May 25 @ The Waiting Room
Formerly Tommy & The High Pilots – pop rock from Santa Barabara, CA.
The Tragic Thrills
“My aim is to be earnest and have integrity,” says Zach Porter, primary songwriter of the transcendent pop-rock quintet The Tragic Thrills. “When I write songs for this band, I question every word because I want to make sure everything is honest.”
The quintet is comprised of seasoned musicians with national and international touring experience, and successful track records with both major and independent labels. The band has toured with Twin Forks, Augustana and Pigpen Theater Co. In addition to Zach Porter, the band includes Cameron Quiseng (bass), Chris Morrison (lead guitar), Ans Gibson (drums), and Gabe Rudner (keyboard). With The Tragic Thrills, the band members break away from their legacies to rally behind the poetic and irreverently romantic songs Porter has crafted. Emboldened by the fresh start, the guys have taken the reins to steer their destiny. They self-funded their self-titled debut, and, enamored with the subtle genius production on Mat Kearney’s Young Love, handpicked producer Jason Lehning.
It’s a bold way to launch a new band, but that move keeps within the vibrant emotionality packed in the group’s moniker. “The name The Tragic Thrills embodies a sense of what I owe. Not what I owe to anyone, just what it’ll take for me to find whatever the hell it is I’m looking for in life,” Porter reveals.
For Porter, love pulled him off the music business treadmill and brought him back to soulful creative authenticity. “Meeting my girlfriend changed everything,” he confides. “In the past, being in a successful band was the most important thing in the world to me—I was willing to do whatever it took to make it.. Now I’m able to write in a way that my ambitions had stopped me from before. ”
The band recently signed to Washington Square, the new Razor & Tie imprint. The Tragic Thrills debut is sublimely modern with skyward, atmospheric anthemics tastefully balanced by poignant and quaint touches likes stately cello, crystalline piano, and shimmering guitars. Against this expansive backdrop, Porter sings his powerfully confessional lyrics with rawness and urgency.
Throughout the album Porter’s lyric writing is a revelation; it’s blunt and pent-up but bursting with emotion about relationships: romantic, friendship, and business. On “Tears” he sings: I lost it all/I punched the wall again/But it was stronger than my hands/And they were swollen, they were red/And I’m a fool/I’m not a lion, I’m a man I can’t outrun the hurt they said/But I can love and love again/And you too, you too. “I have days quite often where I find myself relating to ‘Tears,’ in many different ways,” he says candidly. “I have something that means everything to me. And with that connection and devotion comes the greatest moments in my life but also some of the hardest.”
Another standout, “Creeps & Strangers” seizes a different end of the emotional spectrum, recounting a particularly chilling experience. “My girlfriend would take the bus to work every day,” he remembers. “There was this really creepy guy who would stare at her like he wanted to murder her. It was horrible. I was in Nashville thinking about this creep and how I didn’t want her to ride the bus anymore. That idea eventually evolved into something broader about people’s lives in general, the routine, and wanting to break the cycle of things you hate.”
The hauntingly beautiful “Fever” features some of his most imaginative and stinging lyrical ideas. “There are three different stories in ‘Fever.’ The first story I made up, although it’s safe to say it happens all the time. The other two stories are personal stories from my life,” he explains. “Getting these stories out in these songs is a huge release for me. When I sing that song I mean every word.”
The Tragic Thrills sought out producer Jason Lehning for his fingerprint aesthetic of sleek poise and unvarnished expressiveness. “Jason was everything I needed. He was the perfect balance of challenging me and letting me do my thing to capture an emotion,” explains Porter.
“The whole time I was making the record there was a sense of purpose,” Porter says pensively, thinking back. “It felt like it was exactly what I should be doing. That sense of purpose gets me through everything.”