THICK is the Brooklyn pop-punk trio composed of vocalist/guitarist Nikki Sisti, vocalist/bassist Kate Black, and vocalist/drummer Shari Page. After forming in 2014, the group started gaining traction with a series of EPs, including 2016’s It’s Always Something… and 2018’s Would You Rather?, before dropping their debut album, 5 Years Behind, on Epitaph right when the pandemic hit in 2020. They’ve just followed it up with their second album, Happy Now, which finds them reuniting with producer Joel Hamilton. Sisti has often referred to the band’s output as a “living diary,” but while the songs on 5 Years Behind spanned a wider period of time, Happy Now serves as a raw document of processing chaos and anger that’s yet to be fully released. The result is a tight, melodic, and genuinely fiery collection that turns creeping feelings of self-doubt into soaring anthems with a mix of confidence, vulnerability, and tongue-in-cheek humour; a reminder that you can’t force the hurt out of your life, but there’s power in letting it guide you in new, exciting directions.
We caught up with THICK for this edition of our Artist Spotlight interview series to talk about how their process has changed since their debut, happiness, and what inspires them about each other.
Take me back to when you released your debut album, 5 Years Behind, back in March 2020. How do you remember that time? What has the journey to Happy Now been like?
Shari Page: Obviously, around when the album came out, there’s a lot of chaos going on in the world. But a lot of those songs we wrote a few years before Five Years Behind came out. So in terms of this album, we were in such a different mindset because we were so excited to write and got more comfortable with all the crap going on with a pandemic, which is never fully comfortable. But it was just exciting to write new music and just write from a more mature mindset. I feel like every year, we’re getting older and more mature, and I think you really hear it on this album.
Kate Black: Yeah, and compared to the last cycle, it was definitely interesting. When the album was coming out, I was actually in Europe when COVID was starting to really bubble up. And I came home to New York being like, “This is going to be really bad.” And everybody looked at me like I was absolutely crazy. Everyone thought I was overreacting. I think everybody in the world, no matter what your situation was, kind of felt like the rug got pulled out from underneath you. For us, it had been this really exciting moment where, like Shari said, it was a combination of all these things we did from years before but finally were getting released into the world. It was our first LP ever, it was our first LP on Epitaph. It was supposed to be a big deal, we had lots of tours planned. And it all came crashing down. The album released March 6, I think March 10 or something was the day that SXSW got cancelled. And from there, it was like, “Okay, this is all gonna be a mess”. To Shari’s point, it was very interesting going from that experience to having something completely different and living almost in a vacuum, totally without shows. Because shows are kind of how came up as a band, our live performance is very much us. And so I think it was almost the polar opposite experience between the two albums and what kind of worlds they got developed in.
How did you see that difference affecting the new material?
Nikki Sisti: I’m curious how it connects to the audience. For the first album, we played forever in front of people, we knew how to move the audience and move the crowd. But it’s cool that we’re not basing – which kind of relates even to the first song, ‘Happiness’ – we’re not basing our rating off the validation of the audience. We’re basing it off what we think and we like. And trusting ourselves, which is kind of a theme in my life right now. [laughs] Even ‘Your Garden’, for example, practising it, I’ve already changed some things thinking of a live show, how I want something to end. So, live, things might shift a little bit, but I really liked that we wrote it without anybody really shaping the songs for us. It’s very authentic.
Did things change in terms of your collaborative process too, given the space that you had?
KB: I think it was pretty similar. Because there was no external input, we were so incredibly thoughtful about the choices that we made. There was a lot of conversation and there would be parts where I would say, you know, “I think this is not dynamic enough,” or “We need to have some kind of change here,” or Nikki or Shari would say the same thing. And basically, we would wait until all three people felt comfortable with this structure before it was solidified. So it was very much collaborative in making sure it felt good to all of us. Like Nikki was saying, it was really just what makes sense to us, and breaking down the details of every little section and every little drum fill and every little pause, in a way that, when we had been able to just perform things live, you kind of got what you needed out of that. Once they got performed live, we would you get out the kinks and then that was the song. Whereas this time, I think we were much more intentional.
The album is titled Happy Now, it begins with the song ‘Happiness’; at some point you ask yourselves, “Will I be happy again?” When did you realize that was going to be a running theme on the album, and eventually the title of it?
KB: After the fact. [laughs] We were discussing album titles, and we had a handful that we were considering. And that one just felt so right. Because so much of the album is an exploration of what we find to be happiness, what that means to us, and the phasing of it coming in and out of our lives. And “now” is sort of related to the impermanence of the feeling of happiness that we found threaded through afterwards.
