2018 is the summer of Thou; having released their last full length ‘Heathen’ back in 2014, their musical output over the last four years has been sporadic with only the occasional compilation or split to tide listeners over. The Baton Rouge five piece are more than making up for lost time with a series of three EPs leading up to the release of their fifth studio album ‘Magus’ and the band are every bit as much as excited about the sudden surge in activity as their fans are. “Musically, it’s a little different than what we talked about doing originally, but that’s typical for us”, explains vocalist Bryan Funck, talking about their upcoming release ‘Magus’, “We usually throw around a lot of ideas for what we want to do, and then when it comes time to actually get to it, it’s sort of whatever comes out in the writing. But yeah, I’m real excited about it. Let’s just say I’m especially excited that we’re working with Ellen Jane Rogers, she’s a photographer in London. She’s incredible, and it’s like a huge thing for us to be able to work with her. That’s especially gratifying.” It’s not often a band, especially Thou, will put out so many releases in such quick succession, so the band are taking advantage of the situation and using it as an opportunity to experiment with their sound, including an EP that’s focused purely on acoustic material and another that explores the more ambient aspects of their music. “It’s always a hard thing for us, because I think that we’re not trying to get away from metal or the metal crowd, but we’re definitely trying to court a more balanced type of person to listen to our stuff to be interested in it”, Bryan tells us, “I think a person that has a lot of interests in addition to metal, hopefully. It’s not like we changed the sound. That’s the thing for us, especially me. I have a narrow focus on the kind of person that I would like to be interested in Thou, but that doesn’t really come into play when we go to write something.”

Bryan is keen to stress the importance of listening to all three EPs before sitting down with ‘Magus’ – for anyone thinking that ‘The House Primordial’, ‘Inconsolable’ and ‘Rhea Sylvia’ are just going to be more of the same, they are in for a shock – all three releases sound nothing like Thou’s previous material or the album that they lead up to. “It doesn’t really sound much like any of the EPs”, reveals Funck, talking of ‘Magus’, “Probably the closest thing to it is the last one we put out, the ‘Rhea Sylvia’ EP, but even that one, I think is kind of a long ways off. I think if anything, it’s a bit more like ‘Heathen’, the last full-length we did, but probably less of a self-indulgent meandering thing. It’s kind of like ‘Heathen’ with all the fat cut off. It’s more riffs. Maybe we don’t repeat something 100 times. Maybe we only repeat it 99 times. Something like that. But it’s not close to the EPs.” Everyone is probably guilty of having overlooked smaller releases in favour of full lengths. For this reason Thou made the decision to release all four opuses one after the other as a means of forcing people to pay attention and not skim over anything. “In the past we’ve always released an EP along with the full-length. I think a lot of times, especially with ‘Heathen’ and ‘The Sacrifice’ people overlooked the EP. This time we wanted to make sure people gave it a little bit of attention, hopefully, because when we do these EPs, it’s not like throw away songs or whatever. It’s just stuff that didn’t quite fit the feeling of whatever the full-length was going for”, Bryan says, “If it doesn’t fit with the other songs, and we still like it, we still record it and put it out, but we don’t put it with the record. It’s not necessarily like a B side, like throw away songs or whatever. This time, we want to make sure people would sit down and listen to it.”

Never a band to take the easy option, Thou are releasing all four records via different record labels – Robotic Empire is responsible for ‘The House Primordial’, while Thou will be releasing ‘Inconsolable’ themselves, with ‘Rhea Sylvia’ being handled by Deathwish Inc. and ‘Magus’ released via Sacred Bones Records. This was a deliberate decision, with the band wanting to utilise the opportunity of having so much new material as a means of ticking particular labels off their bucket list, while having each style of music dealt with by a label that’s best suited to it. “I think originally, we were just going to release everything ourselves. I think the idea was to basically just put the EPs up on Bandcamp and then as we built up some money, we would just put those out as we could, sort of like gearing up really just to focus on the full-length, the fiscal release of the full-length”, Funck reflects, “The last few years we haven’t gotten to work with a lot of people that we’d like to work with. Then some people’s names came up and we started asking around. We had all the material. We were like, ‘Oh, maybe we should just get some labels to put it out’. The idea was we’d get the labels to put out the EPs, and then we would still self-release the full-length.” They key focus this time around for Thou is that they just get to experiment with their sound and having a label to take care of the admin for them means they can focus purely on the music and what they’re trying to convey to their listeners. “Every record we do has its own thing as far as the lyrical themes are concerned. I think with the acoustic and the drone records it’s a lot more about creating a feeling than it is having a message”, Bryan explains, “I think a lot of times people associate us as a political band or a socially political band, and we definitely are in a lot of ways, but we don’t usually have an agenda we’re pushing or a clear message we’re trying to proselytize or anything like that, other than being anti-authoritarian.”

Bryan has often stated in interviews that he sees Thou as more of a punk band than anything else. However, due to their New Orleans heritage they are often lumped in with the likes of Eyehategod, Crowbar and Down. While their sound may certainly fit with this type of music, the band feel their genre lies firmly within their mindset and ideology. “I think our focus has always been on more of a community aspect and more of a crossing over with different types of people. We’re more about the people than we are the sound, the type of music”, Funck muses, “A lot of the metal stuff, at least the newer metal bands that we’re into, are bands that are predominantly people who came from punk and hardcore scenes. So it’s like more of a like-minded people as far as ideology-wise and how they approach their art and getting that art out into the world and just how people are in general as people.”

Thou’s career spans 13 years, five albums, 13 EPs, 13 splits, two collaborations and three compilations. Reflecting back on the journey the band have taken from their very first demo ‘Call No Man Happy Until He is Dead’ to where they are now, Bryan feels the sound hasn’t evolved all that much, but more than a decade of playing together has helped them to tighten up and develop of deeper appreciation of each other. “I think we’ve just tightened up a lot. As far as the music and the lyrics and all that stuff in general, I think it’s not that far off. Maybe a bit more melody, a bit less post-rock, but everything is just tightened up now”, says Bryan, “I think that Andy and Matthew have always been really good guitar players, but especially after playing with other people, they’re phenomenal, and extremely creative in the stuff they come up with. I’m continually impressed by the stuff. It wouldn’t be Thou without either of those two in the band.” In the eyes of their fans Thou are sludge metal superheroes, however, as far as they’re concerned they’re still just five dudes from Baton Rouge and, despite having toured internationally, their only real ambition is to just keep on keeping on and releasing a steady stream of music. “We don’t have a lot of ambitions, other than continuing to put out records. Sort of like the main thing, and to continually push the music that we’re putting out to make it better every time”, Bryan says, “I think as we’ve gotten older, we’ve unfortunately had to deal with money stuff a little bit more than we would like to, just because a lot of the guys in the band aren’t super well off. That’s just something that practical sense, we just have to keep in mind as we’re doing things.”