Dustin Kensrue hasn't been getting much sleep lately. The release of his debut solo album, Please Come Home, is right around the corner, and his month-old daughter has been doing her best to keep him up too. Oh, and there's that little project he's been working on with Thrice, the band he's fronted since 1998: 25 songs, spread across four CDs that are collectively tentatively titled The Elements.
Thrice, Kensrue said, are about halfway through the writing and recording of The Elements, which is bound to be one of the most ambitious studio efforts in recent memory, even more ostentatious than the band's last offering, 2005's tough-to-pronounce Vheissu (see "Double Double Album — Thrice To Spread Next LP Over Four Discs").
"It's definitely a daunting task, and I think we're starting to realize that now, since we're not in the beginning phases anymore," said Kensrue. "It's a lot of fun and a serious challenge for us, which is what we're always looking for."
So far, fans and friends have been responding well to the new material, which the band has previewed here and there during live gigs.
"People who liked Vheissu — and people who didn't — seem to like these songs, but I'm not sure that will play out for the entire project," he said. "This record's different than what would have been just the next Thrice record, being it has these themes that we're trying to hit. It allows for things that wouldn't have happened on an old Thrice record. We have this one song that's sort of a bluesy jazz standard, and there wouldn't have been space for something like that on any of our other records. But we have the freedom to do it here, and it fits."
Thrice are self-producing the four albums, which are each around 30 minutes long. For now, they've been tentatively named Earth, Air, Water and Fire, and the band hopes to release them by year's end.
The band is toying with the idea of releasing the four albums in pairs, with just a few months in between. And for the first time in Thrice's history, they're recording and writing simultaneously, recording cuts in environments Kensrue feels are more conducive to the creative process than another bleak studio with no windows. The mostly acoustic Earth, for instance, which is in the proverbial bag, was recorded in a house with wooden floors. Look for that disc to include the tracks "Digging My Own Grave" and "Come All You Weary."
Air, Kensrue says, is about 75 percent done and will feature the song "As the Crow Flies," while Water, which will boast the tune "Open Water," is halfway finished. Fire, with the cut "Fire Breather," is in the beginning stages. All song titles might change before the albums land in stores.
Kensrue says that he wouldn't call the four discs conceptual. "There's no specific story or concept happening here," he said. "With the lyrics, I haven't been too strict in having it tied directly in. Like for Earth, I didn't just throw the word 'dirt' into my lyrics. I am trying to write things that fit the albums' general vibe."
Because the singer is preoccupied by Thrice at the moment, he has no immediate plans to tour around the release of Please Come Home, which lands in stores January 23 and will include the tracks "I Knew You Before," "Pistol," "I Believe," "Consider the Ravens" and "Blanket of Ghosts." But he will appear on "Late Show With David Letterman" on February 2.
"I have no idea what people are going to think of it," he said of his solo LP. "It seems the feedback's been very positive, which is encouraging. But people may be turned off to it because it won't be what they are familiar with. But the songs are strong, so I'm not too too worried about it. It's something I had to do. I have been wanting to do this for a while."