I caught up with former Thursday and current No Devotion frontman Geoff Rickly before their show at the O2 Guildhall in Southampton, where they were supporting former My Chemical Romance star Gerard Way.
I climbed up onto the band’s tour bus with their manager Karen and waited for Geoff to walk over from the venue. When he arrived he greeted me with a firm handshake, and sat down next to me before jokingly pointing fun at the crack’s on my battered iPhone screen.
How are you finding Southampton? When did you arrive?
Geoff: We got to Southampton, I’m not sure really, but I woke up around nine, and just been around town all day, it’s nice!
Have you been here before?
Geoff: Yeah I have, The Joiners and a few other places. I’m sure Thursday [performed at the Guildhall]at some point, but I can’t remember it all…
You did Birmingham last night, how did you find that?
Geoff: It was great, it was amazing actually. Yeah, all the boys were saying it was one of the best gigs that they’ve ever played, it was nice.
I’ve just been told [by Karen]that you and Gerard go way back. How did you get together, how did that all start?
Geoff: So, after Thursday’s second record came out, Full Collapse, I was looking in the Eyeball Records house in the Carney/Newark area and Mikey [Way] and Gerard would come by a lot. Gerard was an artist and I was excited about working on a comic book with him and then one day he was like, “No! Listen to my band!” and I was like, “Urgh! I don’t wanna listen to your band! Like, I don’t care about another band!” because I wanted to work on my comic book. But he was like, “It’s called My Chemical Romance”, and I was like, “That’s a pretty good name…”. Now you hear it and you just know the band, but at the time I was like, okay, My Chemical Romance is a pretty good name! Then I saw them practice a few times and I thought they weren’t so great. But then they gave me a demo for a song called ‘Vampires Will Never Hurt You’ and I was like, oh, there’s a little touch right there of something. So I spent a whole tour listening to that song and then when I got home I was like, “Yeah, I’ll make a record with you”. So I produced their first record. At the time I didn’t have a car and they were a four piece at the time, but my friend Frank [Iero] gave me a lift to the studio every day and I was like, “Dude, you sing and play guitar, you should be in the band!”. But they didn’t think they needed two guitar players but I was like, yeah you do, there’s two guitar parts on every song, you need two guitar players. So he joined the band and I was like, there you go, see!
Do you still keep in touch with Frank? He’s obviously just announced his tour over here in a few months time…
Geoff: Yeah, he’s doing well!
I saw him support Mallory Knox in November last year…
Geoff: How was that?
He was really good! It surprised me. I suppose like Gerard, the stuff he is doing now is a completely different sound to that of My Chemical Romance. They just want their own identity, I assume?
Geoff: Yeah. I think also because Ray [Toro] wrote so much of the stuff for My Chem, that I think it makes sense that this stuff doesn’t really sound like that musically. Gerard had the whole idea for everything for My Chem, but musically Ray was such a force.
Obviously the other guys [in No Devotion]were in a band together; how did you guys get together?
Geoff: Karen. I was like, “What happened, that’s so crazy! You have to tell me everything that happened!” But she just said that I should hear what they’re doing now, but I was like, “Oh, I dunno, that’s pretty intense”. But then I heard it and I thought that it was really good. And then I was on tour with Vinnie [Caruana] from The Movielife and he was like, “Yeah, those guys are the best and they’re the best guys”, so I told him that I had a few demos of their new stuff and he told me to put them on. When I put them on everyone was saying “Wow, that’s really good!” and one of the other guys that was playing was like, “If you don’t do it, can I get their number?”. So I was like wow, I should probably take them up on it! The thing is, I used to have an iPod that was just for every band and everything that had been given to me and with Thursday, if we were driving along and I wanted to shut the guys up in the van before we started touring and stuff, I would just put on that iPod and put it on shuffle, and they’d be like, “Oh! Why?!” because it would be like, “Peanut butter pie! Peanut butter pie!”. There you go!
So despite all that, what can people expect from you shows as No Devotion?
Geoff: I think the music is pretty immersive and its kind of atmospheric, and kind of surrounds you. And I think that’s a really amazing thing that I get from this band. When I’m in it, the whole outside world kind of disappears and the band is just together onstage. It’s something that I’ve never really had fully with another band. Thursday was so much about crowd participation and the band was so heavy at times, but this one is totally different. For me, it just sweeps me up in the feeling like all the time; every song that comes in, I can feel it. It sweeps me away pretty thoroughly.
