Jacob Charlton – Thornhill ‘Avoid Gatekeeping And Give Evolution A Chance’

Thornhill

If you know someone into metalcore, ask them if they like Thornhill, and most answers will be an enthusiastic YES! However, the band just released their latest album Heroine, and it’s a departure in sound, vibe and aesthetics from what vehement fans are used to.

As the singles were released – there was a mixed reception, and some fans seemed to take it perhaps a little personally that the songs didn’t sound like those from the much-loved album The Dark Pool. Just before the album was released last week, I was lucky enough to sit down with vocalist Jacob Charlton to hear how he feels about the album, how the band’s evolution happened and what’s next. 

Despite knowing the album is different, and there have been mixed reactions, Jacob isn’t too concerned with losing fans or the negative comments the singles have received

“I’m not too phased about it. People didn’t like The Dark Pool or Butterfly when they came out, and people always have something negative to say – especially in our type of music. I’m not really that deterred because we stand by everything we did. I think it’s really cool, and it’s interesting and way, way far ahead than anything The Dark Pool could have ever been, in my opinion. And it’s the most we’ve ever felt like a band and in sync and as good as we are right now. So either way, it’s an up and up.”

As you read this, the album has been out for a few days, and hopefully, you’ve had the chance to have a good listen. I was lucky enough to review the album (check that out here), and I think Heroine has taken Thornhill from an incredible metalcore band amongst other fantastic metalcore bands to a level above. This album is a huge step up and makes them stand out in the scene. 

“We were just trying to bring back when heavy music was really cool. Think like MTV – the nineties – when heavy music was wild and widely spread across every audience. You knew who these big acts were.. who Marilyn Manson was, who Nirvana was, and bands like that. I want to be that kind of band for this day and age because I think that’s what’s missing from heavy music. I want to be a heavy act of good dudes – because we are nice people – but give that character and flair that they used to have in the darker, heavier stuff.”

There are so many bands at the moment that follow the same formula – dudes who play djenty riffs with a mix of clean and heavy vocals. Which is fine but it’s great to see bands turning that idea on its head. And the album still has so many elements of the old band we know and love – it’s just super charged and mixed with progression. 

“Gatekeeping of metalcore is a very real thing, and I think that’s why bands have to take bigger risks – because the fans just don’t let them grow. And that’s why so many don’t… Why would you keep writing the same record? It’s just not why we make music – it never was and never will be. We write for ourselves and the soul of the music that we create. Whatever is going to make us happy and get us closer to our dream of making this a job.”

Honestly, gatekeeping is so boring, and I wish we could collectively agree to stop, but I know I am asking a bit much.

It’s not just Thornhill‘s sound that has changed. Jacob says that each band member has changed a lot as a person, especially with COVID and prolonged lockdowns knocking them around mentally. 

“Our mental health kind of went to the sh*tter. We’re very much in-person kind of people and music is obviously a big thing for us. So it definitely shook us down, and we had to build ourselves back up – as a band and also as individuals. I did a lot of work to be who I am on this record and to tour this record. I wanted to become a performer; I didn’t want to just be a good singer or a good frontman – I wanted something more than that. And it’s something I thought was lacking, at least in Thornhill.”

Jacob also says that he was so happy with how receptive the rest of the band was to his ideas and changes, and it’s been incredible to see them push themselves. Especially guitarist/producer/co-writer Ethan McCann.

The change, while deliberate, started very organically for the band. ‘Heroine’, ‘Arkangel’, ‘The Hellfire Club’ and ‘Blue Velvet’ were written straight after The Dark Pool was released and before lockdown took hold. The band were meandering down the path of change, but Jacob doesn’t think the album would have ended up exactly the way it did, had lockdown not gripped the band in its claws for so long. 

“I think the vocals would have been very different… I just wanted more – I wanted to chase that feeling of being able to write a hook over a heavy part or a breakdown. It was just something more I wanted from heavy music, and I think the time allowed for that…

But also touring Europe – you play your set and songs so many times that you start to work out what you’re missing and what you want more of. And it was really easy for us to take a step back and think… let’s progress, let’s expand, let’s evolve.”

