In the spotlight: Thirsty Curses

Thirsty Curses are a rock ‘n roll band from Raleigh, North Carolina (USA) formed by Wilson Getchell in 2017. Through the years the band had various line up changes with Wilson Getchell and bassist Clayton Herring serving as the two mainstays. The band currently consists of Wilson Getchell (vocals, guitar, keys), Clayton Herring (bass guitar), Manash Shrestha (drums) and Ryan Wooten (lead guitar).

The band draws from a wide array of influences and rock subgenres including indie rock, alt-country, punk, garage rock, and power pop. Their songs are both impassioned and sardonic, comical and foreboding, often dealing with heavy subjects but generally feature a humorous nudge and wink to the audience. The band recently their fourth album ‘To the Ends of the Earth’ earlier this year.

I spoke to founding member and lead singer Wilson how the new album ‘To the Ends of the Earth’ came together and found out what the band is currently working on.

Can you provide us a little bit of a backstory as to how and why you started the band.

“The band formed in 2017 shortly after I moved to Raleigh. For the previous several years or so I had been moving around a lot – Austin, DC, Flagstaff (2x) and New Hampshire. I had written a bunch of songs during that time, and with all the moving around, I had found it difficult to get any music projects rolling. I figured Raleigh was as good as anywhere to put down some roots and start a band.”

“The bass player Clayton and I grew up together in Richmond (VA) and have been playing in bands together since we were 15. We even played little league baseball together. Anyway, Clayton was living up in Richmond when band got started, but he moved down to Raleigh and joined the band in 2018. Clayton and I are pretty much the nucleus of Thirsty Curses, as we’ve partnered on a lot of creative endeavors over the years.”

How did the band get its name?

“We came up with it on the way to a show in DC. The meaning behind it is sort of a lust or attraction to people and things that are destructive. Something you know you shouldn’t do, but you do it anyway and fucking love it. I’ve had some issues with alcohol over the years, so there’s also an element of that in the name. We liked the sexual connotation of the name too. It’s also got a mellifluous ring to it and seemed somehow descriptive of our sound and style, so we went with it.”

How do you feel that the band has grown through the years? What has remained the same?

“I think the songwriting and musicianship has gotten a lot better. We’re also a lot tighter live now than when the band first started. All in all I think we’ve gotten a lot better at doing this, or at least I hope so.”

“There’s been some turnover in the band over the years. Kelley Otwell was the lead guitarist for most of the band’s existence, but he left the band during the pandemic. We’ve now got Ryan Wooten playing lead for us. Our drummer Manash is fairly new too. Evan Miller was playing drums for us for the last several years, but he moved to Asheville to settle down with his girlfriend a few months back. We added Manash on drums shortly after that. But as I said earlier, Clayton and I have been the two mainstays.”

“One thing I really like about our band is how adaptable we can be to a situation.”

Your latest photos on Social Media show you as a three-piece band. Does working as a trio give you any challenges or are there any benefits to the relatively stripped down line up?

“We were playing as a three piece for a couple months, recently. I prefer for us to play as a four-piece, but we’ve been able to get by as a three-piece.”

“I’ve had several people tell me though that they don’t really notice the lead guitar not being there. As I mentioned earlier, we’ve got a new lead guitarist Ryan who recently started playing with us. I do like the stripped down nature of the three-piece lineup too, but just think the four piece presentation hits a little harder. Clay and I have performed a few times as a two-piece, with him on bass and me doing the suitcase drum/highhat/guitar/vocals. That’s more of our acoustic set though. One thing I really like about our band is how adaptable we can be to a situation. We can kind of morph our sound to fit the moment or present songs entirely differently than they were originally conceived/recorded.”

How would you categorise your style, and where do you draw your influences from?

“We’re sort of all over the place genre wise. I’ve at times classified Thirsty Curses as schizophrenia rock ‘n roll. We draw a lot from punk, alt-country, 90s rock, and 60s rock. There’s some straight pop in some of it too. Over the years, we’ve gotten a lot of comparisons to The Replacements, Deer Tick, The Hold Steady, the Old 97s, and Wilco.”

“When I was a kid, my older brother gave me a sort of rock ‘n roll education. Over several years of birthdays and Christmases, he gave me six albums from each decade starting with the 1950s. Through that I got exposed to Elvis, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zepplin, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, etc. I really latched onto The Beatles. He gave me Sgt. Pepper, but after that I bought all their albums in the order that they were released. The Beatles are probably the reason I play music – I wanted to be a songwriter like them from an early age. I also latched onto the punk records he gave me and branched out from there on my own a lot. But looking back, that music education my brother gave me was a pretty formative experience.”

