Metal & Mike: Artistry & Introspection With THOU
There’s something profound in the work of Thou. Leading up to their fifth LP, The Baton Rouge, Louisiana act has released three EPs; each one demonstrates a range of talents from the band, incorporating different musical styles. While listening to Thou, one can find elements of sludge, stoner, and drone qualities that make for a large portion of their work; however, it would be an injustice to try and cram the act into a box with one label.
Throughout their previously released EPs comes a wondrous array of emotion and sound; beautifully blended together are heavy waves of distortion, blissful tinges of emotion, and shattering cries and growls emitting poetry. Their new record, Magus (released today via Sacred Bones Records), makes for another superb entry in their discography.
The album acts as an introspective journey, relying on esoteric and philosophical concepts to examine our current world. Instrumentally, the record is mesmerizing; whether it’s the sonic shredding of ”My Brother Caliban”, or the tinges of melody clinging to the distortion of “Sovereign Self”, Magus blends radiance with grit.
For Thou guitarist Andy Gibbs, his primary focus towards Magus was presenting a greater quality of music than previous releases. “Honestly,” he says, “We didn’t set a lot of goals with this record beyond ‘make it better than the last one’. I guess there are certain aesthetic qualities we wanted to make sure were included in the songs — it had to include some unquestionably heavy stuff, the songs couldn’t have any ‘throwaway’ riffs, etc. But honestly at this point I know better than to set too many specific goals because it can end up inhibiting the writing process.”
One may assume the three previously released EPs would play a significant role in fueling the creativity of the LP, but Gibbs says otherwise. In regard to lessons brought into the album from the EPs, he says, “None actually, because we ended up writing most of Magus before these EPs. Our initial vision was to have the EPs inform Magus, but timing-wise it just didn’t work out that way.”
Between what inspires Gibbs and how he creates art there’s balance; that point of creation where one takes in enough of their world, but acts instinctively in creating their work. He shares, “Inspiration can feel so nebulous. It’s extremely hard to say what has trickled into my writing, consciously or otherwise. I spend a lot of time listening to Rocksteady mixtapes, Cocteau Twins, and techno, but I don’t think you’ll find too much of that stuff in this band. I guess my inspiration is more stuff like watching my friends realizing their art, spending time in the swamps, riding my bike around New Orleans, following political news.”
He continues, “I don’t spend a lot of time developing or thinking about my artistic philosophy, but I guess one thing would be that I only write what I feel like writing. I try not to let any external pressures find their way into my writing process. I can usually tell if I’m actually going to be productive within five minutes of picking up my guitar or firing up Ableton [music software], so I try and just let things happen and not get too caught up in deadlines or writing for a specific release or project. Nothing sucks more than forced creativity.”
As an artist, Gibbs has been able to enrich his life through Thou. And while Magus is already a remarkable achievement, the guitarist is excited for what else is to come and to be made. “Again, I try not to set too many specific goals because who knows what our future holds. For all I know we’ve peaked! But personally, I just want to keep making records with my friends and playing shows. We want to keep pushing ourselves. More quiet records. More abrasive records. More more more. We have two new members we’re really excited about utilizing, and a list of about 5000 people we want to collaborate with. And outside of Thou, I still want to do a million things creatively. If that hunger ever goes away I’ll probably hang my hat up.”