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Thick Are Fun, Chaotic Brooklyn Punks With A Strategy

The trio scream it like it is, pushing against the genre's 'really homophobic, really racist, super sexist' history

“You’re a bitch if you’re angry,” Brooklyn punk band Thick sneer on “Something Went Wrong,” the closing track from their latest, second album Happy Now. The track is an acidic, pissed-off reflection on the everyday fears and judgments the band — vocalist/guitarist Nikki Sisti, vocalist/bassist Kate Black, and vocalist/drummer Shari Page — face as women. That particular line leads them to reflect on two years ago, when they released “Mansplain,” a two-minute stampede hitting back at the patronizing assumptions men often make of women in bands. After, of course, they were bombarded with misogynistic YouTube comments.

“It’s kind of fascinating to see that people have such a negative reaction to something that isn’t meant to be aggressive. It’s meant to share a perspective that a lot of other people share,” says Black, joining the rest of the band on a Zoom call with MTV News. “A lot of early punk is really homophobic, really racist, super sexist. So I think a lot of the people who cling onto that era have a hard time with us pushing new boundaries. But I’m happy we’re doing it.”

Thick don’t shy away from anger or any other emotion, either; the themes on Happy Now range from rage, to self-loathing, to thankfulness, to fear, to hope. They don’t deal in two-dimensional punk. They reject the genre’s typical nihilism, while also rejecting sexist expectations for their emotions to be comfortable. “In the beginning of Thick, it was intended to be more happy-go-lucky, [but it] has become more honest about the harder feelings to deal with,” says Black.

“We’re figuring out how to use our voice even more,” adds Page. “The more you get to know yourself, it falls into place.”

The trio grew up in love with punk [and punk-inspired] bands like Blink-182, Bad Religion, and Taking Back Sunday. In 2014, Sisti formed Thick via a Craigslist ad titled “Two Girls, One Drummer”; “must wanna party,” it mandated. Once Page came on board, the pair recruited Black after seeing her crowdsurfing at every show they attended in Brooklyn. “It was just drunk fun,” Sisti remembers of their beginnings. “I didn’t know what an EP was, I didn’t know what a producer was. But when Kate joined the band, she was like, ‘You can be fun and chaotic and actually have a strategy.’”

The band’s ambition grew after being inspired by Philadelphia punk rockers Mannequin Pussy, says Sisti. “[MP frontwoman Missy Dabice] is such a presence, such a big energy. I remember catching her at a show years ago and being like, whoa, she can do this?” As they embarked on their journey as Thick, they found a thriving home in Brooklyn’s 2010s DIY punk scene alongside bands like Surfbort and Diet Cig. “It was so beautiful, and it really shaped everything we did,” Sisti says. Adds Black, “It was welcoming. It was protective. It was a place [where] I wasn’t scared to express myself, onstage or offstage.”

In the years since, the trio have signed to punk mainstay Epitaph Records and played large venues across the country with artists like Alkaline Trio and Violent Femmes. The writing process for Happy Now began during the pandemic, while life was on pause; the band used that quieter time to look back at past relationships and traumas, things that still needed to be processed but had been too fresh before. “[It’s about] growing from the past, which I really like. Not being stuck on it, but releasing it, which is really beautiful,” says Sisti.

Tracks like “I Wish 2016 Never Happened” and “Your Garden” deal with the effects of harm after a relationship’s end, and the anger that comes with reflecting on it. It was important to Sisti, who says she has a hard time expressing anger in her day-to-day life, to be able to channel those feelings within Thick. “Anger freaks me out, so I minimize a lot. But when I play Thick music, that’s the only time I feel like I can release anger in a way that is acceptable,” she says. “I think anger onstage is so empowering. I love watching women onstage being pissed off. But also, it’s like a mixture of anger with happiness. ‘Cause we’re onstage smiling like, ‘fuck you!’” Meanwhile, songs like “Her Chapstick” and “Maybe Tomorrow” are vulnerable, sad encapsulations of feeling stuck and lost. But ultimately, there’s a core of hope and resilience to the album. “Bruises heal, so have I,sings Sisti on “Your Garden,” and “I’m fighting for a change / Take it day by day,” on “Wants & Needs”; “It will be alright and we’ll get past this / It’s just a part of life,” Black affirms on “Tell Myself.”

“It’s about looking at the past and not minimizing it, but accepting it and learning to grow from it. It’s about giving yourself the love and patience to get through the things in your life,” says Black. The album’s title, Happy Now, refers to the idea of constant change and transience. Happiness comes and goes, says Sisti, and accepting each moment as it comes has been key to riding the waves. “Hiding behind optimism’s really toxic and I don’t think actually gets you anywhere,” says Sisti. “I love the idea that happiness is a constant ebb and flow. Maybe we’re happy now, maybe in two months we’ll be freaking miserable, and that’s OK.”

The support and friendship between the band members is key to unlocking the level of vulnerability and truth they reach on this album, the trio explain. On one recent tour drive from their practice space in Brooklyn to Myrtle Beach, instead of throwing on some music, they just talked for 72 hours straight. “We’re all BFFs,” confirms Sisti. “We do a lot of band check-ins, a lot of shared processing sessions in addition to our music writing,” adds Black.

Now that the album is out in the world, Thick aim to recreate that safe space on a wider level, via their shows and the community they build through their fan base. “A lot of people and their perspectives have historically been left out of punk music,” says Black. “So a big part of it is being able to share something that people can look at and see themselves in. We have little kids coming to our shows every once in a while, and getting to play music in front of a 10-year-old who’s trying to figure out who they are is exceptional, because it gives them another option that’s different from what had been presented before.”

“I always see Thick as like, I could scroll through my phone, and this music is for everyone in my phone book,” Page sums up. “We want everyone to take something from it.”