Brooklyn's THICK On Their New Self-Titled EP
Leaving this interview, I felt energized, like I’d just spent an hour catching up with old friends. Even though I had never met any of the members of the Brooklyn punk band THICK before, there’s an ineffable warmth and openness to everything they do. This explains why they’ve been able to build up a solid and dedicated fanbase beyond the borders of Kings County. From a friend at a recent show excitedly exclaiming that it was his “sixth time this year” seeing the band live, to another friend in Indianapolis fawning over how great they are, THICK’s brand of honest songwriting and “we’re all in this together”-ness is inspiring.
I dare you to hear “Wasting My Time” and not sing along: “You’re leaving, and I’m feeling a bit down. All that I wanted was for you to stick around.”
The band—made up of Nikki Sisti, Shari Page, and Kate Black—exists as a unit, both on stage and in person; they finish each other’s sentences, interrupt each other, and quarrel about album lengths and True Detective. This isn’t to say they dont take their work seriously, but they make everything they do seem effortless and endlessly fun. I tried my best to capture the energy in that space, and I implore you to read this as casually and comfortably as you can imagine we were: sitting in a well used Bushwick practice space, eating bagels and shooting the shit.
Are you pretty bummed you won’t be able to play Warped Tour? [Warped Tour ended in 2018.]
S: I grew up with, or I guess maybe we all did, with “Warped Tour culture.” You read about all those bands like Less Than Jake, etc. ...
N: I’m just more disappointed we didn’t try to get on it. I didn’t think we could do it.
S: I tried to really look up people’s emails and usually I can stalk people online, in like a business way, and find emails.
K: Scary Shari.
S: It was hard to find who was really running it, who to get in touch with. It was one of those things where it’d be really cool to do that, but it would’ve been really cool to do that in, like, ’99, and we were, like—I don’t know, too young, we weren’t playing music.
N: ’99, oh my god.
S: That’s, like, the iconic year of Warped Tour.
Back when everyone was paying attention, right? Right before it became mallcore?
K: That is such a good term!
N: I’ve never heard of mallcore.
K: Go to Hot Topic at the mall.
S: I was a mall rat in high school.
K: Oh god, you would be.
N: I’d sneak into Spencer’s.
K: That’s hilarious. But I think the one cool thing about Warped Tour too was that they had the Shiragirl stage, so they started putting on a women’s stage, I think, before anyone really did that.
N: Did they?
K: Yeah I don’t know when that started, but it was definitely something—
N: Were you a Warped Tour person, Kate?
K: No, I never went.
N: Oh, you were anti-Warped Tour.
S: Did you go?
N: Of course! I was a high school freshman, 2004. All my stuff got stolen when I was there. I got all the autographs, all the pictures on the disposable cameras. I thought it was a good idea to put it all in my bag. We’re like, “Oh, we’re gonna go watch Sugarcult.”
K: Oh my god! I forgot about Sugarcult.
N: But I don’t wanna have to carry my bag, so we hid it somewhere behind our tent and we came back some time around 6 p.m., and our tent was gone. The whole entire tent was gone. We cried so hard. I called customer service and the people sent me to Lost and Found and it wasn’t my stuff, it was someone else’s stuff.
Did you keep it?
N: Of course. I was like “This is fine, I guess,” it had a couple CDs. We also went with our dads; our dads drove us there. And when they drove us they were blasting Michael Jackson in the car to embarrass us. ‘Cause, ya know, we’re in traffic and all of these cool punks are around, and I was like, “Dad, are you kidding me?”
K: I love that.
N: We didn’t think it was cool back then. We were, like, 14.
So the band just recorded, right? How did it go?
K: It was so fun.
N: It was amazing.
Is this for a whole album? Or an EP?
K: It’s 3 songs.
N: And we’ll be doing a full album eventually.
K: This year. Definitely, I think, yeah?
K: It’s only February, so we’ve got time.
It is only February; it feels like it’s been so long, though.
S: It feels like the super start of the new year.
You all remarked in an earlier interview that you had been working your butts off for 2.5 years. Comparing where you are at now to where you started, could you break down that trajectory for me?
