Chorley’s Then Thickens have just released a follow-up to 2014’s acclaimed debut, Death Cap At Anglezarke.
Sophomore album, Colic, swerves between the hazy and anthemic at every turn, fusing a 90s vibe that sounds fresh compared to the usual generic mash-up by less innovative guitar bands.
The album opens with the delicate piano intro to ‘Heaven Alive‘, before crashing into a full-bodied, uplifting anthem. Highlights include the sexually ambiguous ‘Cum Summer’ – more on that from singer/guitarist, Jon-Lee Martin, below – and ‘My Sunday’, a vibrant and honest account of being hopelessly stoned.
Title track ‘Colic’ thumps along at a melodic chugging pace, lyrics heavy with metaphoric arson – Douse your colic, daddy’s petrol, I’ll be waiting, with mother’s matches – while ‘Dirty Letter’ is a more shrilling electro affair, lyrically focussing on forgiveness, or lack thereof.
Ultimately, Colic is an epic combination of dark honesty, twirled around vibrant anthemic choruses; often melancholic, but always uplifting, even when dragging you through tales of despair.
Completed by Charlie Hartley (drums), Sean Doherty (guitar) and Thomas Griffin (keys), Then Thickens began as a solo project by frontman Jon-Lee – who previously played with masked noise-mob KONG – and became a fully-fledged prospect following encouragement from close friend Jorma Vik of The Bronx. The band have since shared stages with the likes of Biffy Clyro, Nine Black Alps, Vennart, Echo and the Bunnymen and Mariachi El Bronx.
FMS caught up with the man behind the band, who told us a little more about the new album, and what’s next in line.
At what point did Then Thickens become a full band, and what inspired the name?
We have been at it for around four years now. I’d attempted Then Thickens a couple times with, let’s say more established musicians, but it just didn’t click. It felt odd being so strong out of the gate and so I started from scratch with local musicians that I either admired or wanted to grow with. Members have come and gone but the core four have never faltered, I don’t think I’d do it without them now. The name simply came from a misheard lyric from the band Karate. It wasn’t a conscious thing but I’m glad we ran with it as we’ll never have trouble with another act with the same handle.
How did the creation of the new album compare to Death Cap At Anglezarke?
Well 90% of DCAA was written before we were a band and so we were arranging existing material. This time I was writing to the strengths of the individuals, musically. I was proud of the work and simply wanted to document the material as honest and raw as possible, I can clearly hear each character through their instrument. Colic as a piece has no defences, it’s all hanging out. I have no intention of being cool or current and so without that weight I’m able to open up and just let it all slide out my mouth, I actually trick myself into thinking no one will ever listen to it. We wanted to make a classic sounding album and to me the best LPs are bare, brutal and transparent; just the arrangement and one voice. I don’t think in this day and age we have very many acts that avoid studio sorcery to improve their output, and there is nothing wrong with that at all but that’s not my game right now.
Who did you work with on production, and what do you feel they brought to the table?
We’re not really a “produced” band we simply capture the sound we create together but I suppose that title would fall on me again, simply as I find it almost impossible and excruciating to vocalise or communicate what I want from a sound, it’s just easier to do it and move on. Like I see green you see yellow, who’s correct? The man responsible for recording, mixing and mastering was Rob Whiteley, I trust him and love his attention to detail. Each time I work with Rob I learn more, not just about the music and recording process but also about myself, he has inspired me to be confident in my own ideas. I honestly think that engineers deserve a bigger slice of the glory pie, if you have a good engineer and a good band you’re halfway there.
Tell us a little about the lead track ‘Colic’, and why you chose to lend the name to the album?
It’s the chronic confusion I have with emotion, the fine line between being elated and overwhelmingly sad. I struggle with it constantly. I can lose it during a TV advert but not feel a thing upon the death of a friend, it’s as if I’m wired up wrong. Colic is an incessant cry with no cause or cure and in a way I have internal Colic; it felt like the perfect stamp of completion.
‘Cum Summer’ is a little out there, anyone going to own up to the lyrics?
Of course, I have no problem owning up to it. I wasn’t however responsible for the title, that was Sean’s two pence. Lyrically the song was written as a male/female duet, with our original backing singer, like a coy version of Boss Hog or Ike and Tina even. When we decided to push on with just me singing the lead I didn’t even blink, I think it’s cool that it’s sexually ambiguous I have no issue portraying Homosexuality, Bisexuality, whatever people absorb from it I’m happy with. It’s unimportant today.
Do you have any personal favourites on the album and why?
I’m most proud of ‘My Sunday’. I felt a touch of pressure to provide the album with a few nudges of optimism and wanted to form them around a more traditional approach. It was written on the 11th hour, and only rehearsed a couple of times before the recording, and I feel we captured that in the studio. It sounds fresh and exciting, you can almost hear the energy we had that day in that room. I always wanted a song like ‘I’m Waiting For My Man’ and now I have it.
What’s next for the band?
I’ve been writing a lot recently. I set my self a task to write and demo 10 songs over the summer and I could only do it during 10 set Friday evenings from 5pm till 10pm. Don’t ask, I’m weird with numbers too. Anyway I completed that and the lion’s share of it will make its way onto our third album. The band and I now want to create a more intricately detailed document, a little more akin to the material on the Blood In The River Ribble album. Not in a lo-fi sensibility or to look back retrospectively in anyway, but to include some of the less traditional elements of those original recordings. I had to experiment back then to create sounds. I would use plastic bottles with a tad of water in for bass drums, springs, whistles. I would circuit bend toys and radios, anything to get an idea out of my head. We all feel that it’s time to reintroduce that element and complete the circle, like the end of a trilogy. It needs wrapping up.
Colic is out now via Hatch Records.
Words: Sarah Hardy
Photo: Jade Martin