Quiet is the new loud for Thumper – until it comes to them.
“When we’re on tour, the main thing that’s getting played in the van is folk music at a really soft volume.” It’s an all or nothing world for Thumper. Between high energy gigs, they’re lying back listening to the gentle lullaby melodies of Big Thief. “I don’t see our music being totally different to that. It’s just louder.” Now on the cusp of getting back on the road, they’re anticipating being more than a louder version of an indie folk group.
Meeting in a bustling cafe in the centre of Dublin, lead singer and guitarist Oisin Leahy Furlong opts for some madeleines. Steam swirls up from coffee cups and groups of people shelter in George’s arcade as another Spring shower rains down. Bent over our mugs, we talk about the origins of Thumper and their transformation from stage destroyers to stage enjoyers.
Consisting of three guitarists, a bassist and two drummers, Thumper fill out stages physically and musically. Fast paced, the band’s rock is meaty. You can sink your head-banging self into their music packed with hearty guitar riffs and thundering drum beats. There’s a classic edge to their music. Their melodies are reminiscent of Foals and later The Maccabees. Their outrageous power is akin to the flourishing Fontaines D.C. and The Murder Capital.
Beginning as Furlong’s bedroom project, Thumper was born from the infamous problem of writer’s block: “As a student studying music, it demystified the whole process. It stopped the flow. All that learning and being surrounded by people much better than you, you suck it up and it takes a fair amount of time before you can use it. The point of the early Thumper EPs was I wrote them quickly, recorded them badly and put them out on an irrelevant format [tapes]. It really was a process of worming my way out of overcomplication and over-criticism that comes with writer’s block.”
With every cloud comes a silver line-up and Furlong found his kin in music college. For the singer, being on stage didn’t come naturally and the original group had 10 musicians. “The reason behind the size of the band was to get as many people surrounding me as possible; hiding amongst them. It was very ramshackled. Every gig would end in shit getting broken and endless unpalatable guitar solos and we loved it.”
What came from being a troublemaker on stage was a feeling of disconnect from the audience. “I started to grow weary of needing to tap into chaos to elicit that kind of reaction from an audience. I sort of felt like a dancing monkey in a circus, getting up on stage and having to be so theatrical about it. I wanted to get that reaction through musical means. We had to rethink how we could make it enjoyable both onstage as well as on a record. On our first EP (Out of Body Auto-Message), you can hear I still have one foot on either side of the line. I was afraid to let it be too polished, but I was still reaching for that.”
“When the lineup solidified, it was more controlled chaos. We asked ourselves how do we bottle that so that it’s a song that sounds amazing blown through a huge PA but also sounds amazing if I was to sing it to you on the piano? That was the goal.”
Whittling down the group from 10 down to six allowed Furlong to enjoy the process of collaboration as well as look forward to producing Thumper’s debut album, Delusions of Grandeur. “I came to realise I really enjoy the process of collaborating, and what you come up with together is a lot more interesting than what you would have come up with by yourself. It was a slow process of relinquishing control and working out a dynamic that works for us.”
Furlong leads the way lyrically with guitarist Alan Dooley being one with the console in the studio. “I’ll still arrange the whole song like I think it should be. Inevitably, it never ends up exactly like I imagined it being. Having Alan in the band now, the two of us are a funny match. He’s very detail oriented, very into perfectionism and I am very into the opposite of that. When you put those things together, it’s a lot of arguments but it’s also a lot of pulling each other back from our worst instincts.”
Recording their debut album happened naturally. After hitting the studio to initially record a single and B side, Thumper knuckled down and produced nine songs. Another session in the bag and they had the guts of Delusions of Grandeur. “It was fairly meat and potatoes. It was fairly stripped back and was an artefact of what we sounded like at that time. Come 2020 and a year of cancelled gigs, we put all of our energy into really fully baking this thing in every direction we could. It was a product of circumstance rather than design.”
Dialing back a chaotic instinct isn’t a mean feat. Delusions of Grandeur creates crests of striking rock that crash down and become hypnotic waves of repetitious tracks that stretch out for six and seven minutes at a time. “We do have a lot of long songs which is why we can’t get anything on the fucking radio. I guess we just enjoy it. I never thought about it as our thing until people started asking about it. We just go there. It’s sort of like dance music. It can be hypnotic for us and for the audience. It’s a nice shared experience.”
With album launches in Dublin and London, Thumper are chomping at the bit and are ready to be back on the road. “Come to our soundcheck, the PA is playing very soft ambient music. Keep it on a low simmer so we can conserve all our energy for when we’re on stage. Then we completely get rid of absolutely all of it and collapse off stage. I think we’ve gotten better at that balance over time, but really it’s such an inhuman way of living. Literally never being alone, absolutely crazy. Can’t wait for it.”
Every rockstar needs some downtime so it’s no surprise that their afternoons are filled with folk music to lead them into a night of pure riotous performance. There could come a time when all the calm ambient that follows them on their tour could have an effect. “Maybe the next Thumper album will be all harpsichord and tambourine. Watch out Bob Dylan.”
Delusions of Grandeur is out now via EMMS.
Thumper play Sea Sessions in the summer.
Words: Sophia McDonald
Photos: Ruth Medjber