Jim James and Carl Broemel of the Grammy-nominated My Morning Jacket talk about their treasured tape echo units, the musical magic that happens when you jettison logic, and how tracking live in an old gym helped them create their own universe on "Circuital".

Carl Broemel (left) and his duesenberg Starplayer tV collaborate in the studio with vocalist Jim James and his custom Breedlove Revival 000. Photo by Roderick Norman Trestrail II

Over the last decade, My Morning Jacket has proven itself to be perhaps the contemporary band most adept at absorbing and mixing country, folk, rock ’n’ roll, gospel, funk, and soul. So adept, in fact, that they were invited to open for Neil Young. And their Coachella and Bonnaroo performances over the last few years have been genuinely epic (their 35-song 2008 Bonnaroo set lasted four hours and featured guest appearances by Metallica’s Kirk Hammett and The Hangover’s Zach Galifianakis). Led by singer/guitarist Jim James’ falsetto hollers and smooth crooning, the Louisville, Kentucky, outfit has managed to consistently capture and distil the essence of American musical origins, as evidenced by everything from the raw, lo-fi raggedness of 1999’s The Tennessee Fire to 2008’s sultry, Grammy-nominated Evil Urges. The current lineup—founders James and bassist Tom Blankenship, along with guitarist Carl Broemel, drummer Patrick Hallahan, and keyboardist Bo Koster—has been together since 2005’s Z, which happened to be the album when their heavy Americana leanings really burst forth. Coinciding with that subtle shift was a greater affinity for keys, soaring guitar breaks, and eclectic surprises such as the single “Highly Suspicious”—which had a wah-fueled funk riff like something you’d hear from Prince.

But MMJ’s latest album, Circuital—with its gentle fingerpicked passages, spacious echoes, gorgeous vocal harmonies, and winsome pedal-steel lines—marks something of a return to the band’s roots, And it’s no doubt due at least partially to a three-year break, during which many members of the band explored other musical outlets. James formed the super group Monsters of Folk (with singer-songwriter M. Ward, and Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes) and recorded an EP of George Harrison covers under the name Yim Yames. Meanwhile, Broemel played on various sessions, including rockabilly star Wanda Jackson’s latest album, and Hallahan toured with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach in support of his 2009 solo album Keep It Hid. Whatever the reason, Jacket’s latest outing is more lushly atmospheric and acoustic-driven than their last two efforts—although there are some notable exceptions: “Holdin’ on to Black Metal” has a Thai-soul sound, with funky horn stabs and electric piano grooves, while “You Wanna Freak Out” features a gloriously fuzzed-out, square-tooth-filtered guitar solo.

“I feel like solo acoustic material has always been a part of MMJ,” James says when asked if his stint in Monsters of Folk contributed to the sparser sound of Circuital. “Our records usually feature one or two tunes that are pretty simple. I’ve always liked taking a minute to boil it down and space out.” A prime example of the sort of sound James is referring to is “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)”—a hymn to simple pleasures that finds James indulging in twinkling acoustic arpeggios and intermittent string-section filigrees.

Broemel tracking Circuital with his duesenberg Starplayer TV and a Carr rambler head routed
through a top hat cabinet. Photo by Roderick Norman Trestrail II

Live at the Gymnasium
One of the more interesting—and kudos-deserving—things about Circuital is that the vast majority of tracks were recorded live in a rather sonically unfriendly environment.

“This was such a fun record to make,” says James. “We just set up in a beautiful old gym from the early 1900s and kept the gear real simple—just our tape machine and some nice mics.”

“We discovered we’re innately happier there than in a proper recording studio,” agrees Broemel. “It’s fun to have no reason to look at a ticking clock or have to say ‘Oh, the drums always sound great over here’—to be in a space that doesn’t feel as if it’s been used for what you’re using it for. We got some overdubs done in Brick and Stone Studios in Nashville, and I love it. It’s an amazing studio—so much equipment— but they have pictures of the Beatles everywhere. When you’re trying to record your songs, you don’t want to look at pictures of the Beatles. C’mon, it’s a little intimidating! [Laughs.] In the gym, we were in our own universe, which is the best place for us.”