“Also, with Clay and I having been friends forever, we’re into a lot of the same stuff. So I think that kind of helps us intuitively move the music in a similar direction. Incidentally, although we like a lot of the same bands, we always seem to have different favorites from those bands. I might be oversimplifying a bit, but I think I tend to like artists’ earlier, rawer stuff, while he tends to gravitate towards an artist’s later, more polished work.”

Photo by Lon Miller

You released your fourth album in March. When did the songs on ‘To the Ends of the Earth’ begin to take shape?

“We pretty much had a list of songs for the album by the beginning of 2021. I wrote ‘What the Hell?’, ‘Tell Me the Truth’ and ‘Down & Out’ within a couple of weeks of each other towards the end of 2019. The music for ‘Whistlepig’ and ‘Nothing Really Matters’ were written sometime in 2019, but I didnt get around to writing lyrics for them until lockdown/pandemic.”

“‘Your Next Move’ was written during the end of 2020. It was sort of my way of trying to wrap my head around what to do next in life. Everything just felt so disjointed.”

“Some of the other songs had been floating around for a while longer. We recorded ‘Vera’ for the last album, but didn’t like how it came out so we scrapped it. ‘Calmer Waters’ has also been floating around for a couple years. The last track on the album ‘A Baptist and a Rabbi’ was actually a very old unfinished song that I had completely forgotten about. During the pandemic/lockdowns, I spent some time going over old hard drives and found an old demo of it. I re-wrote some of the lyrics and made some changes to the arrangement.”

“We were effectively finished recording by August 2021. However, I wrote ‘Jenny’ in November 2021. I really wanted to include it on the album, so we recorded that at the last minute and added it to the mix. All in all, we were recording the album in between touring from April – August 2021, with some last minute additions and changes done in November/December 2021.”

Is there a common inspiration between the songs?

“Not really – just trying to make something honest and better than the last thing we made. Always trying to grow and become a better songwriter and musician.”

How do you hope your listeners feel when they listen to your album?

“I hope people find our music thought provoking but also fun. Some of our songs deal with some pretty bleak subject matters I suppose, but there’s some winking optimism in there too. We try not to take ourselves too seriously and there’s dry comic relief buried in the lyrics of a lot of the songs. I guess we just hope that people relate to the songs and can find something to take from them. Music has meant a lot to us, and I think we just want to kind of give back what we took. Ultimately we hope people can connect with our music in the same way we’ve connected with the work of other bands etc.”

Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?

“Not really. I don’t have a set process or anything. I do consciously try not to force the issue. I’ve found whenever I do, I rarely like what comes out. Sometimes I’ll go many months without writing anything and then over a couple weeks I’ll write several songs. It can be kind of scary sometimes when those dry spells go for a really long time and I start to wonder whether the well has dried up, but so far so good. I just try to be cognizant of when things seem to be flowing right and let it take me wherever it goes.”

“But as far as the band is concerned, I’ll usually bring a skeleton of a song to the band, and we’ll put meat on the bones. Some songs will be more finished then others, I guess it just depends. From there we’ll piece things together. If a song needs a bridge or whatever, we’ll add another section as a group. There have been a couple tunes over the years that have been more of a collaborative band effort from the beginning, but I generally write most of the songs or at least the gist of the song and we’ll fill it out as a band.”

Photo by Zach Odishoo

Is there anything that gets your creative juices flowing?

“Nothing in particular, lots of different things. I’ve written songs based around funny comments my friends have made. Sometimes a book or a movie or another song will inspire me to write something. Probably most often though, my songwriting is how I work through things going on in my personal life or in the world at large. Certainly there were some darker moments during the pandemic where I was doing some soul searching that led to songs. Self-help with three part harmony. But I guess for me it’s more about just recognizing when those creative juices are flowing and rolling with it.”

“I am often inspired by other people’s artistic creations, whether they be audio, visual, or literature.”

“I think good art is like porn.”

What do you look for in a song?

“I heard a review on NPR years ago in which the reviewer said that she knew something was good when it made her feel like she was 15 again. I don’t even remember what the woman was reviewing but that always stuck with me. I don’t think that’s something I necessarily look for, but I think it’s largely correct. I think good art is like porn: it’s tough to define but you know it when you see (hear) it.”

Tell us a little bit about how you record.