SP: Also, a lot of artists release music and art and they’re very unhappy with it. And it’s hard to be satisfied. I think with this album overall, genuinely, we feel really happy. There hasn’t been really any looking back and being like, “We should have done it this way, it should have been mixed that way.” It just overall encompasses feeling happy about the whole process, and who we were when we were writing it.
When you say you had conversations about it, was that more related to artistic fulfilment or personal fulfilment? What were those conversations like?
KB: I think probably personal fulfilment, which would include music. If you ever go on tour with us, our band is basically like a rolling therapy session. [laughs] And Nikki actually is a therapist, but it kind of bounces back and forth between all of our lives. I think there’s a lot of focus with this group in particular about personal growth.
KB: And continuing to evaluate ourselves and our relationships and what we want and do the inner work, and also the outer work to keep that in progression. So, I would say it’s more just about happiness and contentment and acceptance of where you are at any given moment, knowing that there’s an opportunity to take what you’ve experienced, and potentially build it or use it to fuel change or use it to fuel something new in your life. Just accepting that it’s going to come in phases.
There was an emotional honesty to your debut, but I feel like Happy Now especially doesn’t shy away from vulnerability. Do you feel that that’s a reflection of where you are as a group as well as your individual growth?
NS: Yeah, definitely both at the same time. I mean, especially being stuck home during a freaking pandemic, all you do is think and reflect. And a lot of the songs were written about past experiences, processing and thinking about them. And maybe it’s because all three of us feel so safe with each other, we’re not really afraid of saying silly things or feeling embarrassed about it. We’ve said this before, but it’s literally a living journal, all our songs. And I was a little scared. I think the song ‘Disappear’, it was a very vulnerable song, especially because it’s related to my current partner. I was like, “What if this makes him upset?” That was something I was mindful of, but part of the process is speaking the truth, and regardless of who gets affected by it. I think we leaned into that, just being honest.
Like you said, the songs reflect on past experiences and relationships, but they’re also pretty present-oriented. Was that something you were conscious of?
KB: For me, it just made sense, but I don’t think it was an intentional narrative. I think that also speaks to what you were saying about going through and processing things that happened in the past, but it’s really through the lens of, what does that mean for me now? Which allows you to accept the experience, take the space you need from it, and continue to find your happiness in the present, instead of getting bogged down or pulled back constantly into these negative thought cycles or these negative experiences that could continue to haunt you if you let them.
I’m curious about the timeline of a song like ‘I Wish 2016 Never Happened’. Was it written or titled around that time?
NS: 2016 was a rough year, I went through a lot of stuff. But that was written this past fall. I never wrote about that year, I never wrote about what happened and what I went through and what I lost or felt. And I think I was reading my old journals, and I found some things I wrote that I liked. I’m like, I should process this. Because then I started thinking about what happened, and then one night it just kind of all came out. I was just playing with my little voice note – sometimes I get this feel in that moment and it just releases it. Thinking about the song, I’m still mad about it, as you can tell. I’m not over it. We have played that song live on the past tour, and that feels really good. I still think there’s a lot of energy in my body about that year that I haven’t totally released.
SP: I just wanted to add it’s one of my favourite songs to play live, just because that energy and the aggression is totally there. I’m definitely super excited to be playing that again on our tour coming up.
NS: Interestingly enough, some of those lyrics relate even harder now. I’m still going through learning to trust myself over others or love myself over others. And it’s funny how it was kind of written through a cathartic process, but even in this moment, I’m like, Oh… I gotta listen to myself a little better.
KB: Giving yourself advice. [laughs]
NS: Giving myself advice.
SP: I try to listen to you better also.
NS: Thanks, Shari.
What about the recording process was different for this album?
KB: We went back to the same producers that we recorded 5 Years Behind, and we recorded in a studio close to our homes. So it felt very comfortable and less intimidating, and for me at least, less stressful than potentially other times that we’ve recorded albums. But also, what was interesting, because we wrote everything in a vacuum, there were certain parts of songs where we had written two alternate options for it, and in the studio was when we laid it out and decided works best. I think having that trust going into this session, we left a little bit more for us to figure out there and solidify there, versus the last album that I feel like every little thing was basically set in stone and then maybe we made one or two changes to melodies that were pretty minor. But I think this process was just a little more thoughtful and a little more open, and we really took the time to figure out what works best for the song and what serves the song best.
Can you each share one thing that inspires you about every person in the group?
