Dustin Kensrue's acoustic strums seem like a good soundtrack to the lively and carefree party that is the US Open of Surfing. The Huntington Beach pier and Pacific Ocean waves framed Kensrue's performance perfectly Friday afternoon and his music just seemed to fit.
However, those who took the time to step away from the hustle of the crowds and sit on a grass hill heard a more somber side of his songs that the casual passerby might have missed. He sang of heroin, broken women and a prodigal son through a deep, soulful voice.
Through these tough lyrics a beauty shined through, as is often the case in folk music. "There's something about it that people can really relate to," Kensrue said of folk. "[It's] the music of the people." He's most known for his work as the singer and lyricist of Irvine's Thrice. In 2006 he released a solo album comprised of nine acoustic-driven songs carried by the weight of lyrics than Thrice's strong melodies.
Kensrue sat down with The Weekly after his performance on the Pac Sun stage. Read more from our interview, and check out a video of a new Thrice song, after the jump.
Kensrue noted folk and alt-country's upward trend today. "It comes in waves," he said. "There's a reaction to over-processed sounds; everything's fast and big, robotic. You loose that realism that people really gravitate to." Kensrue's solo work and acoustic renditions of Thrice songs allow that lyrical realism to shine through strong and clear.
Fans and reporters alike often ask when he will release follow up to the solo album, Please Come Home, released five years ago. Kensrue assured the crowd during his set that it's not for lack of want. "Sorry for not putting out another solo album for quite some time," he told them. "It will happen. There's only so many hours in the day." In our interview he offered the same assurance. "There are some songs in the pipeline but it's all about finding the time," he said. "I think there will be more instruments than last time. Maybe some keys, there was hardly any electric on that whole album."
For Kensrue, solo work is all about enjoyment: "There's more elasticity in the way you can play songs on the fly. You can bring it up you can take it low. It's hard to do that with a full band unless you're Phish and you have a little pop mic or something," he said.
He doesn't mind blurring the lines between his band and his solo music due to the fact that he creates and relates to the lyrics of both musical entities. Kensrue often incorporates acoustic versions of Thrice songs into his sets for those who were originally Thrice fans. "Some of the songs translate really well. so I have no problem playing them," he said.
He told the audience Thrice was in the studio this summer recording the new album Major/Minor. Then he unveiled a never-performed-before song, "Anthology," from the forthcoming album. (View the video below.) "[Major/Minor is] a lot bigger sounding than Beggars," he said. "It's stripped down production-wise so it's still pretty raw. It's bigger and nastier. It's got this '90s indie grunge sort of feel that came out of nowhere." He ventured to say that it might be the most focused album yet. "There's a lot of cohesion to the vibe of it and it's not as varied as some of our others."
Major/Minor will be released in September and Kensrue said he hopes to get into the studio for that elusive follow-up album to Please Come Home next year.
Thrice's "Anthology" (Acoustic):
Knew You Before
In Exile (Thrice)
Blood and Wine
Please Come Home
Consider the Ravens
Anthology (never played before new Thrice song)
Stare at the Sun (Thrice)
Down There by the Train (Tom Waits cover)
Critic's Bias: I have a soft spot for "I Knew You Before" because the first time I heard it my boyfriend played it for me on our first date. Sappy but true.
The Crowd: Swimsuit clad young men and women. Judging by the amount of Thrice requests yelled out and T-shirts there were plenty of Thrice fans in the crowd.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I'm surprised this music attracts young people. It's great."
Random Notebook Dump: Kensrue stayed after his set for just under an hour talking and taking pictures with fans.