Chatting with Nikki Sisti, Shari Page, and Kate Black of THICK feels like being at a slumber party. They laugh and talk over each other, rehashing stories of drunken memories and past relationships around an assortment of chips and beer. Mismatched clothes are strewn about Black’s bedroom for a makeshift photoshoot. “Would you rather be a really awesome live band that not many people know or a really shitty recording band that everyone knows?” Sisti asks the room. “Definitely a better live band,” Black responds immediately. Page agrees. Nodding, Sisti continues, “OK, would you rather be a croissant or a dolphin?”
As a “really awesome live band that not many people know,” THICK exude the intensity and effort that they put forth, as well as the genuine chemistry they’re built upon. “We’ve kind of busted our asses trying to play so many shows and get things recorded over the last two and a half years,” Black admits. “Now we get to play shows that we’re super stoked about.” On the last night of 2017, the Brooklyn-based trio opened for Diarrhea Planet, a notably rowdy outfit and, therefore, an intimidating act to support. But THICK’s pounding rhythms and sanguine thrash carried as much volume as DP’s blaring five-guitar set-up. A tight, almost gentle crowd remained at the lip of the stage during their set, rebounding off one another and catching every stage dive. THICK’s essence — camaraderie and lighthearted angst — permeated the friendly mosh-pit, which felt more like an aggressive hug. THICK have this commanding vitality, bridging that sleepover intimacy with the raucous energy of a punk show.
“We feed off everyone’s energy. When no one’s bouncing back, I just look at Kate and Shari.” Sisti tells me. “For every song I write, I ask myself, ‘OK, can people headbang to this?’ Like, ‘Dammit Shari, too many jazzy drums! You can’t headbang to that!’” One of their first releases, Dammit Shari, grew out of this sort of catchphrase. “I think ‘Dammit Shari’ started when I was working at a bar,” Sisti recalls. “I was on my period and Shari brought me this gross baking chocolate.”
THICK find their voice in these anecdotes and inside jokes, reveling in the small absurdities of everyday life. Their last EP, It’s Always Something…, reads like a journal, but with the immediacy of a note typed on an iPhone. The lyrics are caught in the moment, the melodies sound personal and instinctive. “The general sentiment is that while life has a way of knocking you down, you have to keep your chin up,” Black says of the EP. “Stay positive and not take yourself too seriously.”
It’s Always Something… is as confident as it is vulnerable. Surf-rock riffs brighten dragging vocals, breakups are sung about with cathartic euphoria. A standout track, “Puke’s Diner,” hits the duality perfectly. Pumped-up drums and intermittent “ooh”s lead a sunny daydream about a date at the beach into a screaming confession. They wrote the song about a subtly lame ex-fling. He was the kind of guy who’ll contribute just enough to get by in a relationship, enough to keep you on the hook but not enough to make you feel comfortable. Page explains, “When he takes you on a date and buys you a slice of pizza, that’s Puke’s Diner.” Sisti jumps in, “He’ll take you on a date and pop in a VHS. That’s Puke’s Diner.” (When asked if it’s a reference to Luke’s Diner in Gilmore Girls, all three members responded with a resounding, “No!”)
Conflicting emotions and mood swings continue to play out on the following track, “Wasting My Time.” At first they sound cool and unbothered, you can practically hear an eye-roll behind their airy vocals, “You’re wasting my time.” The energetic riff slows to a chug and their coos deepen into moans, “You’re leaving / I’m feeling let down / All that I wanted was for you to stick around.” These feelings are consolidated in the furious final verse, “You’re leaving / And I don’t give a FUCK!” THICK capture the confusing pang of losing something you didn’t realize you cared so much about, fueled by restlessness without time to reflect.
Their forthcoming EP, Would You Rather?, digs deeper into solidarity via shared experience and resilience. The title is a nod to a tour ritual, playing ‘Would You Rather’ every night until someone falls asleep, and a testament to their sisterly nature. “A lot of our songs come from personal stories. We’re just trying to navigate the day together and share how we’re feeling,” Black reflects. “You can hear a bit more of our frustration [on Would You Rather?]. There’s definitely a bit of ‘I’m tired of keeping quiet, so I guess I’ll shout about it,’ but it maintains the positivity. At the end of the day, it’s best to just be yourself, grab your friends and try to get through it.”
“Bleeding” is the lead single from Would You Rather?. “It’s about having your period and everyone is pissing you off,” Sisti says about as bluntly as the song does. The personal musing rings like a rallying cry, “I fuckin’ hate this city / And I wanna quit my job / My body doesn’t fit me / And your tone’s pissing me off.” PMS-fueled anxieties pile up and burst in the chorus, “Don’t touch me / I’m bleeding,” repeated over a crunchy, heavy guitar. There’s a familiar impatience in tempo. Like most of their songs, it embraces the tension between optimism and reality. It’s a page ripped out from their diary and shouted in unison.
Sisti came up with the term “girlwave” to describe their music when they couldn’t decide which genre they fit into. It’s less of an appeal to femininity than it is the catchy byproduct of a musical identity crisis. “All of the genres now are so bled into each other and kind of meaningless to begin with. I feel like you need 10 qualifiers to describe a punk album.” Black muses. “We’re not punk enough for the punk kids and we’re not pop enough for the pop kids.”
For a made-up genre, the term “girlwave” evokes a vague understanding of what to expect from the band — a beach-adjacent garage rock girl group comes to mind. THICK embrace a carefree skate-punk spirit with Riot Grrrl intentions. It’s no surprise that Blink-182 are one of their biggest influences. A sense of unease jitters beneath a laid-back “punk” persona, taking form in beer-soaked, sugar-coated anger. “People who don’t necessarily connect with the angry punk scene come to our music and find empowerment,” Sisti says. “Girlwave isn’t about being a girl, it’s all about the energy you give off onstage. It doesn’t matter who you are.”
Don’t miss THICK at SXSX:
03/15 @ The Morelos House (Siren Sounds & Alt Citizen Present Quit Your Day Job II)
03/15 @ 720 Club Patio (Official SXSW Showcase)
03/16 @ Side Bar (Jumpstart hosted by The Midgetmen)
03/16 @ Dozen Street (Onward Indian Showcase)
03/17 @ Cheer Up Charlie’s (Official SXSW Showcase, Siren Sounds Presents: Quit Your Day Job)
03/17 @ Spider House (Onward Indian Touring + Hellbent Booking Present The Electric Garden Party)
Would You Rather? is out later this year.