“What defines you as a person,” muses Chris Diehm, “is how you deal with tragedy.”
It’s a rainy Monday evening and the guitarist of Philly punk four-piece Thin Lips has been getting deepy contemplative with his bandmates over beers as we gather in a side studio at Big Mama’s Warehouse. The room has a markedly different vibe from the rest of the long-standing Fishtown arts community – instead of expansive floor-to-ceiling bright pageantry and reckless, paint-spattered abandon, this space is all about toned-down, quiet focus. Which carried over to our conversation.
Diehm, along with bassist Kyle Pulley, drummer Mikey Tashjian and singer-guitarist-songwriter Chrissy Tashjian, just wrapped up a long run of production on Riff Hard – Thin Lips’ debut LP, out this week on Lame-O Records. Recorded by Pulley at Headroom Studios, it’s a total blast: amplified, high-octane punk rock guitar jammers that are complex, catchy, fun — and most importantly, cathartic.
Over the course of the album’s making, the band encountered more than its share of personal tragedy – from the declining health of Diehm’s father to the sudden death of Mikey and Chrissy’s younger brother Billy. As our conversation navigates these parallel events, talk turns more broadly to the grieving process and its effects. Broadly speaking, it offers two paths: buckling down and wallowing in sorrow, or moving forward with a new resolve. By channeling personal lows into joyous anthems, it’s clear Thin Lips follows the latter on Riff Hard.
All week long, we’ll explore the album on Unlocked, The Key’s recurring series on new and significant releases from Philadelphia regional artists. Later this week, we’ll bring you a record review, a video and an indepth interview from our conversation at Big Mama’s, all leading up to Thin Lips’ record release party this Friday, May 20th at Everybody Hits. Today, we begin the journey with a deep dive on “No Obituary,” a track that very directly confronts the aftermath of loss at the center of the album.
Over crunching riffs, barreling rhythms and soaring leads, Chrissy sings “Do whatever the hell it is you want to do / do whatever you want, I’ll be just fine / all I ask of you is to try your hardest to understand / I have to do the things I need to.”
She tells me the songs is based in part on a conversation she had with her partner after Billy’s passing.
“When somebody so close to you dies, and you realize life is wildly unfair, you recalibrate,” Tashjian explains. “I realized, if things people need to do are going to cause friction in my life, its gonna be fine.”
Pully adds that tragedy gives you perspective on life. It makes you more compassionate towards your friends and loved ones; it makes you recognize what’s truly important, and what is maybe not such a big deal in the grander scheme of things as it might seem on the day to day. Which makes Thin Lips’ juxtaposition of deep thoughts and carefree riffage all the more poignant – the message, it seems, is that life can be so serious, but on the other hand its not.
Listen to “No Obituary” below, and check back all week as we dig deep into Thin Lips’ new Riff Hard.
Thin Lips, Unlocked