N: We were just drunk when we started.
S: We just kept going.
N: We literally just partied. We had so much fun, we just played shows for nobody. We had a show where zero people were there and we had so much fun.
K: Baby’s All Right used to do brunch shows, and we were asked to jump on one literally two days before the show. So we had no notice, no time to tell people we were playing. It was at noon at Baby’s and we were all excited. And we were playing with a band from out of town—
K: Sugar Candy Mountain? But it was so funny ‘cause we were all like “Yeah! Cool! We get to play at Baby’s!” and I think we put two friends on the guest list, and the only other people there were the other band.
N: So yeah, it’s definitely been a positive trajectory since then.
S: You get your avocado toast, you get your Bloody Mary, and then—
K: And then you play to no people.
“you get your avocado toast, you get your bloody mary, and then—”
“and then you play to no people.”
N: It’s been cool, ‘cause we’ve actually taken time off from playing. We used to play at least three times, four times a month. Every week.
K: The first first year in this band, we played 73 shows. And only four of those were out of town. So last year we flipped the proportion a little and we cut it all the way back to, like, 62 or something? But 20 of them were out of town. So we’re playing a little less in New York and more in other places.
N: We’re just taking more time to write and it feels so good. We can play one show a month and spend weekends writing. That’s been cool. It’s still a lot of work, but we can write new stuff.
S: We can look forward to shows a little more when you play, like, once or twice a month.
K: In terms of trajectory, I would honestly say that pretty much everything positive that’s ever happened to our band has been a result of us playing live shows.
N: Oh yeah.
K: Every time we’ve gotten a piece of good press, or every time something has happened, it’s been because someone has seen us live. I think we genuinely are friends with each other and write music that we have fun playing, and that translates to people in a way that, like, it’s not fake. We’re just up there goofing off.
N: Even if we’re having a bad day. It’s like, “Oh my god, I don’t wanna play a show” God knows onstage, by the end I’m, like, high.
K: Yeah, I feel so much better.
S: Also, it’s nice playing with other people. If you’re having a bad day, at least one other person in the band is gonna be in a good mood, and it lifts you back up. So that environment is really good.
K: But it is cool, ‘cause it has shifted from us playing a kabillion-and-a-half show—
N: A kabillion.
K: ...To getting to slow that down a little bit and write more.
S: My friends were like, “Where are you?” In 2016 we were playing, like, non-stop.
N: It was party animal time. It was crazy.
K: It was so much fun, though.
S: It was all DIY shows, so we were like, all right, let’s just play as many as we can.
N: We didn’t know anything about a radius clause.
K: I mean, that didn’t used to be a thing. On one hand it’s better for us, ‘cause we’re definitely writing more and taking more time to be more focused on creating new music, and playing fewer shows for that reason. But also, the way the venues have consolidated and the DIY venues have been vanishing has brought up things like radius clauses, where there are so many venues now who are like, “You’re not allowed to play this show ‘cause you have another show that month,” even if you’re opening. So that’s definitely been a shift.
N: It’s definitely slowed us down a little. But it’s good.
Would you say you’re missing a lot of those DIY venues?
They always had a different energy. It was a really sad when Silent Barn finally kicked the bucket.
N: Yeah, they’re just different. Like, all ages…
K: All ages is a huge piece of it. Also, there were communities around those spaces.
N: It sucks that all that kind of died out, but I feel a new wave is coming in. Like, The Glove is really sick. I feel like a new wave of DIY is coming in.
S: We don’t have that comfortable DIY scene like we used to, but there’s so much going on every night that you can take the spontaneous route and choose a random venue and it would still be super fun.
K: A lot of the DIY spaces were a good place to start out, too. They would say, “Okay, we have our headliner, we have this person and this person, and the opener is someone who has never played a show before.” And so it opened up a lot of opportunities when we were a little baby band and just starting off to play cool shows, have people come out and see your band. It was fun ‘cause it was a more diverse playing field, and you would go to shows where bands don’t all sound the same. The bands aren’t booked explicitly for the purpose of selling tickets; they’re booked because the people running the venue think that the bands sound cool. Which is, I think, also a bit of a loss since those venues shut down.
