Melanie Mae Williamson

The Flood: An Interview with By The Thousands

Music Scene Media
Apr 11, 2024
8 min read

By the Thousands, a Minnesota-based metal band, have recently released their long-awaited EP, The Descent. Of the release, they have shared: "We have collectively poured our hearts and souls into the creation of 'The Descent,' and we're genuinely thrilled to share these songs with our fans. This EP marks a new chapter for By The Thousands, a testament to the shared dedication and creative synergy that defines our collective identity. We're excited for listeners to experience the intensity and energy we've packed into each song, and hope that ‘The Descent’ resonates with all who listen." I had the opportunity to chat with the band ahead of the release, and this is what they had to share:

MSM: Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and how have they helped to shape your sound?

We all grew up listening to bands on alternative radio and featured in guitar magazines like Slipknot, Korn, Mudvayne, System of a Down, Lamb of God, Children of Bodom, In Flames, As I Lay Dying, and Coheed and Cambria.  We all gained further influence during the initial Sumerian records phase by going to shows of bands like Born of Osiris, After The Burial, Veil of Maya, Oceano, All Shall Perish, Volumes, Emmure, The Acacia Strain, and Misery Signals.  Also, it would be an absolute shame to not mention the godfathers of modern progressive metal: Meshuggah.  We all love guitar driven metal music and bands that sound like absolute freight trains live.

MSM: How do you approach the songwriting process, and from where do you draw inspiration?

We tend to not take a singular approach for writing songs, but we write and record our music first before working on vocals.  Some songs like ‘Despondency’, ‘Vanquish’, and ‘Connect’ were full-on collaborative efforts in the studio as a group.  Other songs like ‘The Flood’ and ‘Deadweight’ were written independently by our guitarists Dustin and John.

One of the more unique writing processes was for one of the songs off our recent EP ‘The Descent’.  Our previous drummer Matt Grozdanich provided an MP3 of programmed drums along with corresponding MIDI for a full song.  Our guitarist John went to town writing guitar parts over the MP3 track without changing any of the drum parts until necessary, ultimately yielding the closing song ‘Unbound’.  When it was time to alter the MIDI notes we simply changed up some of the kick drum patterns.  It has become one of our favorite songs to perform live!

MSM: You’ve been in the music industry for over ten years. How has the metal scene changed in that time?

When we started this band the overall climate of what was hot in metal music was significantly different than what is popular today.  Our perception was that technical bands like Rings of Saturn, Animals as Leaders, The HAARP machine, (specifically technical guitar work driven music) appeared to be extremely popular in our circles.  Over the years we have observed the rise of beatdown and hardcore/down tempo deathcore gaining a significant increase in popularity.  Bands like Knocked Loose, Kublai Khan, Left to Suffer, are currently what we perceive to be making waves in the scene.  People want to go to shows to hear music that makes them want to move!

MSM: What are some words of wisdom that you’ve collected over the years?

Support your friends, always try to act with integrity and honesty, ALWAYS do a dummy check when leaving the venue!

MSM: What would you do differently if you were to start over again from day one?

Looking back, if we could do it over, we'd definitely invest more time and money into our early records. We were so hyped to share our music that we set these deadlines for ourselves, which ended up leading to some compromises in the recording quality.

We have some extremely talented bands and musicians in MN and wanted to show everyone that we could hang in the riff department and were laser-focused on proving ourselves live.  In hindsight we realize we might've missed the mark a bit.  Instead of just aiming for technical prowess, we wish we'd prioritized things like song structure and style right from the start.

It's been quite the journey, discovering that crafting songs that just feel amazing to play and listen to is what truly matters. Our latest release is a testament to this realization. While we still incorporate some challenging parts for each instrument, our primary focus has shifted towards solid songwriting and ensuring that every track hits the mark with our audience.

MSM: Can you talk about the creative process behind your upcoming album, and what themes or messages you were trying to convey through your music?

We really took our time with this release.  Some of the songs on ‘The Descent’ were in the works immediately after finishing our previous record ‘Dead Matter’.  We spent a considerable amount of time recording demos for 14 songs, working them to the point where we felt good enough to bring them to our INCREDIBLE producer Ryan Leitru.  We spent a full week at his studio in Tulsa Oklahoma deep diving into all aspects of the songs we brought him, and ultimately landed on the 6 featured on ‘The Descent’.

Musically we simply chose to write songs incorporating as many of our favorite musical techniques as we could including: heavy chugs and chops, natural and pinch harmonics, pick scrapes, soaring leads, compelling ambience, verbose and complex rhythms, and SO many breakdowns.  We wanted to write songs that are more accessible and heavier than what we have written in the past while maintaining the melodic aspects of By The Thousands that we have always incorporated.

