So much of the fascination people have with rock stars is the hope and assumption that the musicians actually live out the messages they communicate through their songs.  We know the Rolling Stones actually did go into Exile on Main Street, we know the Black Metal dudes in Norway actually burnt down churches, the dude from Mastodon has the pesky habit of clobbering other musicians, and we know Ozzy snorted, well...everything.  Yet that doctrine couldn't be any further from the truth when talking about Baltimore's premiere Art-Punks, Thank You. I had the pleasure of sitting down with the band in their tour van before the show at The Cakeshop, in Manhattan's lower east side, where we discussed such things as emerging scenes, not personally knowing Led Zeppelin, and Baltimore's mysterious Luminous Dolphin. The show also happened to be the first stop on their cross-country tour with Mi Ami. So can you please tell us who you are and what you do? Jeffrey McGrath: We're a three-piece band from Baltimore and we play guitars, and organs, and drums, and we sing. With Baltimore hemorrhaging so much talent as of late, how has this affected you guys? Is the environment nurturing? Competitive? Inspiring? Michael Bouyoucas: Well it's not competitive. People are pretty laid back in Baltimore and I know people everywhere say that, but in Baltimore it's actually true. It's not competitive at all. Emmanuel Nicolaidis:  There's always been a really nurturing atmosphere there, as long as I remember, and I'm sure as long as these guys remember. I always felt it had this kind of vibe that probably nothing is ever going to happen here, so just do whatever you want.  I think it's always been the mentality that people have had, you know even recently with Baltimore having the spotlight.  Up until now, I think that's what's gotten all these people and bands moving.  You can do whatever you want there and it's so small that everyone there knows each other, which isn't always the best thing, but it's still cool. So now that the creative spotlight is on Baltimore, what is the vibe like? EN: It's wonderful JM: It's really friendly EN: The last two or three years, people have been riding the wave and making the best of it. MB: It's definitely more exciting.  We've all been playing music for so long, and like what Emmanuel said earlier, you just did your own thing because you thought nobody outside of Baltimore would even be interested, and now that that's happening, it's just been fun and cool. We're all glad it's happening. EN: Now that a handful of bands are getting attention, they're helping other bands by taking them on tour and things like that and I think everybody there is so surprised at the unlikelihood of this whole thing, that everyone's like, 'Well let's make the best of it'.  I remember a time, even up until a few years ago that touring bands would go from Washington DC to Philly, or vice versa, and rarely would stop in Baltimore.  Now everyone is trying to play there and now everyone's trying to play these tiny, underground venues that they hear about because of Myspace, because of the Internet, so I think that's also what's really helped. JM: Baltimore is really just a small town and because of that it has this real neighborhood feeling to it.  People come and go of course, but there's these institutional types of people and that gives the city this sense of neighborhood which makes it kind of impossible to have bad energy.  I mean you can't help but be supportive. It's like family and you really can't be competitive – it's not even an option. If you were, it would be so ridiculous. EN: Yeah you'd stand out and people would be able to smell you from a mile away. So who are your favorite Baltimore bands? JM: It's really hard to say, especially when the noncompetitive and non-cool agenda reaches such a place of nonexistence.  Like I'm not even really interested if a band is, you know, good or whatever. You know what I mean? I can enjoy something on a number of different levels. I can enjoy Don Henley or something on some level, (laughs) well I probably can. Actually I don't know if that's true – don't print that!  It's like 'what does this band represent' or 'how do they relate to me or what I'm doing?' It's gotten to the point where that is all just nonexistent. It's gotten to a point where I like every band, because I don't even care. EN: There's so many of them that we have been fans of for such a long time that it's hard. There are bands that I've always loved, especially as a kid, but that I don't know. I don't know Led Zeppelin and I never will.  They exist on this whole other level for me, they're this band that I've been into. However, I KNOW Ponytail and I KNOW Beach House, and I KNOW Dan Deacon, so that distance between me and the artist – that veil – has never existed for me.  I love listening to these bands and I go see them as much as possible, but we're all in such close proximity to each other that we don't appreciate each other's music as much as people who are hearing it outside of Baltimore. It's really hard to answer that question...regrettably. Too often a group can sound good on a recording, but fail to translate in the live setting. This is most definitely not the case with Thank You.  Does a lot go into your live performance? MB: That's extremely important to us! We want it to be good every single time.  We consciously want it to be good, not ourselves individually look good, but the show to be good, and sometimes for whatever reason that doesn't work and other times it does EN: I think a band like ours, that plays in places like this and the small basements and performance spaces, you simply have to accept that every room you play in is a gamble.  