Thrice's Dustin Kensrue: 10 albums that changed my life

(Image credit: Matty Vogel )

Thrice are a band that refuses to be pigeonholed. The Californian quartet have enjoyed an impressive 24-year career, and that's thanks, in part, to their ever-evolving sound. From their humble beginnings as a fiery post-hardcore outfit to a band that aren't afraid to experiment with Radiohead-esque soundscapes, jazz-inspired concepts and, at times, odd-metered prog-riffage, Thrice has become one of the most exciting modern rock bands on the road today. 

As the band kicks off their UK tour with fellow sonic boundary-pushers Coheed And Cambria, we thought it would be an excellent opportunity to sit down with Thrice frontman, Dustin Kensrue, and delve into the ten albums that helped shape the singer's love for music as well as discuss their new tracks and upcoming projects. 

I think Horizons / East is the best-sounding thing we've ever done

Off the back of their incredibly well-received 2021 release, Horizons / East, the band are back surprisingly early with two new singles in a matter of months; Dead Wake and Open Your Eyes And Dream. The latest of which sees the band reflecting their heavier roots, bringing in elements from their early catalogue with heartwrenching, guttural screams and raw energy. 

"So that song and Dead Wake, which we put out a couple of months back, were kinda pieces of stuff we were working on when we put out Horizons / East," Dustin tells us. "We were initially going to go into finishing those songs and some other songs and make a companion piece to Horizons / East, but that is going to be much later now, and it will probably be stuff that wasn't even part of this first session. But these two were pretty far along, and yeah, we decided to finish them up. 

"[Open Your Eyes And Dream] is definitely a bit more screamy than some of the newer stuff, so I can see why it feels like it's pulling some of that back in – so was Dead Wake, actually. But, yeah, usually it's just whatever the part feels like it's calling for, and it seemed to fit on that one". 

When asked about whether or not fans could expect a heavier direction for the hotly anticipated Horizons / West, the frontman explained that the album was in the very early stages and wasn't giving too much away in terms of the tone of the album, saying, "I really don't know yet. I know certain things that will tie back to the other record in a few ways, but, it's really hard to say. I think it's possible, but I don't want to lead you astray [laughs]". 

The last time we sat down with Dustin, he explained that Thrice had set up a new space, which would serve as Thrice HQ, becoming the centre of the band's universe for writing, recording and rehearsals. Over a year later, we check in to see how the band are settling into their new digs. 

"It's really great having our own spot now," says Dustin. "So, the writing, recording and everything is all in that one place, and it's exciting, especially for recording our own music. I think Horizons / East is the best-sounding thing we've ever done and we're happy working with Scott [Evans] who mixed it, so that will continue, I'm sure. 

"I'm excited to do something after Horizons / West and even do some different kinds of releases. We're talking about experimenting with smaller formats stuff – EPs, and whatever". 

I just think we like to be able to tell a story with the way the music goes dynamically and that's just always been something interesting to us

While we are chatting with Dustin, we couldn't pass up an opportunity to ask about his songwriting process and in particular where he pulls inspiration from. For us, Thrice songs have a cinematic quality to them, especially tracks such as the Blade Runner-esque Only Us and the hauntingly beautiful Everything Belongs, so we wanted to know if film and TV were ever a conscious inspiration when writing. 

"I like that you say that", Dustin enthusiastically responds. "I've described it similarly at times, and I do think there's a dramatic and cinematic element that we lean into at times. I don't think we are trying to pull specifically from the film format, I just think we like to be able to tell a story with the way the music goes dynamically and that's just always been something interesting to us. And even the very early stuff, even though I wouldn't call it cinematic, we were still interested in going on a journey with a song". 

Okay, without further ado, it's time for Dustin to give us a guided tour through major musical moments in his life, from growing up listening to Chicago punk to discovering '80s new wave, synth-pop and his love for the legendary Tom Waits. 

10 Albums That Changed My Life

1. Screeching Weasel - Anthem for a New Tomorrow (1993)

There's just a sort of honesty and raw quality that I hadn't heard in other music

“I grew up listening to tons of my parent's records, and a lot of that stuff was very very influential, but like, I always had it there. The Beatles, Zeppelin, the Stones, and stuff like that. But the first thing I really remember getting on my own and having a huge impact was a record by Screeching Weasel, which was a punk band from Chicago. They have a record called Anthem for a New Tomorrow. 

“I picked it up at a mall that was out by my grandparent's house, they had a punk section, and I was like, yeah, I want to hear punk. I didn't know any punk bands or whatever, but I thought the name was rad and that one looked cool, so I picked it up. I'd never heard it, no one told me about it, and yeah, that ended up being my favourite band for a long time. 