S: I’ve been in bands since I was 17 around New York. When I was under 21, they would make me wait outside until I could play. They were so strict. A lot of those places [were] so focused on selling tickets, and they always shut down. I think there should always be an element where you actually care about music and you wanna give people an opportunity. There are ways to do business and still give younger bands an opportunity.
Did any of you get tickets to those Bikini Kill shows coming up?
You did? They sold out so fast!
N: Actually, my boyfriend got us tickets in L.A.; we’re going the same weekend they’re there. We spent a lot of money on those tickets.
Oh yeah, they were super expensive on StubHub!
N: I’m hoping that we open for them.
K: A dream!
N: ‘Cause there are four shows in New York.
And they haven’t announced openers yet?
N: No! So, I’m hoping that they want some local openers. Like, small little local openers.
K: Please, please, please, Kathleen Hanna.
N: I would retire. I would die, and then I would retire.
“I would retire. I would die, and then I would retire.”
K: She’s super inspiring. I saw her play with the Julie Ruin the week of…like, right after our new president got elected.
Oh man, that must’ve been an intense show.
K: It was so intense. And I remember her walking onstage and saying something to the effect of, “I don’t even really wanna be on stage right now, but I’m so glad that you’re here and I need you as much as you need me right now.” Her stage banter throughout the entire set was so genuine and thoughtful, it was really moving. It was the best way to spend the day after the election. And one of the things that’s really stuck with me was [when] she said, “Ya know, we’ve been fighting this fight for so long for women’s rights, queer and trans rights and this whole thing is something we’ve been shouting about for decades, but we’re tired and we need your help. You’re the young people, go shout for us. We’ll be right there with you.”
N: So you take the torch, passing the torch! That’s cool.
K: It’s just so exhausting that we’ve been doing this for so long but nothing’s changed. Which makes me feel all the feels.
So you released a great EP in 2018. Would you say that the new music is more politically focused in any way?
N: That stuff is all older songs we finally got down and recorded. A little more political, I guess? I don’t know, how do you wanna describe it? We have, like, “Mansplain,” “Fake News,” “Your Mom”…a lot more angry, I guess.
S: I would say satire. Political focus, but—
N: …But still kinda funny.
S: Not to make this weird South Park reference—sometimes a South Park episode is really goofy and it has a political stance. So when we have new songs that are goofy, they have political undertones to it. Or it has to do with how your parents are acting…
N: Or expectations…
K: I would say that it’s not necessarily a more political focus on purpose. It’s more that we’re just being honest about what’s on our minds as women playing music and doing whatever; these are things that just come up in our lives. Even that song “Bleeding,” about getting your period.
N: I thought about quitting the band when I got my period. I have it right now. I wanna leave the band, I wanna leave New York. I wanna quit my job. I literally had all of those emotions.
S: I have a really pleasant period, I can’t complain.
N: You’re lucky.
K: One of the new ones is a tongue-in-cheek cool kids’ song. The other one is about expectations moms and parents put on you.
Did you play that one at the show I saw?
N: Yeah! I love singing that song.
K: You cannot sing that song and stay in a bad mood.
N: It feels so good.
K: It feels so good to shout, it’s the best thing ever.
N: And it’s so true! It’s all things that have been told to us. I got told to freeze my eggs.
N: Yeah, she was like “Freeze your eggs!”
S: We should totally add that in.
N: Yeah, we should totally add that in. Wait, wait, an EP name, “Egg of the Month”? That’s hilarious. I didn’t come up with it, but I’m taking it.
How does the band go about writing a song? I appreciate the fact that everything you do is very much as a unit. Onstage, you’re all singing lyrics, it’s very cohesive. And you touched on it before, the energy that you think you put out there, which is that you’re all friends and you’re all in this together.
