In Conversation With . . . Thought Beneath Film, Part I

In Conversation With . . . Thought Beneath Film, Part I

Thought Beneath Film is a five-piece alternative rock band based in Hamilton, Ontario. The band has recently released its debut EP, Detours, and is now touring Canada’s East Coast. Recently vocalist and guitarist Brent Wirth took the time to talk to Wanda Waterman about small towns, musical influences, and the Emily Dickinson poem behind the band’s unusual name.

?THE THOUGHT beneath so slight a film
Is more distinctly seen,-
As laces just reveal the surge,
Or mists the Apennine.?

Emily Dickinson

The Virtues of Small-Town Life

Growing up with all the diversions and challenges of a small rural town can be an excellent foundation for life, not only for athletes but also for musicians and songwriters. Boredom can be an excellent catalyst for creativity. According to Brent, who grew up (and still lives) in Stoney Creek, a suburb of Hamilton, Ontario, there was never too much to do or trouble to get into.

?Fortunately, there were a few other kids who lived on my street who were roughly the same age as my brother and me,? he says. ?We spent most of our time outside riding bikes and playing sports.?

Sound idyllic? ?I can’t really recall ever being unhappy,? says Brent. But eventually adolescent malaise crept in.

?I did become a bit disenchanted in my early teens. At that time there was absolutely nothing going on in my hometown, and given the fact that my friends and I were too young to drive, it was easy to feel stuck. But that feeling didn’t last very long.

?A bunch of us started getting into music and playing instruments around the same time, which gave us something to do. This eventually led to my brother, next-door neighbour, and I forming our first band. From that point on we spent most of our time jamming out Weezer songs in our basement.?

Finding the Music

Brent cites his parents as being a major influence on the music created by Thought Beneath Film. ?My Mom is a massive Beatles fan, so my brother, Brian, and I knew their entire discography at a young age,? he says. ?This naturally had a huge impact on my vocal writing. I love catchy, hook-based melodies and thick three- and four-voice vocal textures.?

Brent’s father’s tastes were more current, which ensured that Brent and his brother got to hear the latest alternative bands. ?We had cassettes of bands like Weezer, Nirvana, and the Smashing Pumpkins before the age of 10. The guitar tone these bands wielded left a lasting impression on Brian and [me] and has a lot to do with the types of tones we gravitate towards while writing and recording. Learning how to play all of these bands? respective discographies, I began feeling confident enough to start writing my own music.?

Practice versus Theory

What was Brent’s most valuable educational experience? Doing: ?Despite the fact that I’ve always studied music in a formal setting, my most beneficial educational experiences have always stemmed from playing in a band. You end up taking away something positive from every band and every musician you play with.?

The Benefit of Family Ties

?Given the fact that my brother has been in nearly every band that I’ve been a part of, he’s obviously a huge influence on me, as am I on him. There are so many emotional ups and downs involved with trying to play music professionally that It’s hard to say if either one of us would still be playing in a band now had it not been for our ongoing partnership.?

What’s in a Name?

The group’s name appears at first glance to be a reference to the movies, but the name in fact comes from an Emily Dickinson poem. ?While studying music in university,? says Brent, ?for one of my composition assignments I composed a series of short pieces that adopted various Dickinson poems as their lyrical texts. ?The thought beneath so slight a film? was from one of these poems.

?I felt like the poem’s connotations embodied what I was trying to do musically. On the surface my band’s songs are just simple pop tunes, but there’s more at play for those who want to dig deeper into the songs.?

(To be continued.)