We’re excited to premiere and exclusively stream Thanks Light’s latest full length release, Psychonauts ahead of its official release tomorrow. Listen below and head over here to download the album tomorrow!
All from Central Texas but living in Austin, Thanks Light is made up of Zane Ruttenberg (guitar, vocals), Foster Farmer (bass), Glenn-Michael Frels (moog, synthesizer, piano), and Paul Wataha (drums). On their fourth full-length release, Thanks Light has developed a quick-paced weirdo rock sound, balancing soul and contempt. There are glimpses of At-The-Drive-In, Modest Mouse, and Howlin’ Wolf in one, cohesive record. Combining catchy and chaotic, “Psychonauts” somehow effortlessly devolves into tumultuous harmony.
What makes Psychonauts different than your previous three albums?
Zane: Psychonauts is the first record that I feel like we really worked on as a group. The previous Thanks Light records had been more solo efforts by myself with the exception of “& the Hallucinations”, which the entire band worked on together to record and arrange the music for. However, during the tracking of “& the Hallucination” we had a lot of lineup changes, which kept us from reproducing the record exactly as it had been recorded into a live setting. Also, “Psychonauts” was the first record where someone else beside the band produced the album. When we were ready to start tracking “Psychonauts”, I reached out to my old buddy Will Patterson, of the band Sleep Good, to see if he was interested. He had been producing bands out in Coupland, Texas in this huge dance hall (around 90 ft. long X 30 ft. wide X 25 ft. high) and had been making really great sounding records out there. The result was the awesome and spacious tones forever bottled in “Psychonauts”. We were all about capturing the massive tone of that room in the album. Where most bands want to record in a deadened room and add effects later, we wanted to capture the character of the room, to give the album a unique voice. We didn’t know at the time, but this ended up being the last record Will produced in this space before re-locating to his current Austin recording studio.
What went into the creative process this time around?
Zane: We rehearsed in our workshop under the Moontower for a while before going into the studio with Will. We usually do that because I’ve recently been all about live-tracking the instrumentation for our albums, then overlaying vocals and all the additional instruments and percussion. Live-tracking is when a whole band is mic’d while they play their songs live, giving the songs a more “locked-in” feeling, while cutting down on production time. We thought about live-tracking onto tape, but ended up live-tracking to digital, then bouncing select tracks out onto tape to saturate them. This gave us more control over which things we wanted to sound “fuzzier”.
How has the dynamic changed since Thanks Light transitioned into a collaborative project?
Zane: It’s been really nice to have 3 like-minded musicians to bounce ideas off of and hear their input on new songs and ideas. It used to be me recording songs into the box (computer or tape machine) and now, having collaborators that can work on the song in a room with their own ideas and personalities, has definitely strengthened the creative process. Thanks Light started off years ago as a solo project, but unfolded into a full-blown band with four solid members. I’ve always believed in a team effort with collaboration and I feel like bringing in Foster, Glenn-Michael and Paul into the process has created better songs and a more honed sound overall.
Tell us a little bit about the music video for “Family Jewels”.
Zane: Well, first off, it was insanely fun to shoot (no sarcasm). This was shot in a hot, sweaty warehouse, in the middle of summer, with no AC, in central Texas. This was actually shot on my birthday, which I was glad to oblige to. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my birthday than to drink beer and flip tables covered in board games with my pals. The camera work was done by my good friend Bob Peck of Mind Heart Lens, who is typically creating independent, conscious documentaries. I convinced him to lend his talents to a rock band for a night and good times were had.
Why did you pick “Family Jewels” for the music video?
Zane: We had a number of concepts for music videos written up before the release of the album. We knew we wanted to shoot a music video to promote the record, but we wanted to choose the best concept with one of the stronger songs. We all agreed that the “table flipping” concept would be the most fun to shoot and watch, and that “Family Jewels” best suited the ideas we were tossing around (no pun intended).
This being your second release this year, I know you’re staying busy. What do you have in the works for the future?
Zane: We released “Hallelujah, Amen” last May, however, I consider that record as more of an “archival” album. I had been working on this huge double disc record for years (“Hallelujah, Amen”) and the guys had since joined the band and we had started working on “Psychonauts”. Over the past few years I’d been wrapping up all the small leftover parts on “Hallelujah, Amen” and finally, we released it as a single-disc album with 11 songs and 3 hidden songs on Enjoy Ears Records. We got it out there as soon as possible so I could finally have a sigh of relief from the massive undertaking and focus all of my energy on “Psychonauts”. I sort of consider the songs in “Hallelujah, Amen” to be more pretty, calm and florid, whereas I feel like the songs in “Psychonauts” are wild, heavy and unruly. I love juxtapositions, they always somehow work their way into Thanks Light’s music in some form or another… As far as the future goes… We’re hoping to see some positive response from “Psychonauts”, hopefully enough to warrant a small tour of the US in a few months. We’re also rehearsing our next LP that will be in the same vein as “Psychonauts” sonically, which were hoping to release next year. There’s talk of some music videos too, but we’re mainly focused right now on making sure “Psychonauts” gets the attention it deserves, given we’ve worked so hard on this record as a team.
Album artwork & Polaroid photographs by Zane Ruttenberg
Live photography by Manuel Gomez
Music video by Bob Peck of Mind Heart Lens