Horizon Lines from Opposite Shores | In Conversation with Thames

Thames w/Building Rome, Ricky Montgomery, Ryan Cheney, and Blackwater ’64 | 7:30 PM Saturday, 12.28.19 | The Duck Room at Blueberry Hill, 6504 Delmar Blvd. | All ages | $10

We live in a world with such disparate conditions side by side with opulence. The clamor of all the world being ushered into the market to be peddled to all comers through the ether. There is a glut of content, and our capacity to consume fails us. You can find anything you possibly want if you look hard enough, but the effort will exhaust you just as much as finding that unexpected sense of completion will invigorate you. Just when you think you’re done swimming upstream, what seemed to be solid ground is revealed to be a sandbar. At least that’s how I would describe my experience navigating the deluge of music being released in the digital age. You learn to relish those moments idling on terra firma, even if it’s a sliver in contrast to a continent-dividing body. Such is the music of Thames.

I’m not one to disparage the place of my birth, but St. Louis has not been kind to the musicians I’ve felt came closest to sharing my tastes, or expanding them in ways contrary to the trends that seem to have the most staying power. It falls on the young and ambitious to challenge the established expectations of River City players to embrace their Midwestern-ness in order to stake out an unsustainable living playing music in the region.

To be self-assured and ambitious enough to pursue something sophisticated, nay otherworldly, in contrast to what many of us have been raised on, and succeed in making an impression on listeners, is an unfair challenge. To compare your works with that of artists from across the continent, across oceans for lack of a regional contemporary, invites crass deconstruction from the self-important and indignant.  But what choice do you have when your muses seem otherworldly and your aspirations match, but to go with the flow? What better way to find out than to ask the artists?

The Arts STL: Everyone one, thing, has an origin story. What’s the prologue to the origin of Thames?

Sean Buchert (Thames drummer): If there was one link that I can surely say runs between the five of us, it’s that we were all the kid that would spend every single moment of solitude with music as our companion. We didn’t listen to the same artists, but music held the same role in all of our lives before we met each other.

So how did Thames actually form?

Gabe [Jackson, vocals, piano, synth, and guitar] and I (Sean) met through our friend, the internet. I was constantly searching the internet for people to play and answered his Craigslist ad! (I had made plenty of my own before seeing his.) He showed me some of his songs, I wasn’t into it, and then we went on our separate ways. A month or so later, I had a change of heart and came back to him, I kinda realized I was too critical of his stuff and found his enthusiasm annoying…the point is, we made up. During that time, Gabe and Zander [Hayes, guitar, synth, percussion] had met and hit it off during orientation at Webster [University]. We played our first show with a couple other friends, but I think we all knew we would need to find other musicians eventually. Connor [Fiehler, bass] joined as a recommendation from our friend Peter, and that was the band for our first year. I met Noah [Gregory, piano and guitar] through mutual friends and asked him to play with us for a set of Arctic Monkeys songs we were doing for An Under Cover Weekend. Throughout the rehearsals we ended up getting closer, and that set the groundwork for him joining not too long after.

As the band has grown in members and gained more experience what sticks with you?

I think we learn something new every time we play a show. Especially the rough ones. We once played a show where we couldn’t get power to any of our guitar amps or keyboards. We played 4 songs and dipped, the lesson from that show being? Ya gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.

That’s an invaluable lesson, and truth be told, once you hear “The Gambler,” you never forget it, even if you’re too young to understand anything about playing card, or analogies, like I was. But now that I am well off into adulthood, I understand the catch: no one takes their seat at the dealer’s table expecting to lose, we have hopes and dreams inspiring us. What are Thames’s?

I think we all dream of one day being able to say lots of people have heard what we do and like it. We want to make music that we want to listen to, hopefully if we like it others might also.

Do you feel it’s getting easier to grow as a band and grow your following here in St. Louis, or encouraging signs towards that end?

We can’t really speak for shows that aren’t our own, but I’ve been inspired by how much I’ve seen people willing to let go at our shows. It’s special that it only takes one or two people willing to dance or have a good time to help a whole crowd open up here. I’ve seen that same situation in other places where no one else joins, it’s wonderful that St. Louis seems to be in it together in that sense.

Outside of the synergy of connecting in the live setting at a show, how else does Thames see their music being experienced in the age of uninterrupted connectivity and auditory isolation?

I think the idea of someone doing any sort of living while listening to our music is exciting. More than a specific idea, I think we just hope a song of ours speaks to someone enough that they associate their own memory with our song playing in the background.

That speaks to the omnipresence of digital music. But there’s something to be said about musical artifacts, tangible media. If you could put out a physical release, which route would you go?

I think vinyl is unquestionably the medium that makes music feel the most sacred. I hope that one day we’ll be able to make a vinyl, but I think we still have some work to do before we get there.

Even so, where best can people find your music, and support Thames?

If you find Gabe, I bet he’ll sing you a song. Spotify, too. Apple Music. Amazon Music? Apparently we’re on Deezer too, maybe someday we’ll figure out what Deezer is.

I actually usually listen on Bandcamp, preferably after purchase, so I can download it in a lossless format. It’s well worth seeking out the high fidelity. Well, before we go, what’s next up for Thames?

Our first album Spotlight is out now, we’ll be playing an opener set at Blueberry Hill for Building Rome on December 28th and have a few other shows for the future that we’re not ready to announce quite yet. But if ya keep up with the socials, I bet we’ll announce a new show pretty soon. | Willie Edward Smith

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