It’s not easy to have a novel rhythmic approach in indie rock, but if you’re like Thursday drummer Tucker Rule, you might be inspired by modern-day church drumming.
We’re joking, kind of.
“When I’m home, I’m constantly on YouTube watching Gospel Chops,” says Rule from his Midtown Manhattan loft. “That stuff is well beyond me so I try to watch them and try to learn one thing at a time.” Don’t worry, Rule isn’t going to start playing thirty-seconds on the hats every other bar.
New album No Devolución, however, does represent a quantum leap for Thursday. The “post-hardcore” mold has been scrapped for a gauzy, massive-sounding record. Chiming, shoe-gaze guitars complement snakey fuzzed-out bass lines while the plangent vocals carry singer Geoff Rickly’s raw-nerved missives into the ether. Rule, a New Jersey native, bashed powerfully and groove-tastically on 2008’s Common Existence, but with No Devolución, he’s on another plane.
Whether you like the band’s new direction or not, it’s a telling glimpse of Rule’s evolution as a player. A newfound love of the subtle, the tasty, and the surprising is slowly displacing this heavy-hitter’s signature ride crashing. Take the taut funk-inflected beats and sneak-attack hats on “Magnets Caught In A Metal Heart” or the way he utilizes the whole kit on the mellow-yet-musical “No Answers.” We’re not talking cliché tribal thudding or predictable fills, either, but toms precisely integrated into the beats. If Rule was sweating the technique, you’d never know it.
The members of Thursday entered the studio with songs mapped out in their heads in fall of 2010. Camping out with producer David Fridmann for two weeks in western New York energized Rule’s playing in a way no one could have anticipated. “I don’t like doing a lot of takes,” says the click track–hating drummer. “I want to do it all the way through as fast as possible, just to get the best and most energetic take. And [Fridmann]’s one of those guys that’s, Yup, there it is!
This makes it sound like Rule is all heart and no head but there is a distinctly brainy edge to No Devolución’s generous helping of loops and other digital enhancements, such as those on “A Gun In The First Act,” with its skittering pops and echo-laden toms. “It’s got a sample behind it and a bunch of electronic things going on, so I had to kind of play with that” he says. “I’m playing the actual beat over the top of it, which gives it this weird multitrack kind of thing.”
He hasn’t quite figured out the performance aspect of human drummer and machine, which he’ll need to do before Thursday hits the road this summer. “It’s very intricate, so I think we might actually run the whole record if we play it to a click live, just to have everything line up kind of perfectly, which is going to be a pretty tough undertaking.” (“A Gun In The First Act” is the only track recorded with a click.)
As far outside the box as he is wandering with Thursday, Rule still lets his punk roots show with side project I Hate My Freedom, and more importantly, Murphy’s Law, the seminal New York hardcore band that he joined six months ago and that has become very therapeutic for him. “It’s a lot different from Thursday — everything’s fast and aggressive,” he says. “It lets me step out on my own and I get inspiration from that. But mostly it’s just a lot of fun.”
An incorrigible hardcore kid, he’ll always be a sucker for the East Coast tuff-guy sound, but don’t forget he also grew up playing to Zeppelin records. A predilection for the pockets of space between the beats are felt on No Devolución’s parts. Fittingly, Rule’s trademark glitter orange kit has gotten increasingly Bonhamesque of late. “I’m using a lot bigger drums now,” he says. “And I’ve added a second floor tom.”
But some things never change, like Rule’s habit of canting the snare forward like jazz players do. “Every snare drum hit I want to be loud and cut through, so I like getting that rimshot in there. It’s comfortable and helps me not have any hand problems or anything. One of my good friends, Durija [Lang, from Glassjaw], sat behind my kit and he’s like, ‘I don’t know how you play this thing.’”
For a self-taught natural like Rule, who divides his energies between three bands, is daily practice a necessity? “I have a pad at home and I’ll just sit and watch TV and kind of space out and just work on my rudiments … but not really.”
But if for any reason he goes too long without playing he’ll hop the train to his practice space in Jersey. Because if there’s one motivator he can always rely on, it’s fear. “I’m getting older,” he says. “These kids that are coming up, they’re really good and they’re hungry, and I gotta keep up with it.”
Current Release No Devolución
Birthplace Somerville, New Jersey
Influences John Bonham, Dave Grohl, William Goldsmith
Web Site thursday.net
Sticks Pro-Mark 5B
“Magnets Caught In A Metal Heart”
This is one of those tracks you have to keep resetting to figure out exactly where is the downbeat. Rule’s groove plays tricks on your ear until the vocals can offer some assistance. It is a thoughtfully crafted linear pattern with shifting hi-hats and a themed fill that ends each phrase — busy, but in a cool way. The verse follows, with Rule toning things down just the right amount, segueing slyly into it with a crash-less transition.