I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but there is website over here called gigsandfestivals.co.uk and they actually awarded you guys with the third best live show of last year. Second only to Prince and Eminem. You beat Blink 182, Paul Weller!Geoff: Wow! That’s crazy! The thing is, I thought we were better last night than we were all of last year, so hopefully we’ll do even better this year! I dunno, I’ve seen Prince though, let’s be honest, nobody beats Prince! Until I get some leather slacks and can do a full split whilst soloing, let’s not get crazy!
You guys have built quite a strong fanbase online so far. You’ve mentioned how you’ve felt, but in terms of crowd reaction, how’s it been? Has it been as you’d expected, or did you not really have a clue as to what would happen?
Geoff: I didn’t really know, I only really knew from Thursday. We were a big band for a few years, inspiring more bands than we did people – that’s my kinda world, that’s what I’ve been apart of, it’s kinda very from the ground up. You know, I didn’t really realise how big they were, because it never really translated that way over to the States; of course they had a hit or two, but I didn’t realise that over here that there was like, an obsessive fanbase. So I didn’t really expect there to be any people like that, meeting some of their superfans, but it’s cool! Some of them are pretty welcoming [to me]too and been like, “Oh, I’ve checked out Thursday now too because you’re doing this so you’re now part of the family!”
You have your debut album coming out this year; have you finished recording that, is that ready?
Geoff: We’ve finished recording now, but we have’t finished mixing it yet.
Do you have any idea about when that’s going to be released?
Geoff: I don’t know yet, but I’d hope by summer.
Are you hoping to do the festival circuit?
Geoff: That would be great! We haven’t actually got that far in our planning yet, but that’s something we’d like to do.
So, separately to what you were all doing previously, musically, what were and are the influences for No Devotion? Is it kind of bringing the two band’s sounds together, or is it something you’ve never really done before?
Geoff: I wouldn’t say it’s bringing the two band’s sounds together, I think those bands were quite a bit more aggressive, whereas the place where we met is kind of the stuff that we weren’t able to do with our old bands. So it was like, oh really, you were into that too, that’s actually a surprise, I didn’t know we were all about The Cure and these guys were all like post-punk devotees and stuff like that. So that was pretty cool, and then there’s also like modular and synth era stuff that we really liked. Like, someone said last night that it was like a John Hughes dream sequence, which was a pretty big compliment. We were joking around and saying what we would call this band if we could call it anything, and the big joke was Slow Disco. But weirdly there are a lot of things that you would take from different eras that would end up in it because it all goes towards making this big enveloping sound, they all kind of blend together in ways that wouldn’t be like, oh yeah that’s a disco keyboard, you wouldn’t say that, even though it is, so that’s been really cool. There aren’t that many contemporary acts out there that do stuff like that but this band supports that and it’s the kind of level that we want to be at, performing at that level, using different sounds.
I suppose that’s quite refreshing in a way, if you’ve moved away from the stuff you were doing. It’s almost as if you’re able to start from scratch and completely put your own stamp on it with everything.
Geoff: Yeah, I think that the truth is, if we tried to do either of those bands now it would just end up being watered down versions of them. The way I think about life is that I always want to be working on something that I really believe in and love because to me that is something that you should do your whole life, you shouldn’t just stop. Like, I did that, and I did it to the best that it could have been, there was no one that did that better than us, I knew that. So now I want to do something else, I don’t want to water down what Thursday did.
No, I suppose it stops comparisons between the two as well. It would be difficult for people to say “Oh, compared to Thursday, No Devotion are this, this and that”.
Geoff: Well yeah, because they’re completely different things, sure. But I’ve had other people say things, I heard so many weird comments, but I remember when Radio 1 first debuted us I had some friends that came over to listen and one of them stopped me half way through and was like, “I didn’t know you could really sing!” And I was like, wow, that just scrapped fifteen years of my career – you didn’t know I could sing until this moment, wow! So it’s pretty different I guess to most people.
I’ve got some “quick fire” questions for you if that would be cool? First of all, what is your one touring essential that you bring on every tour?
Geoff: One touring essential that I bring on every tour… I have a few, let me think about this one…
You can name the few, that’s fine!
Karen: Yeah, it’s quick fire Geoff! You’re defeating the purpose here!
Geoff: Headphones and socks, I guess really… You gotta bring socks for every day!
Karen: He is the most interesting man in the world – headphones and socks!
What is the best gig you’ve ever been to as a fan or member of the crowd?