Pedal-Steel Preparations
Another reason Circuital feels like a return to form for MMJ is because the albums prior to Broemel’s arrival had a lot of pedal- steel playing. But apparently Broemel has spent the last four years training himself on the instrument, because it adds a familiarly soaring, classic-country vibe to “Outta My System,” “Holdin’ on to Black Metal,” “You Wanna Freak Out” and “Movin’ Away.”

James with his Gretsch Super Axe and a 3 Monkeys Orangutan half-stack at the Charter One
Pavillion in Chicago on August 17, 2010. Photo by Andy Keil

“I had always been curious about it,” he admits. “I love country music and I love the sound of pedal steel, but I didn’t know how to play it, how it was set up, or even how many strings it had. I found a really great teacher and he gave me a couple of lessons and showed me how it relates to the guitar,” explains Broemel. “There’s been so much amazing stuff done with it in country and swing and jazz, and I try to be conscious of that—but I’m not trying to master it. I treat it more as an ambient thing. I’m just applying it to what we do and trying to make sounds that I feel like I haven’t heard yet. Now, sitting down and playing it is one of my favorite things about being in the band. I’m kind of a beginner, so I just use it for what I know I can pull off without falling on my face.”

In addition to constituting a return to classic MMJ form, pedal steel also boosts Broemel’s creativity on his main instrument. “I love the guitar, but sometimes you get burned out and go ‘I don’t even know what to do!’ When that happens, I’ll play pedal-steel guitar for a while, and having to think about the theory and how the instrument works and then going back to guitar helps me picture the fretboard differently. You get a different perspective.”

A Lot of Gear for a “Minimal” Rig
Whether crafting eerie shimmers or slashing at minor chords with a reverb-drenched overdrive, Broemel has a surprising amount of gear for a man who says he likes to keep his setup minimal. One of his favorite new pieces is a German-made Duesenberg. “Until this record, I used all Les Pauls, all the time. I bought a couple of Duesenberg guitars after the last record—my friend runs a studio in Indiana and he had a couple, including a 12-string that I used on a session there. So I bought the Double Cat 12-string, and then a guy from Duesenberg brought me a Starplayer TV, which is kind of their version of a Gibson ES-335 and has the Bigsby on it—and I love Bigsbys. I’ve always had Bigsbys on my favorite black Les Paul Standard, my main guitar. I used the Starplayer for the whole record, basically. The neck’s a little bit longer scale than a Les Paul, and it’s the only hollowbody I have. The older songs don’t feel right on the Duesenberg, but the newer songs do, so it’s cool that an instrument is dictating how I play and making me play a little bit differently. It’s like a hi-fi, fancy guitar—like a BMW guitar. It’s too nice for me!” he laughs.

Broemel and his Bigsby-outfitted 1988 Gibson Les Paul Standard at the Charter
One Pavillion in Chicago on August 17, 2010. Photo by Andy Keil

As for amps, Broemel says, “I’ve always been partial to combos. I’ve always used pedals for overdrive, so I just look at what’s going to work live and be really flexible and play all the songs on it. But it’s such a slippery slope—you can go chasing those zenith guitar sounds, but what’s the point? Do you want to sound like Stevie Ray Vaughan or just like Jimmy Page? Or Jimi Hendrix? I don’t really care about that. If it sounds like me—if that’s possible—then great. I’ve been using a Carr Rambler live, and I love that. I also have a couple of old Fenders. I have a Vibrasonic, as well, which I use for the pedal steel—it’s a silverface with a 15" speaker.”

James stuck to his tried-and-true guitars, including a 1999 Gibson Flying V and a Breedlove Revival Custom acoustic. Amps-wise, he waxes lyrical about a new discovery: “I have finally found an amp I love both on the road and in the studio— the 3 Monkeys Orangutan. It is unreal how versatile this amp sounds. It can truly do everything. I feel like I’m doing a product endorsement right now,” he admits. “But I’m really being serious. The amp sounds amazing and it looks beautiful, too—like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey or something. God bless that amp.”

Given MMJ’s Americana emphasis, one would correctly surmise that James and Broemel don’t use a lot of strange effects— though both have a wide selection of echo, reverb, and overdrive pedals. Indeed, Jacket seems to exist in a cloud of reverb, so the two guitarists’ attention in this area is no real surprise. But what might be surprising is the lack of full-on vintage love and the embrace of many new boutique stompboxes, including models from SIB, Z.Vex, EarthQuaker Devices, Malekko, Durham Electronics, and Boss.