There's probably not going to be a PA or the drums aren't going to be mic'd, and those are things you have to factor in, because sometimes it will work for you and other times it's going to work against you.  I think we do a pretty good job of just having low expectations for venues, but I feel lately those things are starting to change a little bit. JM: There's nothing worse in my opinion than going to see a group you like and you get the impression that they just aren't interested in what they're doing onstage. I remember experiences like that when I was younger and it was just devastating. MB: Even if the conditions aren't perfect, or even half of what you expect them to be, you can still translate something and make an effort Emanuel, you're fairly new to the band and weren't there for the recording of Terrible Two or World City. Are you excited to be in the studio for the next album? EN: Oh yeah I'm very very excited.  Especially after I heard what Chris Coady (TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Celebration) did with Terrible Two, I'm really excited for him to record my drums! With World City and Terrible Two, they're both definitely a sound all your own, but Terrible Two sounds much more ominous and paranoid.  Was that something that was a conscious decision or more the natural evolution of Thank You? MB: I don't know, we never really talked about it. Maybe both, I really don't know.  That's just how they came out. JM: I remember, personally, after World City was finished, I was just kind of sad. It just really didn't sound very good. It was okay I guess, but it just wasn't recorded well and the songs weren't that great.  I guess the second album came out so frenzied and energetic because the first one was just, bad (laughs).  We really needed the second one to be better. MB: There are people in Baltimore who have said to me that they like World City because it's fun to listen to, but they don't like Terrible Two because it's too ominous sounding or something. The next album's gonna sound like Liberace. JM: This next album is something we're all really excited about, because again, we want it to be better in every way – more atonal more consonant, more of everything, while keeping all the rhythm and pushing it further. Can you tell us a little about the songwriting process? JM: Oh we've got a whole group of guys that take care of that.  A really top-notch team (laughs).  With the addition of Emmanuel to the band, we really interact more with each other's parts than we did before, which is really cool. Who are some of your musical influences, both personally and collectively? MB: Wow just so many, it's really hard to say. EN: The Beatles... JM: The Beatles... MB: Yeah The Beatles. EN: I guess the answer to that question would change daily. JM: Let's see, on the way to New York we listened to Easy Action by Alice Cooper, Buddy Holly, Scott Walker.  We guest dj'd today at NYU and played The Ramones, The Fall, Birthday Party, Brian Eno and, of course, a couple Thank You songs.  You know actually now that I think about it, my favorite band from Baltimore has always been Lungfish.  I've always been a huge fan, since I was a kid they've always been a gigantic influence on me. MB: I'd say we're all really into melody. Seriously! EN: Yeah absolutely! It probably doesn't show in our music, but we're all three very much geared toward clear melody; pop songs, but I think it's something that you like so much that you don't do it.  I do think the recent stuff we've been working on is coming through more melodic. What does 2009 hold in store for Thank You? EN: Well we're going to Europe and after this tour we're going back out on tour with Ponytail.  We're gonna try really hard to get a record done.  If we can further our touring and stay productive while we're at home, then I think we'd all be incredibly happy. Anything you guys would like to get off your chests? Rants? Complaints? A message for the kiddies? JM: I don't feel well. EN: I just had a really good sandwich. I did.  Bananas, peanut butter and honey. MB: I would like to tour with James Brown, but he's a dead one (group laughter). EN: I would love to have Terry Gross to have Thank You on her Fresh Air show. I have a crush on her voice Ok now we're gonna do a fun little lightning round MB: Yes, I love lightning rounds! White Album or Pet Sounds? JM:White Album MB: White Album EN: Pet Sounds! JM: Oooohhhh get out of the van! MB: Out! Coffee or Tea? (Collectively): Coffee. Booze or Drugs? (Collectively): Booze. Blues or Jazz? JM: Blues. MB: Blues. EN:Bluesjazz. JM: Jazzblues Who's the best band in Baltimore? (Silence) JM: Oh man MB; Oh NO everyone screwed up the lightning round! We took too long! JM: All of the bands are the best bands in Baltimore! EN: That's too hard! Are you gonna print that answer because then we'll get in trouble with other people. MB: As a man from Baltimore, there's a lot of good bands in Baltimore and they all show their strengths at different times. And that's not even a diplomatic answer.  There are times where I'm like, 'that band is the best band in Baltimore' and then they'll play a show that's not so great, but then another band plays and I'm like 'No, THAT'S the best band in Baltimore'. It always changes. Ok, then who's the Baltimore band that is under the radar, but more people should know about? MB: Um, Luminous Dolphin, they're really good JM: Yeah Um, Hedgepedge. MB to JM: You like Hedgepedge? JM: I think they're all right.  Um Zomes. MB: Zomes EN: Zomes JM: Definitely Zomes.  All the other ones weren't real, we made those up. (laughs) EN: I was bout to say Busted Custard but I knew I'd crack up. MB: But check out Zomes, it's Asa Osborne from Lungfish. They're really good. Listen: MP3: Thank You - Empty Legs