Geoff: Oh wow! It would be different ones for every year, as I have a different experience that really moves me. Like, last year, I was in a one hundred person club and I saw FKA Twigs play her first New York show and that was really cool. She was really something to see. Like, before she got all the buzz going, it was just like, “Wow, who’s this?!”, that was exciting. I also saw The xx play The Armory for about twenty people and that was really immersive too, sort of like what I was saying. It was like if tonight we were to play in the middle of the venue and everyone was circled around us, it was like that, so that was really powerful. Then in other years it would be bands that I’ve seen in basements and things like that. It’s the more intimate shows that work for me. But then I’ve seen stadium shows that absolutely floor me.
At this point, the keyboard player for No Devotion, Jamie Oliver, sat down to join us.
Is there anyone you haven’t seen that is on your bucket list, that you’re like, “before I die I want to see these guys”?
Geoff: Yeah, sure. I mean, I’ve seen a lot of stuff… But let me think for a second.
How about you [Jamie]?
Jamie: No one. How quick fire was that?!
Geoff: Does it count if they’ve been gone for a long time?
Okay, who would you like to see reunited?
Geoff: In that case there’s a bunch of bands I’d love to see. The obvious one would be Joy Division.
This is a similar question, but who would you most like to tour with?
Geoff: There are so many bands I would love to tour with. I’d love to tour with everybody from The Chromatics to The Cure. Thursday toured with The Cure, but I think that would be an even better fit with this band. New Order would also be a great fit. And then more contemporary stuff that we would fit well with too.
Karen: Who would you like to tour with [Jamie]?
Jamie: I wanna tour with Geoff!
What a coincidence! And how convenient! What is the strangest thing that has ever happened on tour – if you’re allowed to say!
Geoff: We had a couple of things happen one year which was, our van got struck by lightning in America, whilst we were in it and whilst we were driving and all the other cars on the road slowed down being like, “What the…?!” Yeah that was probably one of the strangest things that has happened.
What is your guilty pleasure track that you love listening to that you wouldn’t necessarily tell your bandmates about?
Geoff: We’re all actually pretty excited about our guilty pleasures. So for me, my all-time favourite guilty pleasure is probably ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears!
What about guilty pleasure artist, or would that be Britney?
Geoff: No, it wouldn’t no. Let me think about a guilty pleasure artist… I feel like at some point though I stopped feeling guilty about all my guilty pleasures! Sometimes people look at you strange, but most of the time if there’s something you really love about it, someone else will be like, yeah, that’s a pretty good fucking tune!
Jamie: My guilty pleasure is always one that whenever I show it to anybody and they don’t get it is Joanna Newsom. I love it! It’s perfect for her imperfections, but a lot of people can’t see past that. So I play the first couple of songs and I’m like, this is beautiful, check out how real this is. I don’t feel guilty about that at all, it’s just pleasure.
And the final question is: What does the future hold, or what do you hope it holds for No Devotion? The first debut album and then, what, world domination?
Geoff: I mean, ideally, yeah… Honestly, with Thursday I never really had any grand ambitions with it, I just wanted to keep on making really complete, new records; I just wanted to blow people’s minds with everything, like “Oh my god, I’ve never heard anything like this before!” Like, I didn’t care if it was ten people, but I wanted someone to be like, “What is that?!” But with this band, I’d really love to be able to do it full-time, make records whenever we want to make records and go on tour whenever we want to go on tour – I think that would be a great thing for this band.
Great! Well that’s everything I have! Unless there’s anything you want to add for all your fans out there now and in the future?!
Geoff: Peanut butter pie! Peanut butter pie!
I’m going to quoting peanut butter pie for months on end now!
Geoff: That wasn’t my song by the way! That band also had a ridiculous ballad, it was like, “If my dick was a microphone…” That was the same band, whoever that was, I don’t remember…
Karen: It’s better that you don’t…
Are you sure? You don’t want to name and shame them?
Geoff: No, no, I mean, it was a demo. Someone gave it to me and was like, “Yo! Help my band out!” and I was like, “Ohhhhhh!”
They didn’t make it big then that you could now ruin there reputation by releasing it?
Geoff: Yeah right! This interview will go out and then someone on Twitter will be like, “Oh yeah, that was so-and-so, much bigger than you ever were…”
Karen: Someone found the Blink 182 demos!
And that, was that! I left the tour bus, and waited for the doors of the Guildhall to open!
No Devotion’s latest single, 10,000 Summers, is available to buy and download now via Collect Records.