“We’ve mostly recorded our last two albums at our home studio. We also recorded a few tracks from To The Ends of the Earth’ as well as piano overdubs, at Bias Studios in Northern Virginia. We had won some studio time there prior to the pandemic and were able to use it during a tour up that way last summer.”

“Generally, we track everything at home. We’ll start with the drums and build out from there. By the time we lay songs down, we’ve typically been performing them live for a while, or at least rehearsing them a lot, so most of the parts are already written by the time we record. But sometimes once we record things, we hear things we didn’t notice live and will make changes to parts/arrangements.”

“We did go into studios for the first two albums. For All Shook Up’ we recorded the album at home first so that we knew we had all the parts written and wouldn’t waste expensive studio time trying to figure out what to do. Then we went into the studio and knocked it all out in four days. But since then we’ve pretty much recorded everything at home.”

“We released our self-titled album ‘Thirsty Curses’ (2019) through a label called Spectra Music Group. We had a deadline for that one, so the whole process was pretty rushed. We released this most recent album independently, and were able to take our time recording it. I think we started tracking drums for the album in April 2021 and finalized the album in December. So we had a long time to sit with the songs and make changes to things along the way. We were also touring a lot last year, which I think helped make the album a lot stronger in a couple of ways. For one we were performing the new songs live a lot and getting to grow with them. It also gave us time to step away from the recordings and re-engage with them with fresh ears. We do outsource the mixing and mastering too. We’ve used a guy named Benjamin Jenkerson for our last two albums. I think it’s generally a good idea to get an outside perspective once you’ve spent so much time with recordings.”

Most of your your songs also have a music video. What can you tell me about your music videos?

“Our bass player Clayton is also our music video director. He’s always been really into film and visual art as well as music and I think he’s done an amazing job with our music videos. I personally think the video for ‘Bruises on Your Shoulders’ is a masterpiece. We filmed that music video during the pandemic. We also filmed the video for ‘Smash/Hit’ around the same time.”

“The ‘Nothing Really Matters’ one is actually a mash up of ‘One of These Days’ and ‘Nothing Really Matters’ from the new album. Those songs are the lightest and heaviest tunes from the new album, which I think does a good job showing the range and diversity of our material.”

What projects are you currently working on?

“We’ve been working on a music video for ‘Jenny’ built around a Bonnie and Clyde/Natural Born Killers type theme but starring puppets. We’re pretty close to finishing it, but it turned out to be a lot more time consuming than we initially thought it’d be. We filmed all the scenes in front of a green screen and then had to place the puppets into various scenes etc. There was a ton of pre-production work for Clay (storyboarding, building props, sets, shot selection, etc.) and post-production work for me. I’d say Clayton and I have easily each spent over 100 hours on it so far, if not more. We definitely didn’t think it would be as much work as it turned out to be, but we’re very happy with it and excited to release it soon.”

“We also have a music video in the works for ‘A Baptist and a Rabbi’. We’re supposed to shoot that next month.”

“I’ve also been pushing the others to start working on some new material. We recently put in a couple rehearsals solely dedicated to new songs. We’ve probably got enough new stuff kicking around now for another album, but we’ll probably wait until the end of the summer to start really focusing on new stuff.”

Where do you think you are all happiest – in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?

“Personally, I am happiest on stage. I enjoy recording too, but there’s something special about performing material live. I just feel the most in my element there. But I guess I am probably happiest in general when things are super busy with the band.”

Where do you see yourselves currently in your career?

“We feel like we’ve got a lot of good momentum. It’s taken us a few years to get much traction. There are so many talented bands and musicians out there, it can be tough to break through and get noticed at all. But we’ve tried to be persistent and just control what we can control. It certainly feels like it’s starting to pay off and that things are heading in the right direction. Ultimately, we’d like to do Thirsty Curses full time. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to do that.”

What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20 and why?

“‘Fake It’ by Bar II. I like the syncopated rhythm patterns. I think the vocal delivery is cool and unique too.”

What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?

“‘This is Not Who I Want to Be’ by Joanna Sternberg. I don’t even remember where I stumbled across it. It’s a bit of a bummer, but I love the raw earnestness to it.”

Thirsty Curses have released four albums: Holy Moly (2017), All Shook Up (2018), Thirsty Curses (2019) and To the Ends of the Earth (2022). If you’re “thirsty” for more information follow them on their socials:

Photo by Roth Gray

thirstycurses.com

Facebook

YouTube

Spotify

(Cover photo by Clayton Herring)

Published by leancool20

Drinks tea, not coffee. Usually dressed in black.

%d bloggers like this: