CHICAGO-BASED psych rock band Thompson Springs has been working steadily since 2016, releasing a pair of well-received EPs and working alongside the likes of Wilco’s Pat Sansone and Kurt Vile collaborator Rob Laakso.
They’ve won over audiences around the country since their inception, and are set to come through Savannah on Mon., Dec. 10 at El Rocko Lounge.
The journey began when bandleader Matt Smith and drummer Jacob Bicknase were ending things with their previous band.
“We kind of split off from that – we were up in Madison, Wisconsin. I had a bunch of songs and wanted to try another project,” Smith tells Connect via phone from Montreal, Canada. “We had a neighbor, Andy [Goitia], who’s our bass player. He was recruited and it’s been the three of us since 2016 when we put out our first EP.”
Though they started in Madison, they’ve essentially lived on the road for the past year and pushed their music around the country. Smith is from just outside of Chicago, and that’s where the bands roots are planted primarily.
Though they’re best defined under the pysch banner, they’re musically much more varied and far-reaching – with influences ranging from Kurt Vile to Tom Petty.
“Kurt Vile was actually who I was listening to a ton at that time,” Smith says. “He made it seem like songwriting is accessible to everyone, because the stuff he’s singing about is everyday stuff. Andy is into Neil Young and more of the Gram Parsons stuff, which we all listen to. We love Tom Petty, and also some of the newer psych stuff like Ty Segall.”
Their latest effort, 2017’s Fond Regards, is an energetic and imaginative collection of songs that recall their influences but fuse them all in a way that sounds unlike any one thing.
Sonically, it’s an incredibly engaging piece of work that showcases smart song craft and melodic guitar work. The songs often have a hazy vibe and a slightly dark aesthetic, but there’s a youthfulness within them that make them listenable on a number of levels.
When it comes to writing songs, Smith says the music starts out primarily with him alone before he brings it to his bandmates.
“Jake and Andy make [the songs] better, pretty much,” he says. “They add things, offer opinions, and come up with new parts. I do as much as I can and then bring it to them.”
Their relationship with Sansone began when Smith went to see Kurt Vile open for Wilco in Madison. They were able to socialize after the show thanks to their friendship with Laakso, and wound up talking to Sansone and asking him to play on their EP. That led to Sansone signing on to produce their forthcoming full-length effort.
“It’s cool to hit up people who know way more than you and see what their process is like,” he says. “It’s good to learn on your own, too, but watching other people is cool.”
When Sansone first contributed to the band’s second EP, he recorded his parts remotely and sent them to Smith and his bandmates. They got the chance to work with him in a direct capacity later on, however, when they worked with him on the full-length album.
“He produced a couple of songs and added some instrumental parts,” Smith says. The band says they learned a lot from Sansone during recording, and were impacted by the opportunity they got to work with someone of his stature.
“There’s an energy that he brings to the studio,” Bicknase says.
“It’s very positive and uplifting, and he’s always really conscious about the musicians and treating everyone as an individual. Not every producer is like that, but every producer should be. He’s also just a studio nerd – he’s grown up doing that since he was, like, 14 or 15. He was doing overdubs and just nailing. It was pretty inspirational to watch a pro at work.”
As for what’s ahead, Bicknase says the band is planning to keep moving forward and getting themselves out there any chance they get. They’ll be focusing mainly, though, on finishing the full-length and hitting the road to support it.
“We’re in a number of other projects. But we’re pretty much all in, just trying to figure out the best way to do it,” he explains.
“Right now we’re not really all living in the same place, so we’re trying to pool together and see how to make it happen. We’ve had a real good time these last few years traveling and getting to know the ropes of life on the road.”