The members of post-hardcore group Thursday are hoping there's some truth to the saying "lighting never strikes the same place twice."
Earlier this month, a bolt of lightning crashed into their tour van as Thursday drove through twisty Ohio roads on their way to a club gig. "It wasn't like a lightning flash, it was like a bomb went off," singer Geoff Rickly said. "It was orange all around and 'Boom!' The van pushed down really hard to the ground and then jumped up in the air. I didn't know what had happened. I thought we had driven over a cliff and we were on our way to fall back to the ground and explode."
Other motorists on the highway saw what happened and cleared out of the way to let the vehicle pull off the road.
"I was screaming and everyone else was screaming, and [drummer] Tucker [Rule], who was driving, was shouting, 'Shut up, shut up, shut up!' The rest of the guys in the band said it was like getting punched in the chest."
The panic, insecurity, pain and sudden trauma of a lightning strike parallels many of the sentiments on Thursday's new record, War All the Time, which is about the confrontational qualities of dysfunctional relationships.
"There's a war that you live every day when you have this type of interaction with people," Rickly said of the album, due September 16. "You have this friction and these different human interests going on, and things tend to explode sometimes. Plus, I think a title like War All the Time for a record about love seems to demonstrate what our band is about — that balance between violence and grace."
Though it doesn't officially go to radio until next month, the record's first single, "Signals Over the Air," is already getting airplay. The track starts with only drums and gradually gets dissonant as short, sharp chord fragments pierce minor-key acoustic strums. The song peaks with scrawling guitars over a pounding rhythm and climaxes with the melodic vocal "When you say my name/ I wanna stop it in your lungs and collect all your blood to put it on the radio."
The song is about Rickly's refusal to accept stereotypical notions of sexual identity. He chose to write the song about sex and gender issues because he noticed both were prevalent in the emo-punk community, yet other artists refuse to broach the subject.
"It's about everything from commercialized sexuality to sexual identity," Rickly said. "It's really stifling that nobody talks about the fact that there's all these sexuality issues. Hardcore kids are beating up on emo kids, and there are these indie-rock kids that are smaller and more feminine. All these tensions get whitewashed over, and I just wanted to talk about it."
While Thursday's music is aggressive and cathartic, the songs are filled with vulnerability that make them impact on a primal emotional level. Rickly sounds so uncertain and torn apart because he won't take life at face value and insists on delving below the surface to ascertain the ugly motivations for human behavior.
"I generally don't feel a great allegiance with masculinity," he said. "I turned on the 'Man Show' once, and I was like, 'This is what I'm supposed to be? This is how I'm supposed to feel about women? ... I don't believe this.' "
An equal opportunity skeptic, Rickly isn't just offended by the misogyny of male-oriented media, he's also affronted by women's reading material.
"I've seen so many of my girlfriends having fashion magazines out that have articles like 'Things to do to wrap a guy around your finger' and 'Ways that you can make your body presentable,' " he continued. "It just freaks me out, and it's all those things that make me have a hard time enjoying sex. And I want to. I think that sexuality is good and we should feel it. So that's why this song is talking about how scary sex can be."