A lot may have changed since Big Wreck first hit the airwaves over 20 years ago, but one thing that hasn’t is their addiction to the stage.
“There’s a certain connectedness you feel when you’re playing with the guys, and certainly in front of an audience,” said frontman Ian Thornley.
“It’s like a drug . . . the more you do it, the more you want it — I sort of live off the high you get when things are really working and really cooking, everything is really gelling and the audience is into it — there’s really nothing like it.”
Last month, the band embarked on a nationwide tour promoting their newest album, Grace Street, and will make their way to London Music Hall Thursday, Feb. 23. The record marks Big Wreck’s first collaboration with co-producer Garth Richardson, best known for his work with bands like Rage Against The Machine and Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Thornley maintained it’s the most diverse yet.
“Our last couple have been going into that direction of hitting on different vibes and different tones, but I think this one is the furthest we’ve ever gone stylistically . . . every song was approached in it’s own unique way,” he said. “It’s not about just sitting down, pressing record and making a record; each song has its own attention to detail and has its own lifeblood.”
It’s a trip Thornley feels no previous Big Wreck album has taken a listener on before, and as always, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Moving forward is something you need to do, I know some bands are content with writing the same old songs and putting different words in there — I’ve never been that guy,” he said. “As artists do, we’re always going to be searching. So much has changed, but the aim of what we’re doing is still the same — and that’s just music.”
Some of the sounds that make Grace Street unique come thanks to Richardson’s influence, which Thornley said opened the door to a “there are no real rules kind of thing,” that helped the band’s imagination wander.
“He’s the guy for thinking outside the box, and he has such an immense trick bag — he just knows so much,” Thornley explained. “He’s done literally so many records . . . whereas I’ve only generally worked on my own records and have my own ideas.”
One of those tricks involved Richardson leaving the studio and coming back two hours later with a box of crystal wine glasses and a turkey baster.
“That’s how you tune the glasses to pitch,” Thornley said with a laugh. “You fill the glasses and run your finger over the rim . . . it was a bit painstaking, but pretty fun once you really got it. It just produced this noise I had never heard before . . . sort of takes you away. I just kept saying we needed more wine glasses, I just wanted to hear more of it.”
Some tracks also feature added touches from a Mile Davis-style muted trumpet, to a sample of Thornley’s daughter’s heartbeat.
“I’m always thinking what can we do that’s never been in a rock song before, whether it’s a guitar, or sitting down at a piano or something,” he said. “Certainly when you’re in the over-dub phase of recording you’re thinking what you can do to be different, even if it’s way out of left field.”
Even through Big Wreck’s progression, Thornley still appreciates what the band’s songs continue to mean to their fans, and continues to see past experiences and successes as inspiration.
“I choose to move on and I’m always sort of looking forward, but sometimes you can’t help but look back . . . you write what you know, and the life that I’ve led for the past 20 years is certainly going to make its way into the song,” he said. “In some ways, the old stuff is influencing the new stuff; same as the things I’m seeing and learning everyday.”
And though he appreciates every bump and turn on the road so far, he’s quick to add when it comes to nostalgia, in the end, it means something different to each individual listener — something he hopes fans will carry on with Grace Street.
“That’s one of the things I really adore about music; it’s really everybody else’s,” he said. “As soon as it’s recorded and it’s out there, it’s everybody else’s and they can do whatever they want with it, and I think that’s the lovely thing.”