James Howling as he grips his 1999 gibson flying V. Photo by Linda Park

That said, Broemel is pretty adamant about the necessity of one vintage-styled piece of signal-altering gear. “I’ve got one of those Tube Tape Echos,” he says of the treasured Fulltone unit he used on pretty much every Circuital song. “That thing is unbelievable. That and great amps are all you need in the studio. I try not to use too much, though—only what I need.”

Finding a Balance
Another reason why Circuital sounds a little more reigned-in than some of MMJ’s recent albums is the more supportive role that the guitars play. Whereas past MMJ tunes like “Gideon,” “It Beats 4 U,” and “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream, Pt. 1” had more central guitar refrains, this set is very much about delectable songs that create an irresistible mood.

“I feel the guitar is far more effective on record when it’s used sparingly,” James says, “but live it translates very well and provides a lot of excitement. So, I try to find balance between those two worlds.”

Here Broemel cuts in to add some context. “We approach all the instruments equally. As much as we try to experiment and try to use keyboards or saxophones or something to pull the weight of the midrange where the guitar would typically go, a lot of times we’d end up saying ‘Y’know, the guitar is the best thing there.’”

James on the prowl with a Normandy Guitars Archtop plugged into Carr rambler (left) and
Mesa/Boogie Tremoverb heads, each powering a Boogie 2x12, at a 2008 New Year’s eve
gig at Madison Square Gardens. Photo by Jackie Roman

As an example of the type of egalitarian musicianship that’s more prevalent on Circuital, one need look no further than the build-up of the opening track, “Victory Dance”: A gong and a heraldic electric-piano refrain lead into spoken-word vocals that slowly build to a crescendo of strings and sparse, slapback-tinged electrics that snap here and there before tremolo-goaded chords warble and swell into out-of-control feedback and the whole song gets sucked into a frenetic vortex of sound. But Broemel feels the title track has the album’s finest guitar spot: Clean, palm-muted electric arpeggios and James’ lilting voice set a lovely, optimistic mood before the choruses lift you a little higher with John Mellencamp-like acoustic splashes and bristling power-chord stabs, and then, more than five minutes into the seven-plus-minute song, Broemel and Hallahan ratchet up the pulse with crashing snare and cymbals, a bunch of Bigsby wobbling, soaring melodies, and a series of joyous descending double-stops—all with impeccable tone that speaks volumes with a delectable minimalism.

“I consider that a flashy guitar solo— that’s the big guitar moment for me,” Broemel says. “Being flashy just isn’t that important to me. I remember thinking, ‘There’s plenty of space for me to play a solo in this song . . . I could do that and that and that.’ When we were done with the main tracks, everybody went, ‘I think we’re done,’ and I was like, ‘Wait a minute— I was just trying to get stuff together during that. That can’t be it!’ I was totally bummed. We finished that session, went home, reconvened, and tried to record the song again, but we just couldn’t redo it— I’d grown accustomed to the solo I played and I was like ‘Thank God it is what it is!’ Jim’s vocal vibe, the weird piano notes, all the things that happened in that moment— they can’t be replicated. I don’t think it’s the most unbelievable guitar solo ever played, but it’s something I’m glad we caught.

“And that’s been the huge lesson of this record,” Broemel continues. “It’s all about intent versus just letting it happen. If you try to play it well, it’s terrible! If you’re just playing for the sake of playing—if you can somehow get to that place where you get something neat that you didn’t intend to do—that’s better than something you would’ve come up with logically.”

Broemel listens to the atmospheric kerrang of an 11th-fret power chord ringing out through
his ’88 Les Paul Standard’s bridge pickup. Photo by Chris Schwegler

Carl Broemel’s Gearbox
Duesenberg Starplayer TV, Duesenberg Double Cat 6/12, 1988 Gibson Les Paul Standard with Bigsby, Gibson goldtop Les Paul with P-90s, reissue Gibson Les Paul Junior, GFI S-10 pedal-steel guitar

Carr Rambler, Carr Vincent, vintage Fender Vibrolux, vintage Fender Princeton Reverb, vintage Fender Vibrasonic (for pedal steel)

