Thou Talk Us Through Their Collaboration With The Body

By on 10 February 2015

The Body   Thou - The Body and Thou by Megan Acosta - chin2

When Baton Rouge sludge troupe Thou joined forces with nihilistic duo The Body, it seemed like a match made in heaven – but little could prepare us for just how heavy this thing is.

Ever since The Body’s harrowing self titled debut was released back in 2004, Lee Buford (drums) and Chip King (guitar, vocals) have been descending ever further into their own unique auditory hell, providing us with the kind of creepy, tortured noise that sends shivers down your spine and conjures a sudden influx of butterflies into your gut.

Thou are no slouches either, having released four incredible full-lengths (including last year’s monumental ‘Heathen’, which came in at #18 in our Album of The Year list) and an overwhelming number of splits and EP since their humble beginnings in 2005, and are often rightly regarded as one of today’s most inventive and important sludge bands.

Check out the new video for ‘Beyond The Realms Of Death, That Fleeting Shade Under The Corpus Of Vanity’ below (taken from the pair’s second collaborative effort, ‘You, Whom I Have Always Hated’ which is out now on Thrill Jockey) and then read on to find out more about the two bands’ conjoined writing process, why a Thou/Björk collab could be next on the cards and the origins of that Nine Inch Nails cover…

How did you get in touch with The Body originally, and whose idea was it to collaborate?
Andy Gibbs [Thou, guitar]: “I’m not sure how we decided on collaborating, but we met them in 2010 when Bryan and I booked them in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, respectively. After that, we did some touring together and became best friends for life.”

Bryan Funck [Thou, vocalist]: “It was probably Lee Buford’s idea to do a full collaboration. The idea stemmed from us asking them to play on some Fiona Apple covers we were working on for a tribute record.”

How did the writing process work out for this collaboration? Did both bands come together with pre-formed ideas, or was it more of an open, ’anything goes’ kind of jam vibe?
Andy: “A little of both. The first collaboration was a little more jammy, with a bunch of stuff pretty much being made up on the spot. The second one benefited from better planning and more practice time; Matthew and I came into the practices with some fully-formed ideas and then we tweaked from there.”

Bryan: “Chip also had a good handful of ideas for both collaborations, some really ugly riffs. And Lee had a lot of ideas for stuff we should add on or mess with in the studio, especially on the second record.”

How did you approach lyric writing for this collab? Did you and Chip work together on them, or is more of an individual effort? What inspired the themes you delve into here?
Bryan: “I wrote the majority of the lyrics for these. Chip was pretty focused on coming up with music and managing his volume in the songs, so he sort of left that up to me to write the meat of the lyrics and vocal lines, and then he would come up with his parts around that. The first collaboration came out of a lot of esoteric philosophy—Crowley, Osman-Spare, Constantine. It was a lot of abstract stuff that I was trying to reign in a bit into something more visceral and concrete with the images we used on that record. For the second one, I put a pretty rigid limitation on myself to keep the whole thing tied into family relationships, specifically, how parental figures can emotionally scar their children by virtue of their own screwed up behaviour. I was inspired by my usual go-tos: social anxiety, an overwhelming sense of alienation, and an over-abundance of anger.”

The Body are no strangers to collaboration, as they’ve worked with Braveyoung, the Haxan Cloak, the Assembly Of Light Choir etc., whereas Thou haven’t tended to release collaborative records in the past. Was it a challenge to adapt to the Body’s way of working at all? And are there any other artists you’d be interesting in collaborating with in a similar capacity?
Andy: “It was a bit of challenge, yeah. The Body takes a more conceptual, open-ended approach to writing whereas our songs are pretty much set-in-stone. Other people I’d like to collaborate with: Pharmakon, Tim Hecker, Natalie Mering from Weyes Blood, Grouper, Fiona Apple, and Bjork.”

Bryan: “The Body isn’t afraid to take a really rough, vague idea and flesh it out in the studio, or even write something there from scratch. For us, we usually have a pretty limited timeframe when we finally make it to the studio, so we tend to bang away in the practice space until something is exactly how we want it, and then use the studio time to try and set that to tape. When we bring other people into our songs, it’s generally during the overdubbing process, when we’re tinkering around a bit or have some idea how a friend or another instrument could add to a song.

“I think the biggest obstacle for us with The Body collaborations was figuring out how to translate those songs live. Those guys are so loud, it makes every other so-called metal band seem like weaklings and pretenders to me. For us, a big part of our live sound relies on some sense of subtlety, not to mention the fact that we’re not really good about playing too loose or rolling with mistakes, any errors for us always feel pretty glaring. So loosening up and getting that live sound down with these guys took some time, but that was part of the fun of it, trying to push ourselves outside our own limitations.

