Thumper: “The idea of every song is to be able to strip back to piano and a single voice and still give the meaning”

by James Hendicott
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Down and dirty Dublin rockers Thumper are, by their own admission, flying further than they ever thought they would.

Led by the charismatic Oisín Leahy, a frontman who started the band as a bedroom project before expanding it into a modern incarnation that includes two live drummers and a guitar setup that spends much of gigs in the crowd, they’ve become a touring rock juggernaut. Their aim, however, has always been to focus on quality as well as noise.

“I started Thumper because I was having crazy writer’s block, but I also fancied myself as a kind of bard, like everything I did had to be a seminal masterpiece,” Leahy said, his tongue planted slightly in his cheek. “I wanted to be poetic and meaningful. But as we all know, the harder we aim for that kind of thing, the worse it becomes.”

“Thumper were a process of writing and recording really immediate, lo-fi songs,” he explains. “At the time that was received really well in the scene, but it was one mic recorded over the weekend. After a while it was becoming obvious that the music had sent the project in a certain direction, and live gigs came along, so I started filling the stage with my friends. Eventually the line up solidified. It was low stakes, but by the time the band got together I was ready for it to be high stakes.”

“The lo-fi thing was a really good tool as it enabled me to go ‘this doesn’t matter’, but by that point I was ready for it to matter,” Leahy says.

Refer to the spectacle of Thumper’s live show – it’s a boisterous, madly energetic experience that goes relentlessly hard – and Leahy is immediately keen to talk about the other side of what he does.

“Ultimately for us, the most important part is the songcraft,” he says. “At the beginning it was purely intense without the material to back it up. It was chaos, smashing guitars and so on, but I felt like it never left a lasting expression, as the material was just an excuse to do that.”

“At a certain point, the songs had to justify the show, not the other way around. The album is not a case of bottling the live show. The circle of what we’re aiming for is getting smaller and smaller, more and more refined,” Leahy explains. “That said, now that people are on board with what we sound like, we don’t really want to stay with that,” he laughs.

“Last time, we made an album for ourselves, it was like our therapy session. We just want to live up to what feels right in the moment.” Leahy then points to a Daniel Johnson tattoo on his arm. “The song comes ahead of the aesthetic,” he continues. “Anyone who’s a fan of [Daniel] Johnson’s music will get over the lo-fi production. We want to be able to go out with an acoustic guitar and do the same thing. That’s the goal of every single song we have, to be able to strip back to piano and a single voice and still give the meaning.”

“We’re working on the second album, and we’re definitely very excited to jump into the studio and work on that. It’s stuff we’ve written together, unlike the first album. We’re all friends making music, and that’s always a positive. [Debut album] ‘Delusions of Grandeur’ was very self indulgent, with a lot of punk emotion in it. All we wanted to do was be maximalist. The one we’re working on at the moment is basically a reaction to that.”

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