THUMPASAURUS // INTERVIEW
INTERVIEW BY: Emily May
LA-based quintet Thumpasaurus formed a few years ago after meeting at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School Of Music and have created an eclectic and unique sound. Initially a folk band called The Neighbors, they have transitioned over the years to encompass a sound that combines an eclectic mix of 70’s funk, heavy metal, free jazz, musical theatre, light opera and LA’s up-all-night electronic music in an effort to get people dancing. Comprised of Lucas Tamaren (guitar/vocals), Henry Solomon (saxophone), Paul Cornish (keys), Logan Kane (bass) and Henry Was, son of legendary producer Don Was (drums/percussion), the band considers USC’s famed underground performance venue YONI their home base, a venue at which they opened for artists such as KNOWER and Vulfpeck. The band has hit the ground running after their continual surge in popularity, including a sold out 12 show run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017, sold out headlining and support shows last year and performing the live debut last year of their original rock opera, Where Does The Love Go? that included a 20-person choir. Last year, the band also recorded an EP with iconic house producer, Dirtybird’s Justin Jay, on his Fantastic Voyage label that consisted mainly of remixes of some of the band’s songs. Music from the EP has been played by popular DJ’s in the house and techno scene and members of the band accompanied Jay on tour in May of last year to support the release of the EP. In July of last year, the band released their self-produced debut album entitled The Book Of Thump. They returned to Scotland last August for the Fringe Festival with a headlining residency and to debut their rock opera. The band performed at this year’s SXSW Festival and have upcoming festival appearances at Firefly Festival, Peach Fest, Electric Forest Evolve Festival and Joshua Tree Music Fest. With a busy tour schedule and plans to release more music, the band is using their momentum to forge ahead into a busy 2019! You can follow the band and stay up-to-date with all upcoming music and tour dates, as well as stream and purchase their music, via the following links. Check out their latest video for “Alien” below.
You combine several different genres to create your sound, which has a bit of funk, punk, soul and electronic elements. You were initially a folk band called The Neighbors before you became Thumpasaurus. What led to your transition from a folk band to your current sound?
The early days of the band were some of the most joyful. We would play all these house parties around the USC area and just see how hard we could make drunk college kids dance and have a good time. That is all we were interested, so we found ourselves in the most sweaty, intense show environments we’ve ever been in. Most of the time the sound was absolute dog shit but I think that taught us how to play well and listen no matter the environment.
Has your approach/mission towards your music changed much since you first started the band, or do you feel it’s essentially the same, just on a larger scale?
I think it is more of the latter. I think we are a better band and are growing but the essential philosophy is and hopefully will always be there. No matter what we make or how it sounds, or what genre we always ask… Well.. Does it Thump? and if yes then we are happy about it.
Henry- Your father is legendary producer Don Was. What was it like growing up with his influence? You produce, mix and engineer Thumpasaurus albums in your home studio? How much of an influence did your father have in your decision to become a producer yourself? Did he give you any particularly helpful advice?
HW: My parents really inspired everything for me. My dad and my mom, who was a VP of A&R at Virgin Records, both had a huge impact on my decision to do music in the first place. My parents made doing music seem like the coolest thing in the world, and because I come from them, I’ve always felt like I could earn a place in that world too, someday. It wasn’t till my sophomore year of college that I started producing, and I immediately just felt this humongous door open. I felt like I had found my home for the first time, and that I had value beyond the number of hours I committed to a practice room. It could be from my dad, but for the first time with music I just had this calm, “I can do this” attitude when producing, and that really changed everything for me. There’s a lot of advice I’ve gotten from both of them over the years that applies directly to thump, but my dad also set me up with my first pro-tools rig and left me alone with it without explaining how anything worked. I’m really grateful for that opportunity to discover my own stuff before leaning how this or that “should” be done.
You recently started a web series called Thump Thoughts. How did the series come about? What inspired you to develop it?
Thump thoughts gives us a low stakes platform to put out anything we want. We can kind of explore multiple sounds and genres without the pressure of it being our BIG album release. Also we are just trying to feed the content monster that is social media.
What can you tell me about your partnership/collaboration with Justin Jay? How did you meet and come to work with him?
Justin is a good friend from USC that also happens to be extremely talented. He has been coming to our shows and fits in perfectly with our philosophy of wanting to try everything. When he said he wanted to remix our songs we were stoked. We expect to keep exploring sounds with him as time goes on. He also comes from a very exploratory mindset and those kind of people are the best to work with.
You were in the UK last year for 6 weeks where you premiered the THUMP OPERA collaboration with the professional touring “clown troupe” of Zuck Zacher, Viggo Ven, Jonny Woolley and Ben Benjamin, premiering it at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! What was that experience like? How were your nightly residency shows?
Edinburgh is absolute insanity. It is both and artists dream and nightmare, but also the reality of trying to make art for the sake of art sometimes. Like, we made absolutely no money doing this (though we expected to) but also came up with the craziest show possible and learned so much about ourselves and our creative/collaborative capabilities. We put on an Opera from our music that was based on an evil Jeff Bezos that combined professional clowns and powerpoint style projections. It was incredibly stupid.
You explore internet culture as a band and perform what you call “internet stunts”. Can you talk a bit about this approach to performance and your thoughts on internet culture?
Thumpasaurus is a child of the internet age. So our art is totally influenced by how we grew up with the internet and the ways we interact online, as well as the style of internet content. We are aware that the way in which we communicate on the internet is totally embedded into the way people relate to each other and experience the world. So we take some of the internet stuff (memes, dogs, cats, dancing babies) and throw them into our live show projections. We find that people have been so conditioned by the style of the internet that a lot of these images hit in an immediate and visceral way when combined with our music. Internet culture is extremely cool and beautiful and also terrible at the same time.
You recently released a 5 part Rock Opera, “Where Does The Love Go?”! What was the idea/inspiration behind it and what was the experience like making it? What has the response been?
WDTLG was inspired by us being excited about the idea of creating music that followed a spiritual arc and “hero’s journey.” We sort of chased down the music following our own life experiences of pain and growth and rebirth so we were basically just figuring out what that sounded like. For those who have seen the Opera the response has been awesome! Though, we are having trouble getting everyone to commit to watching a 17 min music video/dance Opera. Oh well!!!
You recently released your debut full-length album The Book Of Thump! What was the process like in making the album? You are currently in your The Book Of Thump US Tour! What have some tour highlights been?
HW: The Book of Thump was an absolute labor of love. We’re really really proud of it, because it’s a real document of the band being born. The oldest song, “You Are So Pretty”, was recorded like two weeks after the band formed. The engineering was so crazy and reckless in retrospect. I didn’t even set up mics for the cymbals. We basically played the whole song into 2 room mics, with the exceptions of a few Channels. We had saxes and keyboard running through pedals and into amps and all kinds of crazy shit, and we just went for it and played as loud as intense as we could. Things grew from there, but we generally always kept that approach, reckless freedom, and taking the longer, crazier path wherever available. Flying by the seat of our pants. A bunch of the songs and the parts were written on the recordings. Sometimes during the take.
What’s next for the band?
We are working on a ton of new music! And are about to hit our first major festivals including Firefly, Electric Forest, Peach Fest, Evolve Festival and Joshua Tree music fest this summer. We have so much music we want to put out that hopefully it happens sooner than later!