Keeley Compressor (two-knob), Electro-Harmonix Micro POG, Electro-Harmonix Freeze (“My new favorite pedal!”), Fulltone Fulldrive 2, Fulltone PlimSoul, Fulltone Tube Tape Echo, Durham Electronics Sex Drive, Eventide ModFactor, Eventide TimeFactor, SIB Mr Echo, Boss RV-5 Digital Reverb, Hilton Volume Pedal (for pedal steel), Fulltone Fat-Boost (pedal steel), SIB Mr Echo (pedal steel), Boss DD-6 Digital Delay (pedal steel), Eventide ModFactor (pedal steel)

Strings and Picks
D’Addario EXL 115s (electric), Jim Dunlop Tortex .73 mm

Jim James’ Gearbox
Custom 2008 Breedlove Revival 000, ’50s Martin 000, Gibson J-185, Gretsch Super Axe, 1999 Gibson Flying V, 1975 Fender Strat, two Gibson ES-335s

3 Monkeys Orangutan head and 2x12 cabinet, Mesa/Boogie Tremoverb head

Boss BD-2 Blues Driver, Boss RV-3 Digital Reverb/ Delay, Boss TU-2 Tuner, SIB Mr Echo, Z.Vex Box of Rock, Z.Vex Woolly Mammoth, EarthQuaker Devices Monarch overdrive, EarthQuaker Devices Ghost Echo, Malekko Spring Chicken reverb

Strings and Picks
D’Addario EXL115 sets (electric), and D’Addario EJ17 sets (acoustic), Jim Dunlop Tortex .88 mm

Tom Keeley and Steve Pedulla of the influential post-hardcore band Thursday discuss the importance of roots, how trust and respect empower their dual-guitar partnership, and how broken gear and effects accidents brought fresh sounds to their new album, "No Devoluci—n".

Thursday’s Tom Keeley (left) and Steve Pedulla onstage with their guitars of choice—Fender American
Standard Telecasters with Seymour Duncan Hot Rails bridge pickups. Photo by Dave Summers

Since emerging from the late-’90s hardcore underground and achieving wide acclaim, Thursday has been credited with helping pave the way for modern-rock heavyweights like My Chemical Romance, exposing the world to great new hardcore bands via the opening slots on their tours, and maintaining street cred by recording with up-and-coming bands like Japan’s Envy. More than anything though, Thursday will be remembered for defining the emo/post-hardcore blueprint via Steve Pedulla and Tom Keeley’s scintillating dual-guitar attack, Geoff Rickly’s passionate singing and open-hearted lyrics, and the utterly dominating rhythm section of bassist Tim Payne and drummer Tucker Rule.

Indulging in extreme dynamics while melody battles discordance is Pedulla and Keeley’s raison d’être. This juxtaposition was first explored on the band’s second album, Full Collapse—which they have been recently performing in its entirety to celebrate its 10-year anniversary. Thursday’s major-label debut, War All the Time expanded on the sound with a keener sense of eloquence as pianos and choirs found their way into the oft-ferocious mix. The band’s 2009 release, Common Existence, showed a conscious shift away from the post-hardcore constraints they helped establish, and now their sixth album, No Devoluci—n, finds them exploring deep valleys and high peaks—be they emotional or melodic, expressed in subtler or more intriguing ways.

“There are traditional chord structures in things we do,” explains Keeley, “but there was sort of an effort to circumvent the guitar or approach guitar parts other than thinking of them as guitar parts—kind of undoing the guitar as a traditional rock instrument and using these different effects, chord structures, and strumming patterns to make a more nebulous, melodic vehicle.”

As Pedulla puts it, “A big part of what makes us Thursday is that there are sometimes parts that are almost two leads going on, and they interlock in some strange or unconventional way—so there’s definitely a different dynamic to how we write. It’s the type of thing where both of us will be vamping on a part to try and find what we’re going to play, and we sort of have this unspoken rule where we say, ‘Right . . . bear with me. I’m going to fall on my face a lot—but I will find something.’ We have that trust. We know we’re not being judged by each other.”

Keeley agrees. “It’s a million different things—it’s never the same equation twice. Sometimes we just ignore each other and play as many notes as possible. Sometimes we dictate to each other. I think it’s safe to say there’s a mutual respect for our different points of view and different practices of guitar playing. I couldn’t imagine these songs without Steve’s unique voice. It’s a weird alchemy, a weird experiment. There are a lot of mistakes, a lot of revisions, and tons and tons of editing, historically anyway. And, eventually, even if our parts are fighting each other, we know when it’s working and we know when it’s not.”

