When Brooklyn punk trio THICK released their cathartic ripper of a track, ‘Mansplain’, back in February 2020, they had no idea just how intense the reaction would be. “I must be in a bubble,” laughs guitarist and vocalist Nikki Sisti, “because I just thought it was a funny, relatable song, but holy crap, people ripped us a new one!”
A witty response to men who undermine women, particularly women in music, ‘Mansplain’ is a quickfire blast of riotous punk rock that sees THICK sarcastically kickback with lyrics such as, “Thanks for explaining how to play guitar, if it wasn’t for your help, we wouldn’t get this far.”
“It was interesting to us because while we’re calling out the act of mansplaining, there isn’t anything that’s necessarily sexist or anti-man, but a famous right-wing figure in the UK picked up the song and within the first 24 hours, we had like 1500 negative comments on our YouTube from these men coming to troll us,” adds bassist and vocalist Kate Black.
“They were telling us that our experiences were made up, that women should keep their mouths shut. They started commenting on our appearance, saying our voices are terrible and the song is only three chords – erm, hello, have you ever listened to punk music because that’s what it is?” sighs Kate. “Also, it’s a parody! Even the whole tone of the song is a parody of itself and of a genre.”
THICK’s ethos of facing things head-on and their ability to tackle the negative subjects that exasperate them and still turn them into wildly joyous sounding anthems is what makes them such an irresistible prospect. Their wicked sense of humour helps too.
Initially formed through an advert Nikki placed on Craigslist, it was the interesting title that caught drummer and vocalist Shari Page’s attention. “I put an ad on Craigslist to find people to join me in a band that would kind of sound like Blink 182 meets Best Coast. Back then, the whole premise was that I just wanted to party and have fun, and I used the title ‘2 Girls 1 Drummer’,” giggles Nikki.
Without going into too much detail, the title was a cheeky nod to a rather controversial ‘adult’ video that broke the internet back in 2007, but it ended up bringing Nikki and Shari together. “We met Kate in the air!” adds Shari. “Kate was always crowd-surfing at our shows, and we knew she played bass, so when we needed a new bassist, we knew she’d be the right fit.”
“That’s how THICK was really born,” adds Nikki. “Kate’s amazing at putting stuff together, so she grounded us – we were a hot mess before she joined.”
One of the other things that makes THICK so refreshing is that they’re all in their early thirties: of course age shouldn’t matter, but unfortunately it still does, particularly in the music industry and particularly for women.
“I’ve had a lot of negative experiences dealing with age in music; I was embarrassed by my age and used to try and hide it,” recalls Nikki. “But I feel like we’re in an era where we’re reclaiming age, so it’s actually inspiring to meet young girls who are like, ‘You’re 33 and still doing this and kicking ass?!'”
“A lot of positive and negative life experience comes from age,” adds Kate, “especially with the way music is now, you have to stick it out because unless you have a leg up already it’s so hard to get anywhere quickly. There’s no such thing as being discovered overnight anymore; that’s just not a reality. But it’s also been cool as we’re all getting older together, and a lot of us started playing together when we were younger. Everyone is still doing well because we all stuck with it.”
That common feeling that often comes with getting older, of being behind your peers and not meeting society’s expectations of adulthood, is something that THICK addressed in a brutally honest manner with their debut album ‘Five Years Behind,’ released in 2020 on legendary label Epitaph. With their second release, ‘Happy Now’, the band attempt to move on from these feelings by accepting imperfection and learning to grow from their experiences.
“‘Five Years Behind’ was kind of the box we contain ourselves in: we’re five years behind all of these expectations, but we’re almost enforcing our own rules and being part of the problem,” sums up Nikki. “‘Happy Now’ is the shattering of that box and accepting where we’re at and the pain we’ve gone through. It’s not about toxic positivity or forced happiness; it’s recognising that we’re trying to learn from these emotions.”
With ‘Happy Now,’ THICK take these feelings and turn them into exhilarating anthems of hope. Lead single ‘Loser’ is the perfect example, as the band reclaim the put-down and cheerfully sing, “I’ll never be a winner, I love when people tell me I should quit.”
“Regardless of what we’re talking about in our music, there’s always a glimmer of hope and a silver lining,” says Kate.
Elsewhere on ‘Happy Now’, the band get confessional: Nikki describes a lot of the album as being “their LiveJournal,” having been written during the pandemic where they had time to sit down and process past feelings and bad relationships. For Kate, this resulted in the grungy, 90s-esque ‘Your Garden’, which details a painful relationship that led her to question her self-worth. “While it happened over ten years ago, it’s basically taken me that time to be able to write about it. The tone of the song isn’t painful or depressing, but it feels good to have that out of my body and living in the world.”
For Nikki, catharsis came in the form of ‘I Wish 2016 Never Happened.’ “Whenever I play it live, it feels so good to yell and be angry and have the space for that feeling that I’d had in my body for so long; it’s almost like I’m releasing myself from the blame I put on myself.”
For THICK, these songs truly come to life when played live, something the band are no strangers to, having previously been crowned ‘New York City’s Hardest Working Band’ by Oh My Rockness website. “Sometimes we’d play every day,” recalls Shari. “We played every little DIY spot and no one cared if you’d played the day before, because it was about community not ticket sales. At the time, I was opening at a coffee shop, and later on, I’d drink a Red Bull and drink coffee after coffee. The next day, I’d get up and do it all over again. Kate would stay up and go straight to her office! It was a blast.”
Now the band are getting ready to head back out on the road for a headline tour, having recently completed a tour with The Chats and Mean Jeans, as well as joining the line-up of the infamous Flogging Molly ‘Salty Dog Cruise.’ “It was a booze cruise!” laughs Shari. “It’s basically a moving festival that you’re trapped in and can’t escape,” adds Kate. “Shari partied too hard and passed out one day. Then we partied in the medic wing – I don’t know how they tolerated us!”
Taken from the September issue of Upset. THICK’s album ‘Happy Now’ is out 19th August.