Thorn vs. Side's Nowell Doesn't Hold Back in Our Q&A

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Arson, Thorn vs. Side’s debut CD, was one of the best local releases of 2006, capturing a band growing beyond easy categorization, dressing up the classic hardcore punk of the Bad Brains with a metallic sheen and even throwing in some pop smarts. So what did guitarist/singer Nick Nowell do to celebrate a successful release? He blew up the band and started over. Now finishing up his degree and student teaching, the literate Nowell took some time to talk about the retooling of Thorn vs. Side.

What were the circumstances that led to you fire your entire band after the release of Arson?

It had become obvious that our personalities, goals and interest were very disparate. I was just as much to blame, and things reached the point that I stopped taking pleasure in what I was doing with the band. I still talk with those guys (bassist Louis Rolong and guitarist Zach Neeley) from time to time, and I am thankful that they have been willing to begin to reconcile.

What’s different about the new line up?

The last version of the band was a motley crew. Our personal lives and musical tastes cold not have been more different. We approached TVS as a business venture with partners instead of a personal venture with friends. The new members of the band are the best musicians and friends I could ever hope to know. I was in a very dark personal place during the fall and early winter of last year. The band, which many people had poured so much effort, time and money, had seemingly disintegrated in a matter of seconds. The new members are all very much on the same page. We have a similar past of heavy metal and punk rock, but we all simultaneously drifted toward bands like Jawbreaker and Piebald.

Are there plans to record?

We are about to embark on two months of intensive pre-production. The album is almost completely written. Our tentative plans are to enter the studio in March and release the album in June, and then hop back on the road until our beards are long enough to restrict our playing abilities.

You’re about to become a teacher. How does that mesh with you rock and roll, heavily tattooed and pierced lifestyle?

So far, so good. The students definitely see me as more of an authority figure than a peer. I’d like to believe they at least respect the fact that I teach Iron Maiden lyrics in class. More heads come up from desks when I’m telling tour stories than when I’m talking about romantic poetry.

Is there an audience for your style of music in the Dallas area?

The optimist in me would like to emphatically say “yes,” but the nihilistic sociopath in me says “no.” We have had a positive response from crowds in Denton, but I think Denton is just more receptive toward music in general. Not as far as Dallas goes, let’s just say that Denton is a North Texas oasis for bands who don’t cover Pantera or pray on stage.

Has the term “emo” infected and neutered punk rock?

A great man once said, “Punk is what you make it,” and I would have to agree. I’m sure purists deride us for using harmonies, so I am probably in no position to decide who and what is neutering punk rock. I will say that what kids are calling “emo” these days is a pretty far cry from Rites of Spring or Sunny Day Real Estate. My Chemical Romance is as emo as Creed is thrash metal. -- Darryl Smyers

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