EXCLUSIVE: Thornhill Take Us Track By Track Through Their New Album 'Heroine'
For years, Melbourne's Thornhill have cultivated a revered following with their dark and dynamic wiles. Previously flexing their significant metalcore chops on their debut full-length The Dark Pool, the group were swiftly ushered into the same stylistic breath as bands like Parkway Drive and Architects; no mean feat for a band freshly in possession of their maiden LP. But Thornhill aren't your average heavy band, and their second full-length album Heroine, which released last Friday 3 June via UNFD, proves in spades that we are only just scratching the surface of the true sonic identity and might of this staggering quintet.
Stylistically the equivalent of roaring off into a midnight sky, barrelling down the iconic roads in the Hollywood Hills, Heroine takes everything you knew about Thornhill and thrusts it into a lush and cinematic world of alternative rock and metal, with snippets of 90s and early 00s pop culture firmly at the wheel throughout.
Bolstered by a slick and fresh new aesthetic, Heroine sees Thornhill step entirely outside expectations; and the end result is nothing short of mesmerising. From the moody beauty of Blue Velvet to the swooning swagger of Casanova and glistening instrumentals on Something Terrible Came With The Rain, Heroine is the ultimate love letter to evolution, emphatic execution and Hollywood itself. A genuine journey painstakingly crafted from a lifetime of devouring film scores, new influences and heart-felt nostalgia, come join Thornhill vocalist Jacob Charlton and guitarist Ethan McCann taking us track by track through their stunning new album Heroine.
ETHAN MCCANN: The Hellfire Club for us was the perfect opening track for this album. It seemed like a good way to show the progression from our previous work onto this one. And it was one of the most fun to write! It was one of the songs we’re the most proud of, everything just sort of fell into place. It was a super smooth process. And this is, I think, one of our favorite tracks.
JACOB CHARLTON: Super smooth process you reckon?
ETHAN: I mean…apart from the middle (laughs). JACOB: Apart from the whole song. And the vocals (laughs).
ETHAN: Leather Wings we thought was one of our favorites that we really didn't want to be a single, because we really wanted to surprise listeners who listen to the album in full. We wanted it to kind of be the sleeper on the record. And the movement of the track, to me, feels super fast and chaotic. We really didn't want to give anyone a breather too early on, we really wanted to keep the punches going for that song. In the same vein, the story and the thematics behind it is very much like a car chase, or like a car crash. It's a very “pedal to the metal” kind of vibe, very full on. And then you kind of get a break and then a surprise at the end!
JACOB: I think Blue Velvet was actually the first song we wrote. We had the intro and the chorus for two years. And it took us two years to get it where it is now. I think it's probably the most longing on the record, it's the most like emotive, and probably similar to our previous album The Dark Pool in terms of the feeling of that atmosphere where it's very sad, but we tried to package it very differently, as we did throughout Heroine, where take that snapshot of the umbrella of sadness and give it to you in a way that you haven't heard from us before. It's definitely a bit more of a “heart-throbby” one.
ETHAN: Arkangel was probably the second song we wrote for this record. That was one of the ones where we sort of figured out the vibe that we wanted to tackle for the rest of the album. I actually wrote this whole song to that old TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer, that intro sequence from the show. It was my first taste at trying to write a song as if it was a film score. It was like trying to match the sonics and the structure to a very particular vibe. And that's something that we realized that we could do, and realized that not many people were doing it. And we tried to apply it to the rest of the album.
ETHAN: So, Valentine…this is a weird one because we tried to finish the one original demo for so long. It was a very different sounding song, it was like a full band vibe, it was actually more of a “rock” song. But we could never quite crack it, the structure just didn't work out. So, we were like: why don't we just make it like a lo-fi groove track? The intro's such a particular mood, so why don't we just lean into that and make it sort of feel like it's something that you would put on in the car as you were driving through the city while it's raining. That was sort of the atmosphere we were trying to capture. I feel like one day we'd like to release the original version if we ever complete it…but we'll see if we can do it.