Lyrically this album is the most personal subject matter we’ve ever released.  The songs and the order we placed them in tell a story of our collective experiences that we hoped would resonate with others.  The album tells a story, spanning topics of watching your world crumble before your eyes, experiencing/coping with stress and anxiety, looking inward and asking yourself difficult questions, reliving past trauma, and seeking an escape from the difficulties of life.  We hoped that these words would resonate with others who may be feeling as we have at different times in our lives and show others who may be struggling with similar feelings that they aren’t alone.

MSM: If you had to pick out your favorite song or lyrics from the album what would they be?

If we had to pick a favorite song from the album, it would have to be "Cursed." While "Unbound" showcases a wide range of musical styles and is a complete blast to perform, there's something about "Cursed" that really gets us going.  The beginning of the song incorporates almost all of our favorite guitar techniques in a single riff, we're all big fans of the thrashy, fast-paced elements during the first verse, and seeing the crowd's reaction to the intense buildup and drop at the end is probably one of our favorite ways to start a performance.  Playing "The Descent" from start to finish on our recent tours has been incredibly enjoyable for us, and we hope our fans feel the same way when they hear it.

MSM: What do you think sets your music apart?

It's always tough to pinpoint exactly what sets our music apart, but if we had to narrow it down, we'd say it's our blend of diverse influences and our dedication to pushing creative boundaries.  We draw inspiration from a wide range of genres and styles, from metal to synthwave to pop and everything in between, and we're not afraid to experiment with different sounds and techniques.  Our music is a reflection of who we are as individuals and as a band, and we put thought into every note.  We strive to create something that feels fresh and authentic, something that resonates with people on a deeper level while staying true to our musical roots.  Ultimately, it's up to our fans to decide what sets us apart, but we hope that our passion and creativity shine through in everything we do.

MSM: How do you stay creatively inspired and motivated as a band?

As a band, we keep the creative spark alive by sharing pre-production tracks among ourselves. It's like a mini music exchange where we draw inspiration from different styles and sounds, adding on full riffs and sometimes completely rearranging the structure of one anothers songs.  Plus, we're not shy about jamming to our own tunes. Listening back to our previous records helps us pinpoint what really works and what we can improve upon. It's all about speaking the same musical language and pushing ourselves to make each new track even better. That shared enthusiasm keeps us motivated and excited to keep pushing boundaries.  We meet twice a week at our studio space to rehearse and share new ideas with each other, and are constantly in our group chat making and executing plans.

MSM: What artists have been inspiring you lately, or that you feel are consistently pushing boundaries and changing the game?

We are extremely fortunate to have a lot of really talented friends.  While it's hard to name them all without leaving anyone out, there are three bands that have consistently inspired us and pushed boundaries every time we share the stage with them: Reaping Asmodeia, Still Stayer, and Our Common Collapse.

BTT has been attending Reaping Asmodeia shows together since before we were a band and owe a considerable amount of musical inspiration to them.  They are absolutely mind blowing at their prospective instruments and we’ve loved their tunes at every stage of the band.   We often laugh at ourselves because we feel like we’re pretty competent musicians and walk away from each of their performances feeling like scrubs!  They are like the superheroes of MN based tech death.

We recently had a midwest run with Milwakee based band Still Stayer.  This is one of the nicest, most dedicated and hardworking bands we’ve ever crossed paths with.  Their music is both extremely heavy and beautiful and perfectly balanced.  This band really feels like a family and they have consistently shown us their best performance at every show we’ve played with them.  They keep on getting better and better and their music just makes you want to think about your whole life.  We love them so much.

Our Common Collapse is truly special to us.  They are in our opinion the best band in the Twin Cities right now.  Gage their vocalist has a terrifyingly powerful voice that gives you goosebumps to hear live.  Elliot and Josh their guitarists are literally musical and technical geniuses.  Elliot’s unparalleled sound design can be heard all over ‘The Descent’.  Carlos, their drummer, actually performed with BTT for many years before joining Our Common Collapse and is one of the best drummers we’ve ever heard.  For a while, 4 of the 5 members of BTT (Adam, Dustin, Carlos, and John) all shared a house together in South Minneapolis.  After touring with a band called Terraform we met a truly incredible guitarist named Josh Solvedt.  Josh ended up moving to Minnesota and lived with us for many months where we wrote and recorded songs together for fun, learned and shared knowledge about gear, guitar, and music, and experienced a season of mutual musical growth under the same roof.  At one point, Josh was so familiar with our tunes that he could play the fretting hand for the chorus of our song ‘Drown the Prosperity’ while John played the picking hand.  We still use Josh lingo and jokes in the BTT camp to this day and continue to learn from him.

MSM: Last, but certainly not least, do you have any closing messages for your fans?

To all our amazing fans, we just want to say a massive thank you! Your unwavering support and kindness mean the world to us. We wouldn't be where we are without you. Be sure to give our new music a listen - we poured our hearts and souls into it, and we hope you'll love it as much as we do. You inspire us every day to keep pushing the boundaries and writing the best tunes we possibly can. Keep rocking with us, and let's make some more unforgettable memories together!

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