INTERVIEW: Thank | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Sarah Flower Adams’ 19th-century Christian hymn Nearer My God To Thee has a history as colourful as it is long, from its use in CNN’s notorious Turner Doomsday Video – the broadcast prepared to augur the end of the world – to its alleged airing as the Titanic disappeared beneath the North Atlantic waves. Translated roughly from Latin, its central refrain, “at the moment of death, my power comes from heaven,” now has the distinction of spearheading Thoughtless Cruelty, the full-length debut from Leeds noise quintet Thank.

“I wouldn’t describe myself as a religious person, but it’s always been a theme in Thank and that song is a really distilled example,” offers vocalist and chief songwriter Freddy Vinehill-Cliffe. “Much of this album stems from a kind of semi-pseudo awakening I’ve had in recent years. We’re approaching a point where society has largely abandoned religion, and without it I often wonder what’s left. What is there to give people’s lives meaning, or to connect with those around them? A friend of mine describes Simpsons quotes as the new scripture – a level we can relate to each other on – and I found it an interesting idea to pursue.”

Together with apocalyptic fixations and liberal complacency’s enabling of the far-right, this “spiritual confusion” forms an intense thematic patchwork across Thoughtless Cruelty’s nine tracks, expressed via a jarring cacophony of doom-laden guitars, pulverising electronics and Freddy’s cathartic, often unhinged vocal delivery.

Much of this album stems from a kind of semi-pseudo awakening I’ve had in recent years

“We had a lot of working titles relating to those themes – Revised Standard Bible, Turner Doomsday Video – but they all felt blunt and clumsy,” he recalls. “Ultimately, a lot of the lyrics are examinations of the different ways people are cruel to each other. We did briefly ponder the title The Thoughtless Cruelty of Cowards and Cunts, though that seemed wanky and pretentious. That, and that fact that some might not like the word ‘cunts.’”

Rather than shooting for 6Music airtime, this reticence arose from wider reflections over what Freddy and his bandmates believe Thank should represent. “I actually ended up redrafting a handful of lyrics, because we specifically didn’t want this to be a violent album,” he admits. “A turning point was a really chaotic show we played at Tramlines in Sheffield a few years back. Theo’s equipment was malfunctioning so he spent the entire gig punching and smashing it to pieces, and I was choking myself with the mic cable and drawing blood – stuff like that which seemed cool at the time. Somebody came up to us afterwards and said it was the most violent thing he’d ever seen – and although it was meant as a compliment we realised we didn’t want to be pegged as that kind of band. That’s not who we are.”

It’s a wiser, more self-aware Thank, then, who’ll rock up at Little Buildings this month, yet their maiden outing in Newcastle nevertheless promises to be anything but predictable. “We’ve only played one gig – with Gnod, last November – since COVID, and even now there are songs we’re yet to play together in the same room,” Freddy reveals. “All our previous stuff was recorded live, but in a way working remotely has felt liberating, like we’ve no obligation to recreate these songs faithfully on-stage. I’ll be playing guitar for the first time too – we’ve come a long way from that Tramlines spectacle!”

Thank’s debut album Thoughtless Cruelty is released on Friday 4th February via Box Records. The band visit Little Buildings, Newcastle on Wednesday 22nd February.


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