like a natural progression.
Gabe: We know we want a transition, but we aren’t searching for it. It kind of just happens naturally.
Isobel: How did the process of recording and preparing for the release of Spotlight compare to your other releases?
Zander: We took our absolute time.
Connor: The first one was recorded in a guy’s basement in one or two days.
Sean: It was over the course of two weeks, but it was not a ton of time.
Connor: The second and third ones, The Fear and Plagues of the 21st Century, we did studio days.
Sean: We recorded all of the music for The Fear in one day. With Plagues, we recorded it all in two days.
Gabe: It was a hectic, hectic experience.
Connor: Doing it that fast is very stressful; it doesn’t allow for a ton of creative freedom. You have to do everything very quickly. I felt that wasn’t what we wanted to do. We did most of Spotlight in Sean’s basement over the course of eight months. That included recording and production, but we did it pretty much by ourselves.
Gabe: We did drums and vocals at different studios. Besides that, everything else was ourselves. It was completely different. With the other EPs, we could go in and record, then the producers would send us back We would have our input, but no hands-on work. We’d only have three or four mixes of a song, and that was it. This time, it was nearly a hundred different mixes of songs, because we were super perfectionist.
Sean: The reason we hadn’t done that sooner was because I didn’t have enough confidence in my abilities as an engineer. Even doing it this time was scary because I didn’t want to mess it up.
Gabe: Sean and I spent a lot of time together in the last nine months in his basement until four in the morning, to the point where one of us would fall asleep. We’d call it a night, then do it again the next day. The coolest thing about this process was the chemistry that was built, unlike before; everything happened with all of us around or hive-mind between Zander, Sean, and me while producing it.
Isobel: What has been your favorite show to date?
Zander: Tulsa. Our first show we played on tour this summer was in Tulsa. The crowd energy was unmatched by any other show we played locally or on the rest of that tour leg. All of the bands were really supportive of each other, which you don’t find a lot over here. It’s hard to get in with people who support you, because you’re another musician trying to make something of yourself. There were about 150 people there, the bands brought people.
Sean: None of them knew us.
Gabe: We made a lot of connections from that first show.
Noah: More than anything else added up from tour.
Gabe: The Off Broadway show in August was really fun.
Noah: I think Atomic Cowboy is mine.
Gabe: Tulsa and Off Broadway are up there. It was a huge party. It was our first show in St. Louis in two months, after tour.
Zander: It felt like a fun homecoming.
Isobel: What is your favorite song on Spotlight and why?
Connor: “You Do It to Yourself.” The bass line is really cool, and I didn’t write or play it.
Noah: “Spotlight” is still my favorite. It’s just cool, not too out there. “Eye Contact” is really good because it sounds like WiiSports music.
Sean: It’s “Spotlight” for me, too. I like how cinematic that song sounds. Each song on the record is meant to be a phase of a breakup. That one is pure, “What the **** do I do now?” I really enjoy that.
Zander: In that same vein, I really like “Shangri La.” With “Spotlight,” you just got your heart stomped on, then it goes into “You Do It to Yourself,” where it’s the first time you are willing to go out and have a good time despite the way you feel. Then it goes into “Shangri La,” after the party where you get in the car and see a text message you don’t want to see. Your heart drops; it’s very existential and psychedelic.
Gabe: I go back and forth between “You Do It to Yourself” and “Spotlight.” The latter was the first song that was written throughout all of this. That’s probably why I was attached to it the most. “You Do It to Yourself” is tied to it because I really like dance music. It’s the one song where I can get a happy medium of our rock roots, yet a dance track at the same time.
Isobel: I didn’t hear about Sofar Sounds before until you guys played a show for them in Chicago last year. What was that experience like?
Zander: It was so much fun.
Noah: I was officially in the band for a week at this point. The night after the big Webster show last year, Sean went, “Hey, we have a show in Chicago tomorrow, you want to come?” I was confused, but went with it. I didn’t know the names of the songs yet; I brought a shaker. I didn’t even shake it–I just smacked it. It was cool, we played with a rap group, where there was a pen tapper who was beatboxing at the same time.