NS: Oh, I love that question. Let me think about it. Shari, you want to go first?
SP: I was gonna say, fine, I’ll go first. Start with myself… I’m just kidding. [Nikki laughs] Well, I’ll say all around Kate and Nicole are really great friends and care about everyone’s feelings regardless of the situation. There’s always a lot of empathy. And Kate has always been such a go-getter businesswoman and has brought so much thoughtfulness and intelligence into THICK to help us really navigate and see our potential and how far we could go. I also really respect Nicole as a businesswoman, and I’ve seen so much change because we met in like 2014-15, so it’s been cool seeing a lot of growth and change in a good way. Not that before that was bad, but just going from being younger in your 20s and growing up with the person, just seeing a lot of change and seeing you grow your therapy business, has been awesome.
NS: Thanks, Shari. [laughs] I’ll go next. It’s so funny, taking compliments is awkward. I could always talk about Kate being a badass businesswoman, which is obvious, but I actually really love – Kate can kind of get a little ratchet sometimes. [Kate laughs] I think at first I was a little scared of Kate, and I still am at times, but now it’s something that really inspires me because she’s just like,“I’m mad, I want you all to know this.” Or like, “This doesn’t feel good to me and I want everyone to know why.” It’s very honest and vocal, there’s no fear. And there’s a lot of fear, I’m sure, but it doesn’t feel that way. So that inspires me. I’m becoming a little more Kate, I’m trying. And then Shari is almost the opposite. I’m really inspired by Shari’s go-with-the-flow attitude and ease. On tour, besides the fact that she always gets lost in a grocery store, she’s a very fun person to be around. But also, Shari’s just always there. Like in 2016, she was a rock of mine. Shari’s just there, and I really appreciate that part of her.
KB: I completely agree, I was gonna say something really similar about Shari. But in addition to her go-with-the-flow attitude and calmness, which I think is a good balance sometimes for Nikki and I who can be a little bit chaotic. But I think that your care and compassion for people is really beautiful, and you’re always willing to lend an ear and provide good advice. And sometimes things come out of your mouth and I’m like, “Where did you get this wisdom? Are you 100 years old? Where did this come from?” I think that’s a really beautiful quality about Shari. And then Nikki, one of the things I love about you is your energy and how you can create a spark out of thin air. And that goes for songwriting, where you just come in with ideas and you’re like, “Here’s stuff! I just have lots of stuff to give!” Or whether it’s like, “Let’s go to a dance party and go do something fun.” You’re a really good – instigator sounds negative, but you’re a good spark for when I need a little push to go do something. I think that’s fun.
SP: [laughs] Instigator.
KB: That sounds bad, definitely the wrong word.
SP: You shit-starter.
NS: [laughs] I’m a narcissist and an instigator now.
KB: No, don’t say that!
SP: As far as the music’s good.
NS: I love this question. I love you guys.
I know Shari started with that as a joke, but I think what’s more awkward than receiving compliments is saying one thing you love about yourself. So I was wondering if we could go around…
NS: Oh, this is a group therapy session, I love it. This is how we spend our time in the van.
KB: For like 13 hours.
If you don’t feel comfortable, we can definitely skip this one.
NS: No, I love this, this is actually very important. One thing we love about ourselves?
KB: I can think of one for myself. I like that I’m an extremely determined learner. So, if I choose to do something, even if I suck at it, I’ll just work hard enough to get good enough at it. Like bass, I picked up bass because I decided I wanted to play bass guitar one day and played a show two weeks later, and just continued doing it until I got good at it. I love learning new things constantly, which maybe doesn’t mean I always stick to the old things, but I’m always looking for new learning experiences. And I have the dedication to actually follow through on it and figure it out.
NS: Similar to Kate – what did you say, dedicated learner? I’m genuinely curious – I might not learn it, I’m not gonna freaking do the work [Kate laughs] – but like, I ask questions. I don’t know anything at all, in a good way. I like that I might not retain stuff or that I ask questions that might be obvious. I love that part of me, because it’s kind of – the word fearless, which I’m a very scared person in some ways, kind of shows. I’m fearlessly curious.
KB: Yeah, you’re never bashful about asking questions.
SP: Oh, it’s my turn. I like that I’m 70% funny [all laugh] –
SP: I kind of bring my humour to situations. I’m somewhat patient – that’s kind of always a work in progress in life. And just being all-or-nothing. If I want to learn something and do it, I’m fully in it; if I’m not really interested, I definitely just find the exit.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.