JACOB: Casanova was one of the first tracks of the character I was trying to lean into for this album, that really glammy and kind of over the top theatrics. The character took the biggest inspiration through artists like Justin Timberlake and Elvis, and I really wanted to create this persona on a heavy track that didn't make it feel like just a “heavy” track. It had more emotion in it, and the way that I was singing the lyrics were really, kind of, persuasive. And that was something that I've never really done before, emoting in singing is one of those things that I think is super overlooked. And even in my own personal life, I didn't even clue into it until after I learned how to sing properly after The Dark Pool. So, Casanova was our first taste of what was to come for the record, because it was one of the first songs that we finished.
JACOB: Essentially, we really leaned into the theatrical side of the album, where it's kind of all based on a big stage play or a film, and everything flows as a story. In terms of the album, Something Terrible Came With The Rain sits in the middle as an intermission from Act One and Act Two. We very much felt that The Hellfire Club to Casanova over was its own act, and from Hollywood to Heroine is its own act. Something Terrible Came With The Rain almost acts a little bit like a palette cleanser, but also as a crossroad in the middle of the story where it really is a breather for the audience and lets you reassess where you are in the album and in the story. And it turned out pretty cool, to be honest!
ETHAN: Yeah, I've spent most of my life listening to film scores and movie soundtracks and that sort of stuff, so I've always been super, super passionate about that sort of music. And then one day I just started writing this demo, it just came to mind one night, this little guitar part. And then it turned into this big orchestral thing. And we thought it would be a cool way to sort of show some of our other talents on the record too that we wouldn't usually show. It’s just a bit of a showcase record, really!
JACOB: Hollywood is, I think, the most “film score-y” in terms of its structure. It really follows a storyline lyrically and sonically. And it was one of the first songs that, I think, Ethan and I hit a groove as duo of songwriters where we weren’t fighting against each other for parts, we were really following each other in terms of where we wanted to go. It's probably the most interesting song structurally that we've ever written in my opinion. And it really doesn't follow any kind of norm for us, so it’s really fun to keep everyone on their toes. And I really wanted to follow a proper story with the visual aspect as well to kind of showcase what that sonic movement means in terms of the visual component. And it was just really fun to lean into that Casanova-esque character for this one once we'd actually nailed what we were going for, because this one came a bit later in the writing process for Heroine.
ETHAN: Raw was the last song we wrote on this album. It was a weird one, it all sort of came together within about 24 hours. We just sort of wanted to touch on some influences that we feel like we hadn't in the past, so bands like Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys and that sort of era of alternative rock music. We're all massive fans of that era and those bands, and this song all just came together super quickly from a few places, from some old demos and stuff like that. And we're pretty stoked with the end product!
ETHAN: Varsity Hearts for us was almost the song that kind of got away from us in the writing process, it felt the most unfinished. But it’s weird because I find myself, and I think Jacob does too, we almost go back to that song the most, because I think the good parts in it or the parts that we like are some of our most cherished on the whole album. It’s this weird sort of bittersweet relationship with Varsity Hearts, and we really wanted to lean into that superimposed teen movie aesthetic. Like, as soon as that intro kicks in, for me, it just reminds me of that movie She's All That, you know, kids walking around American school hallways with varsity jackets and stuff like that. And I think because it's such a strong image for me, we were super proud of most of that song!
JACOB: Heroine is probably the most cinematic track, I think, because we really wrote that to something super specific. I think the biggest inspiration for that one was the prom scene from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It was one of the first songs that we started and it was one of the longest to finish, just because we went through such a metamorphosis as songwriters, as duo songwriters between me and Ethan. And Heroine was one of the songs that we really had a light bulb moment on together. And it was really cool when we understood what we both wanted from the album, which is kind of where the title track came about, calling the album Heroine. And it was just a really fun one to start when we actually got together and understood what we were after, because the rest kind of came very easily from that. We really wanted to give an album closer that felt different to what you are regularly used to. And I think a lot of people are gonna not love it compared to where we go other times, because it's not big and it's not whatever some of our other songs are. But I think this is what makes sense to us in terms of the story and the overarch of this album. It really closes off the story in a way that could start it again, as if you keep playing the album on repeat. The end of Heroine really comes into the start of The Hellfire Club again, and it keeps telling a story if you let it. Heroine is one of those ones that we're super proud of. And it's probably my favorite on the album.
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BY TIANA SPETER