Thanks: Conquering Mountains

Vortex Music Magazine

"We are completely insignificant in the greater scheme of things—to nature, to the mountains,” says singer and lyricist Jimi Hendrix of her band's recently released sophomore effort full of intense dark soul and rock and roll.

Thanks: Photo by George BarberisThanks: Photo by George Barberis"The mountains don’t give a fuck!” blurts out Noah Jay-Bonn, cutting off the meandering titular explanation his fiancée and bandmate Jimi Hendrix was giving for their band’s second record. No Mercy in the Mountain, self-released and celebrated at Mississippi Studios on July 2 (see photos by John Alcala here), is the more poetic title, but Jay-Bonn was actually just relaying a German’s poorly extrapolated and oversimplified interpretation of the significance behind the name of Thanks’ new album.

But then Hendrix cuts back in: “Yeah, that’s kinda dead on, but not what I said,” she laughs. After spending four weeks touring Germany and Austria just prior to releasing No Mercy in the Mountain, the six-piece synthy, dark soul and rock and roll outfit have had plenty of time to ponder the message of their new record.

In actuality, the band have spent years writing and performing the songs that appear on their sophomore effort, perfecting them before going into the studio with producer Jeff Bond. Between extended recording and mixing sessions, a steady schedule of local gigs, several trips to Europe, and pressing their first-ever vinyl at local plant Cascade Record Pressing, it’s taken Thanks two years to release this record. And when all of the pieces are finally ready, Hendrix wonders, “Am I still going to like it by the time it actually comes out?”

The answer: a resounding yes.

The calm between stormy bouts of impassioned lyrics from singer Jimi Hendrix at Thanks' record release show at Mississippi Studios on July 2—click to see an entire gallery of photos by John AlcalaThe calm between stormy bouts of impassioned lyrics from singer Jimi Hendrix at Thanks' record release show at Mississippi Studios on July 2—click to see an entire gallery of photos by John AlcalaThanks’ first record was just that. They’ve learned a lot about themselves since their 2014 debut Blood Sounds. “Like any form of art, the first thing you put out, you’re probably going to hate a little bit. I wouldn’t say I hate it, but I wouldn’t mind not hearing it for a while,” Hendrix laughs.

The band of six have grown together as a group too. “I think we’ve all become more comfortable,” Jay-Bonn says. With Hendrix providing vocals, Jay-Bonn on keys, Andrew Hanna on guitar, Lilly Maher playing cello and singing, and the rhythm section held down by Garrett Brown on bass and Drew Sprouse on drums, “One of the main tenets in our band is that there are no bad ideas,” Jay-Bonn explains. “Everybody will try anything. We really don’t want to limit ourselves. If everybody’s creative in the process, then that’s what’s exciting for us.”

They’ve also learned a lot about recording. “We had a really clear idea of what we wanted our studio sound to be. We could finally articulate that,” Hendrix says. No Mercy in the Mountain is the manifestation: “This is how we should sound!” Hendrix gushes. “It matches how we feel inside.”

From the first notes, the album surges with intensity. There’s a fierce, palpable energy—a consuming and captivating darkness hovers over the songs while Hendrix’s lyrics only add to the ominous emotionality of the music. This shadowy fervor is par for the course for Thanks and it comes from a very personal place within Hendrix.

L to R: Noah Jay-Bonn on keys, Andrew Hanna on guitar, Jimi Hendrix singing, Drew Sprouse on drums, Lilly Maher playing cello and Garrett Brown on bass celebrating their second record at Mississippi Studios on July 2—click to see more photos by John AlcalaL to R: Noah Jay-Bonn on keys, Andrew Hanna on guitar, Jimi Hendrix singing, Drew Sprouse on drums, Lilly Maher playing cello and Garrett Brown on bass celebrating their second record at Mississippi Studios on July 2—click to see more photos by John AlcalaFor almost a decade, Hendrix has suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome, and for many years, she didn’t know what was happening to her while the disease would leave her completely debilitated after totally normal activities like riding a bike or going for a walk. And while the introspective nature of the illness sometimes meant she “literally couldn’t do anything but lay there and think,” it also inspired her writing. “It’s a wonderfully creative place to be but it’s a really awful place,” Hendrix explains. “I’m grateful that I got some good lyrical fodder out of it, but I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.”

“I did a lot of thinking and writing about the frustration of battling with something that was basically your responsibility to win,” she says. Processing these intense moments meant finding equilibrium. “There is a balance that you have to strike between being angry and being complacent.” That’s “the dark and light,” as she refers to it, represented on the record—the displays of sheer strength and aggressive badassery coupled with intimate vignettes of weakness. “Writing music was 100 percent therapeutic—like taking the power out of the actual [moment] and saying fuck you to it on paper.”

Creating and singing with the band “has honestly been the best therapy,” both mentally and physically, Hendrix says. It’s where she’s been able to recognize her vulnerabilities and empower herself to overcome, emerging—and sounding—tough as shit. And the reemergence is a triumphant one. The album’s closing song, “The Only Prayer” (watch a live performance below), talks “about not being brought down by what is going on but instead building myself up from all the bad, climbing out of it,” she explains.

The process is “super cathartic. And really emotional,” Hendrix says. “I don’t have a fucking therapist—I gotta get it out somewhere!” she laughs. She hopes others find fortitude in the music. “I always found solace in listening to other people’s lyrics. People identify with them so I like the idea that someone’s going to hear it and make their own meaning—and feel better about whatever garbage is happening in their life.”

'No Mercy in the Mountain' album art by Ashley Sophia Clark'No Mercy in the Mountain' album art by Ashley Sophia ClarkThe record represents a dichotomy: “The push and pull between the dark and light,” Hendrix explains, and “how we are completely insignificant in the greater scheme of things—to nature, to the mountains.”

“There’s no mercy in the mountain and you’re small and fragile and insignificant,” Jay-Bonn adds. “You have to find your own strength; you have to rise up yourself.”

“The mountains don’t give a fuck about you, and that’s a good thing,” Hendrix surmises. “You have to figure it out on your own.”

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