Pedulla reaches to the nether regions of his Tele’s fretboard. Photo by Elise Shively

As far as “nebulous melodic vehicles” are concerned, it’d be hard to argue that Keeley and Pedulla have been anything but successful on that front with No Devoluci—n. Written in the wake of Rickly’s divorce, it has an emotional rawness set to churning fury, chiming elegance, and wreaths of eclectic treatments.

“But the whole record isn’t that,” Keeley is quick to add. “It’s not like our guitars sound like ghosts or anything! We certainly have a lot of power chords and traditional angular guitar work—which is sort of our thing. In that sense, it was business as usual. But with [producer] Dave Fridmann, there’s a lot of attention to pushing things toward the weird.”

Fridmann has produced Thursday’s last three records, but reportedly it was the latest one—which was barely demoed at all and was written in just a week—that particularly fired his imagination. What is it about Fridmann that keeps the band coming back to him for production duties?

“You rely on Dave to tell you when to cut the shit, quit thinking, and just play,” says Keeley. “But if I say to him ‘Hey, man, I don’t know if this part is right for this record—how does this sound?’ he’ll reply ‘It sounds like a guitar.’ That means it’s my responsibility to dial in exactly what I need. In the past, I’ve gone, ‘I’ve got no idea what guitar tone I want— what do you think would be a good idea?’ to other producers, and they’ll come up with all these suggestions. Dave does do this on occasion— he’ll fine-tune things—but generally it’s ‘What do you want it to sound like? What’s your vision?’ That’s scary, but ultimately it forces us to become better musicians with better ears. He generally trusts our gut and our instincts, as far as getting into the weird spots. It’s terrifying—but completely empowering.”

For a band of self-described non-musicians, Thursday encompasses a scope and spectrum of aural possibility that’s perhaps wider than musicians who play “by the rules.” Thursday’s distinct sound has always revolved around Pedulla’s and Keeley’s clashing tones. Clean melodies run parallel to each other before soaring through molten distortion, generally grappling with each other and causing semitone clashes, off-kilter countermelodies, and ending in all sorts of pleasing chaos. You expect dropped-D tunings, escalating octave melodies, furious tremolo picking alongside thrashed minor 7th chords, and, more often than not, the delight of crashing from clean, intricate chords to full-tilt, metal-tinged riffs. Light chorus and a splash of delay keep the flashier melodies sounding like they’ll float into forever, but it’s the stop-start breakdowns punctuated by complete silence that define Thursday’s guitar MO.

Devolving the Guitar
For No Devoluci—n, Thursday’s guitar team endeavored to unlearn the guitar—to almost completely deprogram their whole style, only occasionally bringing in their familiar melodic impalement. “Not every song has that,” Pedulla says, “but we really like to have a wide dynamic range in terms of getting real quiet and clean—and then really heavy. It’s a keystone of what we do, for sure. A good example is on the last song on the record, ‘Stay True.’ It does the same thing but in a completely different way.”

The song in question begins with an electric guitar that’s so gently picked it’s almost imperceptible. The drums enter, followed closely by a flood of EBowed feedback in the background. There’s a tension that sits underneath the calm and, three minutes into the seven-minute epic, Rickly’s voice becomes histrionic and the guitars build up along with the pummeling drums. Though it never reaches the abrasive levels of previous material, there’s a simmering darkness that never would’ve come across in the vicious heaviness of their older material.

Pedulla and Keeley are happy to discuss some of their favorite guitar moments on No Devoluci—n, as well as how they managed to get some of the more out-there sounds on the record. The first track, “Fast to the End”, has a wild noise solo—a warped, Tom Morello-esque skittering across fluctuating pitches. “It was a lot of fun to do—and I’m actually wondering how I’m going to recreate it live—but I know I’ll figure it out,” Pedulla says. “I had set up various filter and modulation settings on one of those Line 6 M13s, and I also put some parameters into the expression pedal to control each one. So I would hit a chord and switch back and forth between the different settings and also work the expression pedal. On some of the takes, I wasn’t even aware of the guitar—I would have it on the floor, hit the note, and then just play the pedals with my hands and kind of go for it. We started to realize that when you go to this effect, it does this thing and that’s a good opening, and then when you go to this, that’s a great mid section, and this is a good closing. So it was almost directed improv.”

