Story by Allie Volpe
In 2014, Thumpers were at a musical apex, overlooking the kingdom that was their debut album Galore in all its bright and synthy glory. Despite all its jubilant, pop-focused hooks and spellbindingly expansive group vocals — that feel almost holy in nature — the London-based duo aimed to turn the sunshine inward and climb back into the underground. The band, Marcus Pepperell and John Hamson Jr., wanted to play in clubs again, even though they noticed some of those venues disappearing.
“I've lived in London for eight or nine years and the speed of which it's changing is astonishing now,” vocalist Pepperell says. There’s a song on their next album, due out in April, about the rapid gentrification of the city. His collaborator, drummer Hamson Jr., cites the shuttering of DIY spaces for train station parking lots, the closing (and eventual reopening) of famed nightclub Fabric. There are notions throughout the still untitled record that for all their time touring behind Galore, things had been rapidly morphing back at home beyond their control. And their sophomore release will be about regaining that control.
Throughout Galore, the anthemic festival-appeasing sound ran rampant: “And when you're calling me, you're saying there's a fire / And I want to tell you now that I have a looking heart for more,” Pepperell sings on “Dancing’s Done.” Elsewhere on the album, there’s grand theatrics on “Roller,” afrobeat-inspired drums and an overall sunny disposition. For every glittery slow build there was a declaration of young love’s influence.
“We were anti-cynics on that last album. We were trying to get into this pure-hearted thing,” Pepperell says. “With this album, we've never been less concerned with being wrong or having the answers to the things we're writing about. What the fuck are we doing making music? is one of [those things]. What have we made of ourselves? is one as well. There was a bit of identity crisis that we sort of embraced on this album.”
While “Gargantua” may signify a larger-than-life return, the two have pared back the operation, relying solely on themselves and their essentials. The essentials can still sound expansive though, and the beauty of it is songs like this are versatile enough to work both built up with guitar, programming and electric guitar and pared down on acoustic guitar and piano.
Paired with the diverse scope of sounds on LP 2 — though the band insist the joyfulness of Galore has not been lost — Thumpers have upped their wordplay game with irony and wit, giving nods to the Pixies’ ability to turn caricatures into visceral emotion.
“There's a song [on the album] that's about an inflated and tongue in cheek view of masculinity,” Pepperell shares. “It's not about being in the doldrums of London. I'm poking fun of myself about feeling like that. [The album is about] allowing yourself to follow those thoughts out to their cartoonish regions. You can do that and still have a gut relation to something.”
So maybe when Thumpers sing “We can make our trinity,” they do indeed mean some biblical thing — between the vital players: Pepperell, Hamson and the listener.
“We're trying to be brave,” Hamson says of the new album, “and hoping people want to be brave with us.”