Gabe: The first one we did in Chicago was in a really cool basement loft. There were 150 strangers we had never met.
Zander: We had only really played stuff around here. In the grand scheme of doing the music thing, it is a dream to go anywhere else and play to strangers. We got to do this thing where it explicitly revolves around everyone turning their phones off, sitting there completely supporting the band, not even knowing who you are going to see whenever you buy the ticket. The next day, we were standing outside of Urban Outfitters, and some random person came up to us and said he saw us last night.
Sean: A city with millions of people, and we happened to get one of the 150 that showed up.
Gabe: It is fairly nerve-wracking; it’s so much different from a real show. You’re standing there and no one is talking. All 150 people are staring at you, and you have to be intimate and sincere. Every mistake is noticeable.
Isobel: Who are some of your favorite STL bands to watch or perform with?
Gabe: Drangus, of course.
Noah: I’m in love with Scott Leeker of the Sigmund Frauds.
Gabe: He knows how to control a crowd, I wish I could be as good of a frontman as him. Tonina is another good one to see.
Zander: I’ve always wanted to play a show with Foxing ever since high school.
Sean: Starwolf is really good, too. They came out of nowhere. They played right before us at the Riverfront Times showcase.
Isobel: What was your favorite moments from your summer tour this year? Had you been on tour before?
Gabe: We had played a couple out of town shows here and there, but this was our first official tour. There’re so many good and horrible moments.
Noah: Memphis was my favorite moment on tour. We stayed in a hotel and went to the fifth biggest pyramid in the world, Bass Pro Shops.
Gabe: I liked the last leg, when we went to Wisconsin. We stayed with Sean’s aunt; we had shows in Madison, Oconomowoc, and Milwaukee. It was really fun because that was the first time where we had some stability.
Zander: Most of the shows were us sweating in the car until we got to the venue, where you would sit and wait for two hours until you played. Or, you would be in a hotel room, tired.
Gabe: The one night we didn’t play on tour, between Memphis and Cincinnati, we stayed in Nashville with our friend, Rachel, who lives on a horse ranch. It was gorgeous. She had a plethora of beds we could sleep on.
Zander: It was the most serene moment. You were in chaos all the time–
Noah: Then you were on a horse farm.
Gabe: Some of the best moments were getting a break from all the craziness that happened on tour.
Sean: Every night, after we finished the show. I would think it would be the end of the night, but somehow, one of you guys would find a way to make us stay up for another four hours.
Connor: My favorite moment was the boat in Wisconsin. It was great.
Zander: We had a day off and Sean’s aunt lives on a lakefront. We got to go on the lake and hang out with dogs.
Gabe: That trip was special. The last show in Milwaukee was up to par with our first show in Tulsa. It was a poetic ending. We had a great first show, then the rest of the tour was way up and down, testing our souls. Milwaukee gave us a good show with 70-80 people.
Isobel: What is your favorite STL venue to play at?
Zander: Delmar Hall.
Gabe: It’s between Delmar Hall or the Ready Room, undeniably.
Noah: Delmar Hall or Atomic Cowboy. The Atomic was very nice and welcoming. The sound is great there. I had enough room to move my keyboard around.
Sean: Blueberry Hill does feel like home a little bit. Cicero’s was like that when we first started, then they closed. Every time we come to Blueberry Hill, it’s always the same guy.
Gabe: Shouts out to Dan from Blueberry Hill.
Isobel: Are there any shows in the future?
Gabe: We are going to be in Columbia at Rose Music Hall on November 10. Our album release show at the Ready Room is going to be on November 23, with Drangus, Leponds, and Little Cowboy.
Zander: The goal now is to keep playing weekend tour-kinda runs.
Gabe: We’re going to do a lot more stuff once the new year hits.
Noah: We’re coming down, it’s been a chaotic several months.
Isobel: Who runs your Twitter?
Gabe: It used to be mostly me, but Zander does it half the time now.
Sean: I like embarrassing things and hope people will get updates on them.
Zander: If there’s a picture, it’s me. If there’s a tweet, that is Gabe pretending to not be Gabe. I saw free real estate, it was a lucrative market, and now I can’t stop.
Gabe: It’s just chaos now.