Arts Co-Editor Barney Evison met up with homegrown band The Thirst in their rehearsal space under the Hand in Hand pub to find out more about their career to date and plans for the future. The Thirst is Mensah (guitar and vocals), Mark (guitar) Kwame (bass) and Marcus (drums). Why not listen to their music while you read?
My first question is, why are you called the Thirst?
Kwame: It’s about a thirst for music, for life, for doing what you want.
Marcus: It originally came about from First Class. The only thing that makes First Class on the trains is that little piece of material on the chairs. We took one of those back in the day and put it on one of our chairs back home.
How did you guys all meet?
Kwame: Mensah is my brother, and we met Mark at Sudbourne primary school.
Mark: I met Kwame first day of primary school and we’ve been friends since then!
Mensah: Then we met Marcus at secondary school when we were teenagers.
How long have you been the Thirst?
Marcus: About 6 years now.
Kwame: We were a band a long time before we were The Thirst. We used to DJ and MC – we called ourselves 2 Much Crew. It’s always been us four hanging around together, and it was just an obvious progression.
Marcus: It was the same good energy when we picked up our instruments.
It must have been quite a leap, going from MC-ing and DJ-ing to playing instruments.
Kwame: Yeah, it was a bit of a wild card really. Mensah got a guitar for his 14th birthday and he didn’t really want it at the time. After a couple of years he tried to sell it but mum stopped him. Eventually he picked up and then he started playing it day and night, non-stop.
Have you been in the local area your whole lives?
Marcus: Pretty much, we all grew up around here. We’ve moved out to other areas like Wandsworth and Clapham because they’re cheaper.
Mark: We’re always drawn back to Brixton though. We’re in Brixton every day.
Mensah: We were here before it was trendy. When there was just one crackhead. Now it’s full of… trendy crackheads.
Marcus: We’ll be back to buy one of them big houses on Brixton Road!
Is it good for music?
Marcus: Brixton’s always been good for music. Lots of people have moved in and it’s got a lot more expensive but you can never draw the inspiration out of Brixton. You walk past the market and it still smells of nasty fish – it’s always gonna be there.
Kwame: A lot has been added but it’s never really changed. The core of Brixton is still there.
Where do you guys go out in Brixton?
Mensah: We’ve been everywhere in Brixton of course!
Marcus: There’s different places for different nights. The Jamm is one of our favourite places – it’s like a pick ‘n’ mix that’s fallen on the floor and bits of it are still alright. Hootananny and Plan B are good too.
Kwame: We know a lot of the door staff now so we get in free. That’s why we haven’t felt the pinch of going out in Brixton.
Have you played a lot of the local venues?
Kwame: Yeah, we’ve played at the Hootananny, here (Hand in Hand), Jamm, Academy, Dogstar, Windmill. Brixton has been good to us. This pub has been really good to us. We rehearse here for nothing.
What was it like playing at the Academy?
Kwame: It was a support show for the Sex Pistols. It was an experience. The crowd was mad – they were spitting and swearing at us, but at the same time dancing to our music! Proper punk.
Where else has your music taken you?
Kwame: We’ve been to Chile, Texas for SXSW, Argentina, most of Europe, Japan, Croatia, Scotland and lots of other places too.
Mensah: Not forgetting Streatham, Croydon, Mitcham…
Where was your first gig?
Kwame: It was at the Dogstar. We were there handing out a 4-track demo and they asked us if we wanted to play a 2-hour set. We only had those 4 songs!
Marcus: We had to make up 20 songs in a week! Not all of them lasted…
Which was your best gig?
Marcus: I think there’s probably one that was amazing for all of us; supporting the Rolling Stones on a beach in Croatia in front of 40,000 people.
Kwame: When we played in Japan it was great because it was just us. The crowd there really liked it.
How would describe your music?
Kwame: At the core it’s rock, but then it has all these love childs and other influences as well.
Mensah: It’s influenced by garage, hip hop, grime, drum n bass. Vocally, there’s a lot of rap influences.
What are you working on at the moment?
Kwame: Material for our new album, which will be out next year. We’ve got a new single releasing soon too called ‘True’.
Do you like recording?
Mensah: Yeah, it’s a completely different experience to gigging. A gig happens and it’s over – if you mess up, it doesn’t really matter. As a musician, your recording is all you stand by. There’s two ways we do it – either it’s a song we’ve been performing already and we get it recorded quickly, or it’s something we create in the studio together and record it.
Kwame: We jam together and get a feeling for what could become a song. Little things like a riff or a beat can be a catalyst.
What are your plans for the future?
Kwame: Everything is around the album. We’ve got the release, then we’re touring.
Mensah: A big focus for next year is America.
Marcus: We’ve got a long road ahead of us!