Thank You Scientist brings its hard-to-pick-up sound to the Paper Tiger | Music Stories and Interviews | San Antonio
What you should expect from New Jersey’s Thank You Scientist: Intensely arranged prog tunes, horn section, funk, catchy melodies and a dose of jazzy improvisation.
something you should not expect from the band, which plays San Antonio’s Paper Tiger on Tuesday, June 7: the members struggle to explain its sprawling sound.
“We are who we are,” guitarist Tom Monda said in a Zoom interview from his home in New Jersey.
Even when pressed for the “stuck in an elevator with the head of a major label” pitch, Monda played coyly: “Think of all the things that are going to make you the least amount of money and stick them in a bandaged.”
While Monda’s semi-joking response downplays the magic of Thanks Scientist, he’s not entirely wrong.
Let’s start with the prog element. Thank You Scientist got its first break from Evil Ink Records, which released the band’s debut album in 2014. The label is owned by Claudio Sanchez of Coheed and Cambria, a guy who knows a thing or two about prog. And, unsurprisingly, Thank You Scientist toured with Coheed and appeared on the group’s Sea Cruise.
“There’s some overlap between us, but we come from different places with different influences,” said Monda, who gave in to an obsession with Frank Zappa during his formative years.
And then there are the horns. It means jazz, right? Well, that depends on how deep you want to go. Thank You Scientist features a trumpeter, saxophonist and violinist, all of whom improvise during solos. Monda is a jazz cat who plays in jazz side projects. And the essence jazz is improvisation.
Again, it’s not that easy.
“We manage to scratch that improvisational itch when we play live, but the majority of our stuff is super-composed,” he explained, citing personal influences such as Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny and John Coltrane. “I could say [Thank You Scientist] is a long-winded psyops to convince normals to listen to jazz, but it’s not.”
And the melodies? There is no doubt that the songs have big hooks. Vocalist Salvatore Marrano sells the melody with a distinct voice in the high register, putting it firmly in the prog line.
“Good songs are good songs,” Monda explained. “It doesn’t matter if it’s three-chord songs or five-million-note songs.”
The group geeks
If you think Thank You Scientist sounds like a high school marching band geek troupe, hey, you’re not mistaken either. This was evident from the moment the band dropped their debut Maps of non-existent placesbut things were cemented with 2019’s single “FXMLDR,” whose video featured the members performing alongside the epic Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps.
So with all of these different directions and the group’s studious vibe, is it a safe assumption that they used their pandemic downtime wisely? This one is easy. The group released the fruit of these labors, the EP Accommodation against the plaguelast November.
And speaking of everyone’s favorite plague, Monda said Thank You Scientist is prepared for all of its lasting effects on live music.
“Being a touring musician is like looking into the abyss,” he said. “What if we were the last generation of bands? It’s going to be an in-room setup with five iPads and five guys zooming in from their bedrooms.”
But for now, music fans have access to concert halls, and the band is taking advantage of that. For their current tour, Thank You Scientist are paired with Strawberry Girls, a group considered progressive or mathematical rock, although Monda has said they come from a “different area”.
“More of a post-hardcore vibe,” Monda explained. “When choosing bands to tour with, we ask ourselves, ‘What is a balanced music night?'”
No surprise Thanks The scientist likes to mix things up. After all, this kind of upside-down chemistry is the essence of the hard-to-describe band. His musical diversity has allowed him to share stages with anyone from Periphery to Devin Townsend, Consider the Source to Haken.
Monda said he looks forward to the San Antonio show as he has fond memories of previous appearances in Texas.
“It’s usually my favorite series of shows. It’s a bit of everything,” he said. “People are friendly. Last time I was there I had my bike and it was a great place to cycle. It’s a beautiful city.”
And any chance that Monda finally found a less oblique way to describe the sound of Thank You Scientist? Not really, but maybe that’s too big of an order even for a guy involved in creating it.
“With music, it’s hard to get perspective on what [it] it even sounds like, because it sounds so different to you,” he said. “If you listen to our music on records, it’s very different from how you experience it live.
$20-$25, 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 7, Paper Tiger, 2410 N. St. Mary’s St., papertigersatx.com.
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