Interview with drummer/singer Shari Page, singer/bassist/guitarist Kate Black, and singer/guitarist Nikki Sisti
By Gen Handley
Of all the music meccas that exist across the globe, none have been as influential as the city of New York – particularly when it comes to punk rock. Since the late ’60s, the Big Apple has been fertile ground for punk, producing countless sub-genres and sub-scenes, all rooted to pioneers like the New York Dolls, the Ramones, and Patti Smith, in a labyrinthian, non-linear way. To this day, New York consistently makes it mark on the scene with waves of bands, good and bad, flowing out of its many gritty bars and stages. One of the most recent and promising of these artists is THICK, an energetic, opinionated trio who, after three well-received EPs, are releasing their first full-length, 5 Years Behind, on March 6, via Epitaph Records.
How’s it going guys?
Shari Page (drums, vocals): Hey!
Kate Black (vocalist, bassist, and guitarist): Hi – we’re just waiting for Nikki to join us.
[About five minutes pass]
Want to get started? So, what’s it like being a New York band right now? Is there a typical sound?
Black: I don’t think there is right now, which is kind of fascinating. Just because I think New York has been a hotbed for music scenes, and a specific sound or vibe that comes with it. But it seems to have spread so much over the years that I don’t know if could listen to a band and clearly say that it’s from New York – the same way I can with a band from like Philly or Southern California. It’s kind of funny, we’re told we sound more like a California band than a New York band. But with New York bands, there’s a little bit of grit that always comes with them, which we have.
Page: Also, I’m from Long Island, and I grew up with a lot of pop punk and emo bands – a lot of that nostalgia comes into our music and definitely influences our music. We all grew up listening to a lot of those kinds of bands.
Pretty excited to be releasing your first full-length?
Black: Oh my god – so excited. I can’t wait. It feels like it’s been so long in the making, even though I guess we recorded it in September and October, so it wasn’t even that long ago. We’re really excited, and we did a lot of writing for this one. I’m ready for it to be out in the world. It feels like being nine months pregnant [laughs].
Page: To be able to put three songs out is pretty exciting, but to put out a full-length record is amazing. I always wondered if I would play at that venue, or if we would ever be able to record an album. So, to be at a point where we’re doing a full-length is just so exciting and surreal.
Black: Yeah. It’s always been a dream of mine to put my music on vinyl. We’ve put out tapes and we’ve put out CDs, but to have a vinyl record in your hands is a whole other beast, and it’s really exciting.
And you’re releasing it on the legendary Epitaph, no less…
Black: Yeah, it’s incredible. All of my favorite bands… the formative bands when I was beginning to explore punk music, so many of them were Epitaph bands. Bad Religion first showed me that you could be punk while being political and smart with your lyrics. It’s kind of crazy when you’re looking at their artist roster and you’re like, “holy crap, I’m now among those artists.”
Page: When I was a teenager, Epitaph was always my dream label. I would listen to a ton of bands on there. It’s such a dream ’cause they have so many iconic punk bands that put records out on there.
What’s the story behind the album title?
Black: Well, it’s the name of the lead single we just put out, but it was something that kind of resonated with all three of us, in terms of always feeling like a late bloomer in life. Where you’re constantly comparing yourself to the expectations you set up for yourself when you were younger, or the expectations that were set up by parents or society. The song kind of encapsulates feeling a little bit behind everything else in your life, and just feeling that pressure to catch up.
Is this album representative of catching up, in a way?
Page: It’s not necessarily about catching up or going backwards – it’s really about doing, in the moment, what feels right. A lot of the songs are very current and relatable. Even one of mom’s friends told me that song was so relatable [laughs]. So many things happen at different ages for everyone, but in bands it is hard because you do feel like you’re behind what’s going on.
Black: I was going to say, I don’t think this record is so much about catching up as it is about recognizing where we are and being more appreciative of it. Because, at the end of the day, all the goals and checkmarks in life are designed – they’re not real. As long as you feel a sense of personal growth, those are the things you should be concentrating on… not checking these boxes [that] you or somebody else created for you.
Everyone has their own path.
Black: Yeah – a hundred percent. And it’s OK if your path doesn’t match everyone around you.
That’s a pretty strong message.
Black: Yeah. I think it’s more celebratory, though. This album definitely has political undertones, and we’re very vocal about our frustrations. But at the end of the day, it’s all meant to be viewed through a hopeful and grounding vibe. We’re all in it together, and there’s a lot of stuff worth celebrating – it’s important to keep that in mind.
What struck me is how it’s a very political record while being hopeful at the same time. Given the current political climate in the U.S., how do you reconcile those two very different themes in your music?
Page: With humor. The song, “Fake News,” which we all wrote, has a sense of humor. It’s about not necessarily battling something with a negative tone to it. We’re offering an opinion of what’s going on and finding a little bit of humor in it. Growing up, watching the news, it would always really scare me. And, even now, watching the news still really scares me.
Black: Our next single, “Bumming Me Out,” is about feeling so overwhelmed and inundated with the news, with people, with everything that’s going on. It’s impossible, if you’re an empathic person, to exist in the world right now, because the more you look at your phone, the more you’re getting news alerts… everything seems to be doomsday. It’s definitely a struggle to keep your head held high, but it’s important to try. At the end of the day, there’s only so much you can control, and it’s worth focusing your efforts on some of those things.
I mean, talk to your friends about it – everyone’s feeling this way. Not everybody, but a lot of people are feeling this way. I think there is something to be said about verbalizing it, which was another thing we learned on this album. We learned that being able to speak about these things going on inside our heads isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of power.
So, was this album therapeutic for you guys?
Black: I definitely think so. Shari, what do you think?
Page: Definitely. Not to give the cheesy, typical response, but music helps you heal. I can personally relate to every song on this album. They’re songs that make you feel happy, but at the same time emotional. The song, “Won’t Back Down,” I think there’s such a sense of emotion to it. I think the album makes people feel at home because of everything going on.
Black: Shari, I love that. I want people to feel at home with our album – that’s so sweet. “Come on into our living room… come have a slumber party with us” [laughs]. I just love the idea that –
Nikki Sisti (guitar, vocals): Hi guys. Sorry, I was in a meeting that overran, and it’s been a crazy day.
No worries. My next question is a cliché one. What do you hope listeners get from this album?
Black: We want people to feel energized, making them feel like they can take on the world. Despite all of the barriers and despite all of the bad news, it’s worth fighting for.
You want to empower your listeners.
Sisti: Yeah, that’s what it’s all about. Shit happens, and you just got to power through it with your friends.
You’re becoming known for your live shows. What sets a THICK performance apart from your contemporaries?
Sisti: It’s just genuine fun and really energetic. We go wild – we headbang, we jump around… it really is genuine energy. I think if you come to our shows, you see that we’re really having fun and enjoying ourselves. Sometimes it’s a little raw, but we embrace it, and don’t put ourselves on a pedestal. When we play, we want people to feel like they’re part of the experience. We don’t want to be intimidating… we want people to leave feeling like, “I can do this!” and inspired to start their own projects.
Black: The energy radiates, and it bounces back and forth between the band and the crowd. And to Nikki’s point, we’re just having so much fun – playing a show with my two best friends is my favorite thing to do. I think we’re really good at building a community and a relationship with people who attend our shows.