Interview: This Will Destroy You
This Will Destroy You isn’t a band for the faint of heart. The Texas-based, instrumental rock four-piece is calculated in sound, yet intense and explosive, at times coming across as either delicately lush or fiercely herculean. And the group’s newest album sounds nothing like the word instrumental presupposes and everything like the band’s name implies. Just don’t call them post-rock.
Earlier this month, the band released “Tunnel Blanket,” on Suicide Squeeze. The album’s eight tracks, which span the course of an hour, combine to create something less forthright in predictability than preceding releases. However, the overall sound is much more elaborate and complex, with a larger focus on layering ambient and drone noises.
“I think this album is heavier than anything the band has done before. I think it’s an album that…we’re all the most proud of,” bassist Donovan Jones said.
He explained that 2006’s “Young Mountain” was a somewhat embarrassing demo debut, and 2008’s self-titled was far too straightforward, compared to the music the group is making now.
“There were a lot more ambient pieces in there, and just different ways to develop songs, but you could still hear the guitar in the forefront,” he said of the first studio album. “It still sounded like, you know, guitar music. But with the new album, we tried to make every chord and every note really dense and have texture…you can’t tell what’s a guitar, what’s vocals, or, you know, what’s harmonium.”
Instead, the band focused on creating a more multifaceted, intricate musical landscape.
“Sometimes it can be hard if we have a lot of ideas that we all want to have happen in a song, but you know, once there’s a theme that we build around, it usually comes together pretty quickly,” Jones said. “On some of the songs on the new album, we wrote them and then we re-wrote them and then we re-mixed them, and then we re-wrote the re-mix, so it was a lot of like overlapping lines.”
Overall though, those multiple ideas building on one another is what seemed to naturally drive the album in the direction it went.
“I feel like we took a classical approach to it,” Jones explained. “We didn’t really care about having to have a guitar riff to write around. We were just writing around, like, drone loops. Just sitting there listening to pulses for like, 10 minutes, until the music kind of came out.”
And while this specified attention to sound may be seen as a next step in the progression of a band’s sound, the reason behind this distinct change in the method of songwriting isn’t entirely arbitrary. In the time This Will Destroy You wrote the songs for “Tunnel Blanket,” all the members experienced the death of friends, family members and pets. To dismiss these difficult experiences would be to dismiss much of the inspiration behind the album.
“It was just like a big shitpile of things falling on us, so we wrote a dark record,” Jones said. “It’s kinda angry, and it’s supposed to sound, you know, uncomfortable at times.”
As for the actual writing and recording processes, the members definitely felt the emotional heaviness of the songs and the events that inspired them, sometimes more strongly than at other times.
Jones said that in particular, listening to the mixes of songs was rough for him.
“Once it’s there and it exists, then you have to listen to it,” he said. “And, I mean, there would be times when I would just be like, checking mixes, and I’d just be bawling while listening to, like, certain songs.”
Yet since a year has passed from when the album was being recorded, Jones also admitted that playing the songs on the road has given the band time for them to get used to the music and find new ways of reacting to and interacting with it.
“It’s still depressing and uplifting to me at the same time,” he said. “ [But] any really deep emotion that I’ve felt in the past listening to this music is just kind of, like a, it’s more of memory now than a reality.”
Indeed, playing songs live over and over again lessened the gravity of emotions packed into “Tunnel Blanket,” but the live experience itself is still a force to be reckoned with.
“The live songs are much heavier than they sound on the record because we play really fucking loud,” Jones said.
In fact, during a live set, the band relies upon samples from the album – such as the string instruments and sub-bass – to fill in the gaps where there are no musicians, which only adds to the texture of the sound. However, Jones said that future shows might see the band venturing into more experimental and improvisational territory.
“[Right now], it’s a big ol’ soundscape soap opera,” he said with a laugh.
This Will Destroy You plays The Independent in San Francisco tomorrow night with Pure X and SLEEP OVER. The 21+ show begins at 8 p.m., with tickets selling for $12.