Belfast trio THVS are purveyors of their very own self-defined genre that they intriguingly describe as “heavy pop.” But fear not, this heavy iteration couldn’t be any further away from actual pop music if it tried.
The band started out when Michael (guitar and vocals) and Matt’s (drums) former band split up so they got into the practice room, set up facing each other and smashed out a handful of songs, of which three would form their debut EP Everyday Hexes. As Michael tells us: “The way those songs came out is how they were recorded, structure, timing all that. It was like the songs were just being given to us, its one of those times were everything just clicks.”
At that point they decided to try and do a “heavy metal White Stripes two-piece thing” but it became they needed “more low-end growl.” So they drafted in Dave on bass and THVS was born, way back in 2014.
They’ve since honed a frenetic fusion of heavy riffs, intense vocals and pounding intensity, which Dave describes as: “It’s that early 90’s Seattle sound for me. With the amps turned up to 11. And with a bit more bite. It’s a Pitbull in a flannel shirt and ripped jeans.”
Michael tells us his musical inspiration first came from getting into Nirvana and other bands on the Seattle scene. As he explains: “I fell in love with everything about it: the aesthetic, the photography, the bands, the whole thing… well not the heroin, dodged a bullet there… Everything I read about it and the way Charles Peterson’s photos captured that scene, it all just screamed at me. So from there I was like ‘OK, I wanna be in a band.'”
While Dave tells us his rock inspiration first began as a 10-year-old hearing Guns’n’Roses’ Appetite for Destruction for the first time in 1990. “It was the coolest thing I’d ever heard, mostly because there were bad words in it,” he said. “I was fortunate enough that my dad played the guitar so I decided I wanted to be Slash. Of course, he had other ideas and taught me how to play Hotel California by the Eagles but that’s where it started for me.”
The latest taste of this is EP Plague Widows, which was released at the end of last year. On which Michael explains: “Expect three songs that rip out through your headphones, perforate your eardrums and get lodged in your brain. To which Matt adds: “Three slabs of heavy pop goodness. Pumping energetic rock. A snapshot of where we were as a band at that time and a nod to the future.”
It opens with big doomy, chugging guitars and pounding cymbals in the intro to Mayblood. Lone piercing guitars take over then the lively guitars join an onslaught of intense screamed vocals and wild drums. A prolonged section of doomy guitars and a lingering high-pitched lick bring the track to an end.
On the track, Michael says: “Mayblood is this sludgy hardcore throat-splintering assault. It grabs you by the head and throws you round the room, there’s a lot of anger there but there’s joy too. Kind of like ‘the passion of destruction is also a creative passion’ not that we’re anarchists or anything but anger isn’t necessarily a negative thing, as long as you channel it in the right way.” Check it out below:
The fast-paced fury continues in Squid Plural, with driving guitars ploughing away under frenetic vocals. An almighty section of wild guitars and pounding drums with piercing high-notes bring it to a close.
As Michael tells us: “Squid Plural is this juxtaposition of rhythms. If Mayblood throws you round the room then this is trying to stand up and staggering about, plus there’s a nice Nic Cage reference in there – who doesn’t love Cage?! Again, there’s anger and there’s joy in it as well, I think a lot of our songs are like that, it allows for a catharsis.” Give it a listen below:
And the EP closes with Neon Demons, which opens with a funky little low-tuned riff that drops into a big rock out to get things started. The darting riff continues as screamed vocals jump in, then a more intense shrill of vocals drops into a cool section of more melodic guitars and relentless cymbals. It eventually pauses for breath with screeching guitars then a fast bassline ushers in the return of the riff to take us to the close of the EP.
On it, Michael says: “Neon Demons is a riff-o-rama. This steam train riff keeps on rolling, you’re tied to the track and can’t get outta the way. So it’s a pretty diverse EP, a lot of ground covered in a short space of time, a lot of bang for your buck so to speak.” Check out the video below:
Returning to that ‘heavy pop’ definition, Michael explains: “We’re pioneers of our own Heavy Pop sound, we’re the only heavy pop band in Belfast, probably the world. We’re forging a new path. To me, it’s that mix of punk, rock, metal, pop, noise, hardcore and whatever else.
“That’s essentially what all those Seattle bands were. That dirty ‘G’ word they all got labelled with was fashion, it wasn’t music, so I think we’re kind of like that. We all listen to lots of different kinds of music and so all that goes into it. I love pop music and dance and all kinds of different rock music so when I write a song all that filters into it. You might not hear Taylor Swift in a very obvious way but she’s in there, creeping about.
“I think our newer stuff is slightly more reflective of it, the songwriting I feel has progressed a lot. But yeah, other people hear us and they’re like ‘oh you sound like Converge or you’re super heavy and screamy.’ I mean that’s the beauty of this everyone hears something different so I welcome all those points of view but at the end of the day, we’re a Heavy Pop band.”
While on what gets them writing music, Michael adds: “It’s just something I have to do. But in terms of events or anything that make me want to write, if my girlfriend breaks up with me I’m not about to cry, pick up the guitar and write a song about it, that’s not me. I’m just always chasing songs, trying to get better and get closer to what’s in my head.
“I try and write what I’d call linear lyrics, where it’s clearly about something in a very overt way or there’s a story but I always end up burying it in language or turns of phrase. I think that’s much more interesting than something that you take on face value.”
Or as Matt puts it: “Day to day life, release against the shit things in the world, celebration of the good things in the world, 90’s noise rock, side scrolling beat em ups. and a desire to make noise.”
The band have been in the studio working on an album, then they’ll be releasing more singles, another video and the album. You can also see them play several shows in Belfast through August and more planned through to the end of the year. More info on their upcoming gigs is here.