In comparison, Keeley contributes a beautiful, slightly atonal melody to the skeletal and haunting ballad of loss, “Empty Glass.” But while the duo envisioned the type of vibe you hear on the album, the way they got it was actually a mistake.

Keeley (left) engages his bridge pickup and barres high on the neck as Thursday’s
keyboardist, Andrew Everding, strums . . . you guessed it—a Telecaster with a Duncan
Hot Rails bridge pickup. Photo by Elise Shively

“We recorded it during the last session,” says Keeley. “Geoff had the vocal part and the Hammond organ part and not much else. We knew we needed to finish it, so it fell on me to make the glitchy instrumental sections. I was really excited about that, but it was very frustrating to make, too. It ended up as a clean guitar run through a reverb pedal and a Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler. Instead of strumming, I just turned the reverb and gain up and fretted the string with my strumming-hand finger. With all that sustain, I was able to play the guitar more like a violin. There were six layers of the main progression and six layers of harmonies, and that was going to be the part—this forward-moving thing. But then I accidentally stepped on the DL4’s loop reverse-play button, and it was suddenly a more powerful piece in reverse—with these suspended melodies and a weird timing that pulls you along in this uncertain way. The sweet note of the progression is delayed just a little bit too much, and at first I was like ‘Ah man, I wish I’d taken that one set of four beats out so it hit right where I wanted.’ But everyone was like, ‘Dude, you’ve gotta leave it—that’s what’s going to really engage people and make them listen more intently.’” Keeley adds that, if it hadn’t been for Fridmann’s “writing doesn’t end until the mix is over” ethos, there wouldn’t have been nearly as many spontaneous moments like that.

But as Keeley previously mentioned, No Devoluci—n isn’t all abstract soundscapes. The whiplash switch-ups and intense guitar buildups that have kept Thursday fans enthralled throughout the band’s existence manifest themselves in the savage shift from seething fuzz to all-out saturation on “Past and Future Ruins.” But even that has evolved.

“The chorus riff has a swing to it that we haven’t had before. To expose myself a little bit, it was my attempt at making a Silversun Pickups song,” Keeley confesses with a laugh. “I don’t think it sounds anything like them, though—which is usually the story with me: If I have a favorite band and I try to write something like them, I’m usually not good enough to nail it, y’know?”

Gear Simplicity
Despite the number of textures and deceptively intricate ideas throughout Thursday’s back catalog, Pedulla and Keeley have pretty simple rigs. The latter tends to favor Marshall and Vox AC30 amps and standard Fender Telecasters with a Seymour Duncan Hot Rails bridge pickup. Pedulla is a bit more adventurous in his use of multiple effects units, but he also favors Telecasters with a Hot Rails bridge unit. He also has a custom First Act hollowbody—which is also stocked with Hot Rails.

“For some people, that’s a weird pairing— to put that hot of a pickup in a guitar like that,” he says of the double-cutaway, Bigsby-outfitted guitar. “But it’s awesome, and that got used probably the most. “Dave also has an awesome Harmony Rocket that we used, and I have a Jaguar that I played on a couple of things.”

Amp-wise, Pedulla has recently gotten into Bad Cats. “I used to use the Bogner Ecstasy Classic for distortion and I tried various combos for clean sounds, but I just got myself a Bad Cat Lynx and that’s all I use now. The second day of the tour, our front-of-house engineer came up and was, like, ‘Dude, that is the best your guitar has ever sounded!’ And I feel the same way. For the first recording session, I really wanted that Bad Cat but I didn’t have one, so I borrowed one. After two weeks or a month off, it became a challenge to find one for the next session. Dave was pretty adamant too—‘You need to make sure you have that amp again.’ Luckily, a friend of mine had an extra one he sold me at an amazing deal. So that and the Line 6 M13—that’s all I need. The only thing I use in the studio that I don’t have in my live rig, at least for now, is a DigiTech TimeBender Digital Delay pedal, which is a lot of fun.”

Keeley, on the other hand, had some difficulties with gear during the No Devoluci—n sessions. “When we went into the studio, a lot of my gear was in disrepair,” he says. “So the biggest change for me was, ‘Steve, can I play your guitar here?’ and ‘Oh, this doesn’t work—but it sounds kinda cool.’ It was a hodgepodge of amps that did or didn’t work or were blown or wires that were disconnected. It’s definitely strange making something that’s going to last forever in a context where you’re not confident in what you’re using. It’s impossible for that not to affect what you play, as well as the energy of the parts. It can add to the tension of a part or a song or just the energy of a record. I can hear things like that, at least in my own playing.”