N: What usually happens is one of us will come in with an idea. I’ll come in with a chord progression, and like maybe one line, like a melody. Usually the whole thing gets changed, but that’s kinda what happens to start it. And we’ve written, like, three or four new songs and we’re in the process of writing more. So here’s a cool riff, here’s a cool melody, and then we just go with it. Shari comes up with some cool “Ooo’s” and Kate comes up with a different chorus. ‘Cause when Kate joined the band we had all these songs already written, so Kate just learned them. So it was more just—it wasn’t very, I don’t know—
N: Collaborative! But now it is. Now every song we write—
K: Everyone has a part in it.
N: And it always changes.
S: Which is amazing.
K: I enjoy being in a band where everybody is participating in the writing process. And it’s cool when you’re at that point where people are writing lyrics for each other to sing. Where the verses are someone’s idea, and the chorus becomes someone else’s idea, and it gets to the point where you can’t say that someone wrote the song, it’s just our song.
N: So, we have a new song and we could not figure out the chorus. Literally for two or three hours I was on my Garage Band trying to come up with a chorus, and I was like, “Ya know what? There’s two other people in the band that [are] gonna come up with something.” And Kate came up with a really cool thing. It’s less pressure on yourself to make up one whole song.
K: It also sounds different when you’re playing it with specific people. Everybody has some kind of style or something that comes out of them, so it’s kind of fun to do it together. Everyone will come up with something you never would have thought of. I like our writing process.
N: Shari is the queen of the “ooo’s.”
S: It’s just like the easiest thing to play sometimes when you’re drumming.
Colin: Do you have any songs that you don’t play anymore?
K: One of the ones from the first EP that NPR actually put on their show, that we haven’t played in like two or three years.
You got a song on NPR? That’s awesome!
N: NPR put us on a SXSW playlist of new artists. We played last year.
How was that?
N: It was sick. It was so much fun. So NPR put on a song we don’t play anymore. Which we could maybe bring back? I like the instrumentals of the song, but we could just redo the vocals…
S: Or the lyrics?
N: Yeah, because I don’t like it.
K: We had just released “Bleeding” as a single but the EP wasn’t coming out until after SXSW, so they put on “Bleeding” and one of the ones from the old EP we hadn’t been playing. Just a handful of songs from before I was in the band that just have a different vibe.
N: They’re just super pop punk.
K: Straight-up pop punk. No nuance whatsoever. That’s the other thing: our songs are not that short. Most of our songs are roughly 3 minutes. So when you’re creating a setlist, it’s so hard to fit in the new ones and keep all the old ones you like, so you’re inevitably tossing things. So the first things to go are the ones that you’re not deeply attached to. That process is so stressful. It feels like choosing between children.
So it’s more that the new stuff is better?
N: It’s just nice to play new songs, it refreshing. But I like energy of the older songs in the crowd ‘cause they’re used to it.
You got some accolades last year; specifically, Band To Watch [from Stereogum]. Do you ever feel any outside pressure? Like, suddenly you have other things to live up to?
N: I mean, not really. I feel like it’s more internal pressure. “We gotta do something! Let’s keep moving forward!” It’s more personal pressure. But no one, really, outside of us is making us feel any kind of pressure.
K: And I think it’s hard. If you talk to most musicians, it’s hard to feel like you have forward momentum even when all of these things are happening. When you’re playing better shows that you’re more excited about, or someone writes an article and that’s really exciting for a minute—but then you kind of forget about it. At the end of the year, I like to look back and look at everything we accomplished and how many shows we played, ‘cause it’s really hard to feel, when you’re in it every day, like you’re breaking through in some way. You’ll play a big show and everything goes back to normal. Or you’ll get a piece of great press and everything will go back to normal. So you have to keep your morale up and be appreciative of the opportunities you’re getting, because it’s really easy to forget that you’ve come a long way already.
N: Whenever I get bummed out, or like, “We’re stupid, our band sucks,” usually Kate and Shari are like “Nicole, c’mon don’t think that. Look at all that we’ve accomplished.” We always lift the other person up.
S: I feel like the worst thing with music is how you interpret feeling stagnant.
K: Shari is usually stoked always. I love Shari.
N: Shari’s mom is our biggest cheerleader.
