The sleepy small town of Brattleboro, in the northeastern state of Vermont, US, is home to just over 10,000 people. It’s not the typical setting for a new rock’n’roll success story, one might think, but for the three members of THUS LOVE, moving to the town helped them build a community that has changed their lives.
When the band’s three multi-instrumentalist members – Echo Marshall, Lu Racine and Nathaniel van Osdol – hop on a Zoom call with NME, they’re sitting snugly inside a room of the Buoyant Heart. A two-storey building in the back of an old organ factory, the space now serves as the home to a collective of local artists that includes the band themselves. Inside is a recording studio, show space, live room, “community zone” and more, as well as a museum dedicated to the building’s previous life making organs, which opens on Saturdays.
“It’s been such a hub for us and our friends and our community,” Marshall tells NME, with the musicians joined in the space by visual artists, builders, carpenters and more. From the way the dynamic punk trio speak about their HQ, the ethos of the place feels significantly more important than the specific disciplines practiced there. With many of the members travelling with their work for much of the year, the quiet and quaint town – and their base within it – allows space for reflection. “We all pretty much grew up in the woods, so we do have a predisposition for the outdoors,” Marshall says. “It’s a comforting place to get a breather, and something that we all hold really dear.”
When Marshall moved to the town – affectionately called “Bratt” by the band – from further north in Vermont in 2018, she instantly connected with Racine, and they began making music together, with their community based around a silkscreen print shop Mars co-runs in downtown. Joined by bassist van Osdol at the end of 2019, the trio then moved into a one-bedroom apartment in the centre of town, where Mars built a studio from scratch and they laid down their moving, life-affirming debut album, ‘Memorial’, due October 7.
Broadly based within the post-punk genre, the album also draws from Marshall’s past as a trained cellist, and van Osdol’s penchant for jazz. Through these influences, and the band’s boundary-free ethos, ‘Memorial’ avoids being pigeonholed at all. Their setup of guitar, bass, drums and vocals serves as a jumping off point for explorations into pop, glam rock and beyond, rather than a restriction.
The album is helmed by first single ‘Inamorato’, which is driven forwards by a Smiths-y guitar line and matches pop sensibilities with a wild and untamed energy. To Marshall, the song represents THUS LOVE as a whole, of “being a rock band, being members of a collective, being DIY working on things over long periods of time, and perseverance”.
She adds: “A lot of it was written in lockdown on a little keyboard by the computer, while I was cramped in an apartment. It’s about that feeling of being generally quite overwhelmed with the state of things in the world, with all of our equilibriums shattered.” Though written with a “scattered and chaotic” mindset, the uncertainty proved exciting for the band. “When you’re in the feeling of not really knowing what’s coming next, it translates into your art,” Marshall says. “We wrote things in parts of that song that I really love and wouldn’t have expected us to write it that way in other circumstances.”
Van Osdol describes THUS LOVE as an ever-changing organism which is as much about the three members’ growing friendship and the change it can affect within and beyond their community as much as the songs themselves. “I think vulnerability changes,” they say of their constantly evolving approach. “We’re just relearning, and we’re growing together. We’re reacting to what happens, and to other changes that are happening in our lives and in our personalities.”
In signing to Brooklyn-based independent record label Captured Tracks [DIIV, Scout Gillett], playing shows across the US and building their community, the band hope to uplift other young people who feel out of place or are struggling to find like-minded people. Again, the concept and idea of THUS LOVE feels significantly more wide-ranging than the music on ‘Memorial’ itself.
Racine says: “When you’re signed to a label, you just have a lot of people automatically on your team, hyping you up and giving you a platform. Being from such a small town, 99 percent of the world hasn’t heard our songs, and it’s nice for [the label] to put them out in the world.”
Through their debut album and the tours that will follow, Marshall hopes that THUS LOVE can set an example with waves that travel far beyond their small town’s borders. “The reason why people digest art, and why they want to hear the next single of a band they like, is to have access to shared vulnerability that makes them feel seen, or represented, or heard,” she says.
“It’s the role of the artist, especially as a performer – to bring that vulnerability, that care for each other and that honesty,” Marshall concludes. “Displaying that for people gives people power; it makes them feel seen, it motivates them, it makes them feel good, and it makes them feel like they can do stuff themselves.”
THUS LOVE’s debut album ‘Memorial’ will be released on October 7