Thin Lips: Finding the Right Riffage.
Think of Thin Lips as a punk rock modern family.
Band break-ups, forged musical friendships, forgiveness and new beginnings have all been a part of this four-person unit, and frontwoman Chrissy Tashjian is the obvious matriarch. She’s the nurturing, creative core of the project, unabashedly requesting that someone roll up the sleeves of her T-shirt when she emerges from the shower after band practice in preparation for a show this evening at Everybody Hits, near Northern Liberties. On the walk over from their practice space in Big Mama’s Warehouse, she can also be seen wiping the schmutz away from her younger brother and fellow bandmate’s eye.
Thin Lips formed from the ashes of Dangerous Ponies, which called it quits after six years in 2013, the note on their Facebook page announcing the split stating, “Chrissy I’m sure will start a new project soon.”
“What happens after I get out of every band is like, ‘I’m done,’” Chrissy reminisces. “I get all heartbroken, and I’m like, ‘I’m not doing this any more, this is dumb.’ Then I make it three weeks, I go to five shows and I’m like, ‘I hate this, I miss playing guitar so hard.’”
In true matriarch fashion, Chrissy kept her musical allies from that band by her side in Thin Lips, with DP bassist Kyle Pulley and drummer Mikey Tashjian (her younger brother) joining her to fill out the original line-up.
“In [Dangerous Ponies], Chrissy and I argued with everybody but each other,” says Pulley, who is also well known as one half of the creative duo behind The Headroom studio. “We’re just on the same page from an aesthetic point of view, and what we want out of music and how we want to approach music. We spend a lot of time honing and making quality over quantity – just focusing our efforts on a few songs and polishing them.”
These focused efforts resulted in Divorce Year, the band’s debut EP that was released this past May to much acclaim. A sibling dispute led Mikey Tashjian (who also drums in The Superweaks, formerly known as The Weaks, with ex-Dangerous Ponies bandmates Chris Baglivo and Evan Bernard) to leave the band before the album was recorded. Chrissy pulled in Pat Brier, drummer for Three Man Cannon and Queen Jesus, with whom she’d had success jamming.
Commentary on Divorce Year strongly noted the palpable tenseness and sadness embedded in the album’s music and lyrics.
“Right after Dangerous Ponies split up, my partner of six years and I split up,” Chrissy says. “Then two weeks later, my youngest brother died. Then I got mugged. Then [due to a work-related accident] I had to wear an eye patch for a week. Just all of these shitty, shitty things happened. So Divorce Year is a processing of a lot of that, and my next record is an extension of the processing of a lot of that.”
Laying it all out for the listener proved opportune for Thin Lips as friends in bands like Cayetana and Hop Along came banging down their door to take them out on tour this summer after the Divorce Year release. But before the band agreed to the Hop Along Painted Shut record release tour, they brought on Chris Diehm (Quit, 1994, Year of Glad) as a second guitarist. The addition added another element to the “riffage,” as Chrissy puts it, and squelched the feelings that were making her unhappy with performing at the time – mainly about whether or not she wanted to continue to be the frontwoman or just play guitar.
“We brought in somebody else to try and sing but it felt weird,” she says. “It was like karaoke or something, and trying to teach somebody to emote your own lyrics is super weird. I was like, ‘We have to figure this out because this is really import to me. This is my music. This is something me, Kyle and Mikey have been working on for a long time.”
Chrissy says Diehm learned all of the band’s songs in two days and that the dynamic clicked automatically. Not only did he help fill out the band’s live sound but Chrissy says the writing process for the next record is going much faster. This is because she’s historically written songs alone and tracked everything herself – from drums to bass to vocals – then sent it out to the band for input. Now, she just sends it out with her playing guitar.
“I think that really helps because it doesn’t lock itself into an idea,” she says. “Then the four of us kind of process it together. It’s just processing so much faster.”
Pulley says Diehm has also become the “tie-breaker” on many decisions that these three longtime bandmates would otherwise be feuding about.
“I feel like when there is a point of contention, I can just quietly sit there and be like, ‘Hey, why don’t we try all those things and then use the one that sounds the best?’” Diehm says with a laugh. “But yeah, I feel like it’s a different role than I’ve ever played in a band before because I’m usually the primary songwriter.”
The members of Thin Lips look forward to what’s ahead. Chrissy says the band has signed to Lame-O Records and the label will put out Divorce Year on 7-inch in February, as well as their full-length at a to-be-determined date. APA Entertainment just signed the band, which will alleviate some of the stress of booking their own tours and all of the other time-consuming tasks a DIY band becomes responsible for.
“Kyle is a record engineer. He works crazy, 13 hour days,” Chrissy says. “I’m a carpenter. I work insane hours. Chris gets as many waiting shifts in as he can. Mikey is a mover. We’re all on a hustle just so that we can write records and tour. That’s every musician’s kind of struggle.”
But for now, the daily struggle is an afterthought as the band turns their attention back to tonight’s performance. They’re not upset – maybe even a little relieved that there are several other shows going on tonight that make for a more intimate atmosphere.
“It’s Friday night in Philly,” Diehm says matter-of-factly.
“Philly is killing it,” Chrissy adds.