S: Yeah, it’s true. I lost my train of thought thinking about that post…
K: Feeling stagnant?
S: Yeah! I think it’s a mixture of appreciating everything we’ve done, but you want to keep going. What bands can we play with, who can we reach out to. Just giving yourselves different tasks, just doing something.
N: I wanna tour more. Get out of the city.
K: Good answer, Shar-Bear. I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves; I think we’re a very productive team. But I think in the future, working with a label, it’ll be really interesting to have somebody else, not necessarily to answer to—but it is a different motivation when you’re like, “Well, I wanna make you proud. I want you to be happy you’ve chosen to work with us.” It’ll be an interesting shift.
Yeah, it’s really easy for [me] to be like, “You know what, you’ve worked hard today, you don’t need to write that article. Just take a day off, Colin.” But then your editor is like, “I need that tomorrow.” “Oh of course, I’m so happy to do that for you.” Yeah, I get it.
N: Of course.
K: Also, deadlines are kinda nice.
N: I love deadlines.
“I love deadlines.”
K: It’s nice when there’s someone else to say clearly, “You need to get me this by this date, otherwise it’s not going to get released.” And this date is a month in advance of when it can be released, ‘cause we tend to—
N: We’re procrastinators.
S: Our West Coast tour, we booked that, like, the week before. It was hours and hours sitting down and reaching out to people. We were working really hard, but we didn’t do anything months and months in advance. We were just lucky with doing stuff last minute.
That goes against all the conventional wisdom which says you should book it all MONTHS in advance; it’s incredible that it worked out.
S: I wouldn’t suggest doing it that way.
K: There’s a happy medium between trying to jump on shows or create shows. We got lucky with a mix of both of those things.
Anything you want to say to wrap up here?
S: Oh, just be on the lookout for some cool shit.
Oh, the EP. What’s the EP gonna be called?
K: Just THICK.
N: Self-titled. It’s an EP, but it’s just singles. Three singles. It’s weird, on Spotify its categorized as a single, but it’s got three songs under it. I guess singles do better than EPs on Spotify. That’s business stuff. So releasing it as a single, it does better than releasing it as an EP.
K: Yeah, I guess there [are] more exposure opportunities as a single. A lot of my friends have had a hard time wrapping their head around the idea of three songs being a single, but when you look at 7-inches that’s what they were. A 7-inch is a single which, half the time, had two short B-sides. So it’s like, in a weird way, cycling back to the old school.
S: Oh yeah, so true.
K: We were talking about it a little before where we have a more serious melodic vibe, and then these “Have a baby! Have a career!” kind of screaming songs. And I think if we have the opportunity for a broader audience, it feels better to me to put both forward at the same time. ‘Cause these are both us equally, and are equally our sound. I just can’t wait to record again.
It was a good process? You had fun?
N: It was so much fun. It’s opened my mind. I want to make way more guitar layers for other songs. And come up with all these cool guitar parts.
S: That’s what I was looking forward to the most, ‘cause it’s just exciting to be in a studio. Cause when I was younger you would just be in someone’s basement studio. Some of the stuff I’ve gotten over the years, not with this band, but it would just be THE worst mixed stuff ever.
N: Our first EP, called Dammit Shari, was the worst ever. We took it off of Bandcamp. I was going through heartbreak so I was like a zombie. I was like “It’s fine, it’s okay.” What songs were even on there? Kate deleted it.
K: I didn’t delete it! It’s just hidden. I would never delete anything. For this new one, we recorded with Joel and Francisco at Studio G. It was a blast. It was the first time we worked with someone who had very concrete input on tightening up the song structure and things.
S: We’ve never been produced before. But I don’t even view it that way, it’s like someone who is giving you really solid ideas.
N: They’re in the recording room like, “You’ve been produced.”
K: It was good cause he’s the exact balance of what I wanted, which was like, “Do you really need to play that one section twice?” He never once strong-armed or forced us to do anything.
S: I knew he would be good to work with because he posts so many memes in his stories…
N: He really does!
K: Shari is the meme queen.
Anything to wrap up for real?
N: Keep an eye out for our new EP dropping March 26!