Keeley sees the light live. Photo by Louise Lockhart

He missed one amp more than anything else. “There’s a Marhsall JCM900. It’s Geoff’s amp, but it’s the one I played in the basement days for years and years. It has been historically troublesome and finicky, but it sounds fantastic. Beyond that, the most frustrating thing was that I have a couple of AC30s that sound fantastic, but the noise . . . we couldn’t get rid of it no matter what we did! That was a daily struggle.”

Home Is Where the Hardcore Is
What separates Thursday from some of the more dubious exponents of the genre they helped create is their willingness to embrace newcomers and their steadfast refusal to turn their back on the hardcore scenes they grew up in. Whether it’s offering opening slots to recent up-and-comers Touché Amoré and La Dispute on tour or Pedulla revealing that studio communication often involves requests such as, “Play something like an old Quicksand drum beat,” the guys in Thursday continue to have a hand in the DIY scenes that made them who they are today.

“It’s a school of thought we were exposed to at a young age, and it became an inherent part of our personalities and our philosophy for life,” Keeley says. “Be authentic, don’t sell people on an idea. Rather than selling people on an idea, present them with a piece of art and allow them to take it from you and accept or reject it—and be okay with that.”

And No Devoluci—n is indeed a piece of art—arguably with more emotion, innovation, and hardcore attitude than anything Thursday has done before. All without returning to what they’ve done before—and all without turning their back on it, either.

LEFT: Keeley’s Marshall-and-Vox amp rig backstage before a show. The Bogner head belongs to Thursday’s keyboardist, Andrew Everding, who occasionally plays rhythm guitar during live shows. Photo by Clive Patrique RIGHT: Effects-wise, Keeley keeps things quite simple—he stomps on a Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler, a Lehle Dual amp switcher, a Fulltone OCD, and (not pictured) a Boss TU-2 Tuner. Photo by Clive Patrique

Keeley favors Fender American Standard Teles with maple fretboards and Seymour Duncan Hot Rails bridge pickups. This one features vintage-style bridge saddles. Photo by Dave Summers
Tom Keeley’s Gearbox
Fender American Standard Telecasters with maple fretboards and Seymour Duncan Hot Rails bridge pickups

Marshall JCM800, Marshall 1960 AV slant Cab, Vox AC30 Hand- Wired reissue

Fulltone OCD distortion, Lehle Dual amp switcher, Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler, Boss TU-2 Tuner

DR Strings (.010, .013, .017, .030, .044, .052), Dunlop .60 mm Tortex picks, Mogami cables with Neutrik plugs, Line 6 Relay G50 wireless

LEFT: Pedulla recently got hooked on the Bad Cat Lynx—a 50- watt, 2-channel head driven by EL34s—which he routes through a Bogner 4x12 cabinet loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s. Photo by Dave Summers RIGHT: When it comes to effects, Pedulla is much more of a data head than Keeley: He uses a Voodoo Lab Ground Control Pro MIDI foot controller (left) and a Voodoo Lab Pedal Switcher (top middle)—as well as a Line 6 EX-1 Expression Pedal (second from right)—to expand the capabilities of his already-stacked Line 6 M13 Stompbox Modeler (middle). Those devices, as well as a Boss TU-2 Tuner, are powered by a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus. Photo by Dave Summers

Pedulla’s American Standard Tele has a rosewood fretboard, a Seymour Duncan Hot Rails bridge pickup, and newer-style bridge saddles. Photo by Dave Summers
Steve Pedulla’s Gearbox

Fender American Standard Telecaster with a rosewood fretboard and a Seymour Duncan Hot Rails bridge pickup

Bad Cat Lynx head, Bogner 4x12 with Celestion Vintage 30s

Line 6 M13 Stompbox Modeler, Line 6 EX-1 Expression Pedal, Voodoo Lab Pedal Switcher, Voodoo Lab Ground Control Pro MIDI foot controller, Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus, Boss TU-2 Tuner

DR Strings (.010, .013, .017, .030, .044, .052), Dunlop .60 mm Tortex picks, Mogami cables with Neutrik plugs, Line 6 Relay G50 wireless