“This getting me into punk rock was huge. There was something so different about a lot of the subject matter that's talked about. There's a lighthearted, weird playfulness at times, there's very serious political ramifications sometimes, and there's just a sort of honesty and raw quality that I hadn't heard in other music. So, yeah, that was very influential to me and meant I could get into a lot more music". 

2. Refused - The Shape of Punk to Come (1998)

"I feel like some of these aren't obscure enough, but they are impactful for me. The Shape Of Punk To Come by Refused was just huge as far as breaking ground on what a heavy band could do, but not even just a heavy band, that record is a phenomenal record in so many different ways. There's so many different textures, ins and outs and transitions, it's kinda endlessly interesting. 

"I'd say that this record is my favourite heavy music record of all time. I have fun going back to the stuff I grew up listening to. Not all of it holds up in the same way [laughs], but it's always fun to go back". 

3. Radiohead - OK Computer (1997)

"The next two records were given to me on a tape. My buddy made a tape for me and one record was on each side, and they ended up becoming massively important records to me. So one side was Radiohead's OK Computer.

Radiohead as a band is probably Thrice's collective favourite band

"I'd never listened to Radiohead, I was into mostly a bunch of punk stuff at the time, so that was coming from a different place and it became very influential. Radiohead as a band is probably Thrice's collective favourite band. All of us are very into it. I don't think there's a ton of bands we all really love together, but that's definitely one of them. 

"But, yeah, that record holds up, and I listen to it often. It's such a cool guitar record. You think of it as this very interesting experimental record, which it is, but it's a fantastic guitar record - rock record. The playing on it is so cool and the tones on it are fantastic. 

"For getting me into Radiohead, that was the gateway, and I still think it's a fantastic record". 

4. Radiohead - Kid A (2000)

"I guess I'll dovetail and come back to the tape in a sec, but I think I'd have to put Kid A on the list as well. Just because I got so into OK Computer and when I knew they had another record coming out, I was so excited. I worked at a record store, and we got the posters in and whatever, and when I got that record, I was just very confused by it when I first heard it.  

One day I got in my car and those first four notes hit, and I was just like, oh my God, I get it. It just clicked into place.

"[Laughs] What? What are they doing? Why did they make this? I thought it was pretentious, which was such a dumb thing. I just could not understand what was happening with that. I had it in my car and for the whole week, it was all I listened to. One day I got in my car and those first four notes hit, and I was just like, oh my God, I get it. It just clicked into place.

"It was such a different vibe for them and different really from any the other music I was listening to at the time and it was very impactful and again, is a hugely influential record for Thrice and for me as well. 

"Most recently, I was listening to that record and for whatever reason, it was playing on shuffle, so I was hearing it out of order. I ended up realising that hearing it out of order made it sound very different. When you hear the beginning couple of tracks of that record, it really sets a certain tone and mood and you interpret the rest of the record through that lens.

"So hearing it out of order, I was like, oh, this could fit on a different Radiohead record or something. It doesn't feel so Kid A-ish. But, it made me realise that the opening track or two really set a certain tone that will colour the rest of the record, and I thought that was really interesting. 

"So, I brought that up with the rest of the guys when we were trying to figure out the track order for Horizons / East and it's what made us put Color Of The Sky first because we realised that was going to set the tone we wanted for the record". 

5. Tom Waits - Rain Dogs (1985)

"Okay, so back to the tape. The other side of the tape was Tom Waits Rain Dogs, and [laughs] Tom Waits is probably my favourite human in the world that I don't actually know. I just love his music. He's such a character, entertainer, and amazing songwriter and that was my gateway. 

There's really nothing like Tom Waits

"I still listen to Rain Dogs a ton and it's what I recommend for people if they are trying to get into Tom Waits. I also made three 21-song playlists of Tom Waits stuff that are themed [laughs], they are on Spotify if anyone is interested. 

"I love Tom Waits, so that was huge. There's really nothing like Tom Waits, so it's hard to talk about getting into a different genre, but I'd never heard anything like it before". 

6. Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue (1959)

"I feel like this one is kinda cheating too; Miles Davis Kind Of Blue. It's, I think, probably the most famous jazz record of all time, but it's that way for a reason. It's just the perfect record. I can't even tell you why that was the one I started listening to, or maybe I was trying to listen to a couple, and that one caught on with me sooner. 

"Ed [Breckenridge] and Teppei [Teranishi] were doing a history of jazz class at college when we were first starting out and sharing stuff with the rest of us, and for whatever reason, I just latched on to that record. I feel like I know every little piece of it, every horn line, melody, it's just great. 