“Future collaborations? I’m into everyone on Andy’s list, but I’d add Chelsea Wolfe, Jessica93, and Trent Reznor.”

Of the two different sessions, the second ’You, Whom I Have Always Hated’ sounds more like The Body to my ears, whereas the first sounds more like Thou. Was this intentional, or is this just how they ended up?
Andy: “We recorded the first collaboration in New Orleans with Thou’s resident sound-guy James Whitten, and the second was at Machines With Magnets in Providence with Seth Manchester and Keith Souza, who record all of the Body’s stuff. I think those factors have more to do with the difference in the albums than the actual songs. We were definitely aiming for more Body influence on the second collab, meaning more electronic elements and noise, but the core riffs of the songs are all pretty similar in my mind.”

Bryan: “Yeah, I think if anything some of the song structures on the new one are a lot more Thou-sounding in their structure.”

These sessions came just after you’d finished writing ‘Heathen’, and have more of a raucous feel than that album. Given how carefully constructed and composed that record is, was there a sense of “cutting loose“ and just flinging ideas around again after such an intensive writing process?
Andy: “Yes, definitely. That’s kind of a running theme with our band–we tend to focus really intently on our full-lengths and use our splits and EPs as ways to experiment and try new things.”

Bryan: “We also didn’t want to write anything that sounded too Thou or too Body. Though looking back, I wish we had pushed things way more into the industrial/electronic realm The Body has started digging into. That was one of the things I had been pushing for, part of why I was so into doing the Nine Inch Nails covers—I wanted the whole thing to sound a lot more industrial pop mixed with doom drone, have some recurring motifs like a NIN record, et cetera. But maybe now we’ll just do that on a Thou solo record. Or the next Body collaboration.”

Speaking of the NIN cover (and the Vic Chestnutt song), what was it that drew you to these songs specifically, and why did you decide to cover them in this context?
Andy: “We threw around a bunch of ideas for covers, and those are the ones that stuck. The Vic Chesnutt song was Lee’s idea. I had heard his stuff but wasn’t a huge fan or anything. I think that song works really well for us, though, because it’s so crushing. I mean, even out of the extraordinary context of Vic Chesnutt’s life that song is incredibly powerful both sonically and lyrically. The NIN cover was a pretty natural choice, given our penchant for 90s songs and The Body’s love for industrial music. I don’t think we worried too much about any NIN fans caring one way or another about the song. I figured it would probably alienate some too-cool-for-school internet doomsters who refuse to admit they ever listened to anything but Eyehategod and Grief, though, and I was pretty stoked about that.”

Bryan: “I was originally hoping that we’d write enough on this collaboration to do a double LP—one 12” of new material, and one of all Nine Inch Nails covers. We’ve never really paid too much attention to what folks think of the covers. Our only concern when we try and translate something into our framework is making sure it doesn’t come across as farcical. That Fiona Apple tribute we tried is a perfect example—we just couldn’t get the songs to sound serious enough to our ears once they were stripped of Fiona Apple’s amazing voice and playing in exchange for distorted guitars and some dingdong screaming. It sounded like we were making fun or doing something to be “funny” which wasn’t the case at all. We only cover songs we really like. The only ones that just for fun are the ones we don’t bother recording.”

Has jamming with The Body given you any new ideas for your next record?
Andy: “I’m not sure what the next full-length might sound like, but the whole experience certainly gave me some ideas for Thou in general. Recording at Machines with them was a really fun process, and I was definitely taking mental notes while watching Seth do a bunch of the mixing.”

Bryan: “We probably need a few more ideas to flesh out some stuff we’ve been talking about messing around with for a while—more drone, more pretty/quiet stuff, more noise, maybe some electronics. My favorite track from this collaboration session was the ambient, instrumental song we put together towards the end of recording. Maybe the next collaboration with Chip and Lee won’t be “heavy” at all, a chance to get real weird.”

Is there any chance we’ll get to see a Thou / The Body tour in Europe any time soon?
Andy: “A full Euro tour seems extremely unlikely, but Thou will be on the mainland for some festivals this April. Then we’ll hopefully get everything sorted for another collaborative tour in late October, this time on the West Coast of the US.”

‘You, Whom I Have Always Hated’ is out now on Thrill Jockey

For more information, you can visit Thou’s official website

About Kez Whelan

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