Brattleboro, Vermont-based outfit Thus Love — multi-instrumentalists Echo Mars (she/her) and Lu Racine (he/him) and bassist Nathaniel van Osdol (they/them) — is a rising indie/post-punk trio with a bond cemented by their individual and collective experiences as outsiders looking in: They’ve ascribed to a DIY ethos that not only reflects their musical vision but their very existence as three self-identifying trans artists.
The band can trace its origins to Mars’ and Racine’s serendipitous meeting at a local print show back in 2018, when the multi-instrumentalists agreed to collaborate on a new musical project. The band’s lineup was finalized when Mars and Racine were finally able to convince their roommate van Osdol to join the band in 2019.
From the band’s inception, its members have lived together under the same roof, designed and produced their own merch, and even created their own recording studio from scratch. “I realize that most artists don’t live this way,” Thus Love’s Echo Mars says. “But for us, it was never really a choice. The art we make is so tied to who we are and the community we’re a part of, that this is the only way we can possibly do it.”
The trio was just starting to regularly headline renowned local venue The Stone Church when the pandemic struck and everything came to a sudden and screeching halt. “The pandemic hit everyone hard, but I think it was especially difficult for new artists like us that rely on live shows to spread the word,” Thus Love’s Lu Racine says. “At that point, we had a couple of demos and we weren’t sure what the future would hold.”
Rather than idly wait, the band decided to take their future in their own hands. Armed with their innate curiosity and a ton of YouTube videos, Mars constructed a makeshift studio in their downtown Brattleboro apartment and the band set to work recording during the odd hours when their next-door neighbors were out and about.
The end result is the rising band’s full-length debut Memorial. Slated for an October 7, 2022 digital release and November 11, 2022 physical release through Captured Tracks, Memorial is reportedly a remarkably self-assured and accomplished album, considering the circumstances surrounding its creation. While sonically, the album’s material draws heavily from classic post-punk and indie rock, the band manages to tap into that sound and approach and find a way to find their own voice — and to tell their story.
Looking back now, Mars is glad the band decided to forge ahead. “I obviously would never want to go through a pandemic again, but I’m pretty confident in saying that this album would not be coming out in 2022 if we hadn’t had the forced downtime.”
While the album does deal with grief and loss, the band’s Racine suggests that working through those feelings are a necessary prerequisite to true and meaningful healing. He points to his own process of transition as proof. “I was in a dark place for a long time even when we were making this record. I knew what I had to do, but it didn’t make it any easier. There was a long period of mourning.” Racine completed top surgery last September, an important step in a years-long journey to embrace his true self. “Even though I was struggling at the time, the happiness I feel now makes it all worth it. I will always have positive associations with this record.”
Last month, I wrote about “In Tandem,” a single that sonically brought 4AD Records‘ heyday to mind as it features angular, reverb-drenched guitar attack, glistening and atmospheric synths and a relentless motorik punch paired with a rousingly anthemic chorus. Interestingly, the song is simultaneously rooted in bitterness, heartachche and hope. As the the band explained to the folks at FLOOD, “Written in 12 hours of digestion of emotional turmoil, ‘In Tandem’ is a sonic promise to hold awareness of a fundamental truth: we are nothing but star-dust.”
Memorial‘s third and latest single “Family Man” is centered around a relentless and driving motorik punch, sinuous bass lines, bursts of reverb-drenched angular guitar attack paired with expressive baritone vocals. While continuing a run of decidedly post-punk inspired material, “Family Man,” as the band explains “is a playful commentary on internalized capitalism and the mutual hardships of the working class in a binary world. This song hints at an inevitable systemic collapse relieving all anguish.”
Directed by Wes Sterrs, the accompanying video for “Family Man” stars James Ledue as “The Beast,” a pink short suit-clad monster who rocks out karaoke style to the song in an empty studio, along with footage of the band performing the song in VHS tape fuzz and static. We also see Ledue’s Beast sitting in a chair, next to a TV. It’s a playful and absurdist video.