"John Coltrane is on it, so I got into Coltrane from that, and I still think that it's just a perfect record - I listen to it all the time".

7. Talk Talk - Laughing Stock (1991)

"So, my buddy Nate Burke, who is the bass player for a band called Frodus, got me into a lot of music but the huge thing he introduced me to – and the whole band through that – was the band Talk Talk, but specifically their last two records, Spirit Of Eden and Laughing Stock. If I had to choose my favourite, I would say, Laughing Stock, probably because I like the production a little better – the vocals are a little more natural sounding on it. 

"Yeah, it's an '80s kind of pop band, that made very smart, catchy music. Most people would know the It's My Life song, that No Doubt would cover and that became another big hit again. But they ended up making these two records that are six tracks long and they are just atmospheric and gorgeous. 

It's meandering and discordant in a really beautiful way

"I remember hearing Laughing Stock for the first time. I was on tour and we had two days off in a row, which is random, but I had met Nate when we were recording The Illusion of Safety in Maryland, he was living there at the time, and I took a train down and hung out for two days, and we just listened to a bunch of music. 

"I remember sitting there and him putting that on and just turning it up super loud. It's such a great record to just chill and listen to. It's meandering and discordant in a really beautiful way, not the kind of record you can just put on casually [laughs], it's an involved listen". 

8. Nada Surf - Let Go (2002)

"Some people might know them from their big song Popular, in probably the late '90s, I guess. I had heard that then and I hadn't heard anything from them in a while, but then in 2003 I was in New York, and there used to be a gigantic Virgin Mega Store there and they had a bunch of listening stations there. I was wondering about and I was like, 'Nada Surf? I didn't know they were still doing stuff'. I just started listening to it and their record is just magical. I remember by the second track I was like, I'm buying this.  

"I mean, it's hard to make sense of why it would be on this list in a way, because on a surface level it's just a pop rock, power pop record, but they are a special band and have been very important in my life since then. My wife and I listen to them a ton. I was lucky enough to have the singer Mathew [Caws] on my podcast, and he's just amazing. 

"There's such an interesting tone to the way he writes lyrics. They are very endearing and earnest in a way that seems like it shouldn't work, but he somehow makes it work. The song on there, or maybe it's on their next record [2005's The Weight Is A Gift], Always Love, Hate Will Get You Every Time; it seems so trite, but in the context of the song it really works, and it feels like it matters and it's a real thing". 

9. The National - High Violet (2010)

"I had a buddy who was into The National for a couple of years, but I don't know why, but I never checked it out, I had just never heard it. Finally, I was literally at Starbucks [Laughs] one day and they used to give these little cards out and there would be a download for a song, so I thought I'd check it out. 

"I downloaded it and listened to it on the way home, and I thought it was fine, but it didn't blow me away. It was the song Bloodbuzz Ohio. I went inside, it was just stuck in my head, and I was like 'that's weird', and then they've become one of my very favourite bands now. 

I feel emotionally, it's a very important band for me

"I don't know, it takes a minute to get into, especially the vocal style, I don't know why it takes a minute, but it's been that way trying to get people into the band - just wait a minute and it will click. 

"That record is very special to me because it's how I first heard them, but I really like everything they do. I haven't listened to them so much lately, but there was a time when I was listening to 80% The National. I feel emotionally, it's a very important band for me. It would be a hard one to live without". 

10. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001)

"Talk about production, this is definitely one of my favourite albums to listen to that way. I mean, even the first track is a weird trip. There's this very basic song that's happening and you hear it in nine different ways in those couple of minutes.

"So, yeah, the production is great, the songs are fantastic and it's kind of a cool mix between hearing a folky singer-songwriter type of song and it getting taken apart and put back together in a variety of different ways. 

"[Jeff] Tweedy is a great songwriter and as a band they are fantastic but that record really holds up as something that's fun to listen to and I think it's influential too, in the way it's recorded". 

Thrice are currently on tour in Europe with Coheed and Cambria, for more information visit

Daryl Robertson

I'm a Senior Deals Writer at MusicRadar, and I'm responsible for writing and maintaining buyer's guides on the site - but that's not all I do. As part of my role, I also scour the internet for the best deals I can find on gear and get hands-on with the products for reviews. I have a massive passion for anything that makes a sound, in particular guitars, pianos and recording equipment. In a previous life, I worked in music retail, giving advice on all aspects of music creation, selling everything from digital pianos to electric guitars, entire PA systems to ukuleles. I'm also a fully qualified sound engineer with experience working in various venues in Scotland.