Thornhill has been able to play Heroine live, even playing the album in full at shows in March. They have also toured the US and played Full Tilt Festival here. The audience reception has been super positive for the Heroine era songs. Many people have told the band that seeing the performance and aesthetic aspect has helped them connect the dots, understand what the band is doing, and make the songs click. It is great to see that people are coming around to what are incredible songs. 

“‘Casanova is probably our biggest live song right now, and that was the most hated, most controversial song. They just go off for it, and it’s so sick because it’s really fun to take a step back and just dance and be in the characters that we try to portray and see that people are getting into that. It’s been an amazing experience, to be honest. Finally.”

Depending on the tour and set length, audiences can expect fairly Heroine heavy shows, with older faves peppered in. In saying that, the band didn’t really get to tour The Dark Pool properly (thanks to old mate COVID), so while they don’t particularly want to play lots of songs from it, they understand that’s what the people want. Jacob explains:

“Definitely going to be Heroin heavy because that’s part of the performance now. It’s not even just the songs we’re playing – it’s part of the overall act we’re trying to give.”

So we know what live sets and the band themselves will look like moving forward, but what about the next album? Will there be another complete switch in sound?

“We’re still in the early stages of demoing right now, but there are definitely elements of the songwriting we did for Heroine that are going to follow us just because we enjoyed parts of the process. There are little itches that we haven’t scratched yet that we might progress on in the next one. The MTV thing is definitely going to be a thing for us and very character-driven. In my head – and we’ll see what fans say – but I’ve kind of proven that with my vocal ability to be able… to explore everything I want to explore and have fun with it. So it’s a mixed bag right now, but it’ll still probably be heavy rock.”

While the pandemic was rough for everyone, it has made for some excellent music, with bands having to sit still, hone their crafts and write songs to keep sane. So far this year, there have been great releases from fantastic Aussie bands, and a number of these have also switched up their sound and overall vibe. Jacob thinks it’s fantastic that there are so many bands pushing in the same way Thornhill is and that eventually, fans will have to come around to this new sound, look and overall theatrics of music. He predicts that eventually, the bands that don’t put in the work and progress will get left behind and stand out more than those that change. 

The throwbacks to the musical glory days of the nineties and late eighties are in full swing, and Thornhill is happy to be part of the forefront in Australian heavy music – pushing the envelope and bringing back the weight music deserves. The memories of being excited about buying a CD and sitting down to give it your full attention are front of mind for the bands leading the way and bands are releasing works that mean something as a whole again rather than just single after single. When it comes to Heroine, that’s precisely how the band wants it to be enjoyed. The band prides itself on being an album band, putting time and effort into the tracklisting. And that’s how they want it to be listened to. Jacob says:

“I want you to be able to sit down…close your eyes… let us take you on the journey. Let us show you what we’ve got and what this story arc means, and how it’s going to progress. I appreciate open-mindedness..obviously, it’s not The Dark Pool, and it’s not going to be…. I want people to just open their minds to it and let us take them. And if they don’t like it, they don’t like it. It’s probably a two listen kind of album – I get that – but I just hope people are able to just give it a chance.”

Don’t just write it off because you’re freaked out at the singles. That’s such a sh*t way to be. Give a band a chance if you enjoy music – it’s that simple. Why else listen to music? 

This is a sentiment I one hundred back. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again as many times as I need to – Heroine is a damn good album, and you HAVE to give it a chance, or two or three. In six months or next year – I reckon you’ll be glad you did – this album and band will be even huger than they already are, so don’t sleep on them and get left behind.

Interview Cait Mac @cait_2tone

Thornhill’s new album, Heroine is out now.
Grab it here

Thornhill – Heroine tracklisting:

1. The Hellfire Club
2. Leather Wings
3. Blue Velvet
4. Arkangel
5. Valentine
6. Casanova
7. Something Terrible Came With the Rain
8. Hollywood
9. Raw
10. Varsity Hearts
11. Heroine

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About Cait Mac (44 Articles)
Alternative gal who loves music and gets to write things about it for Wall of Sound