Lawrence’s rock band uses pandemic to reconnect with comeback album, out now – The Lawrence Times

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A rock band from Lawrence who got their start in the 70s have reunited for a new album, decades after the last.

At the height of their success in the 70s and 80s, the band Thumbs recorded two albums and performed with artists such as Iggy Pop and The Police. In early 2016, Thumbs was inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame.


In a surprise return to music, the band released “Trunk Wired Shut” on March 22. The album builds on decades of musical influence and was recorded remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, singer Steve Wilson said.

Thumbs, “Wired Trunk Lock”

“It’s what we hope will be a great rock and roll record,” he said. “I see it a bit like a punk-influenced band playing Dylan’s ‘Highway 61 Revisited’.”

Wilson said the album had “in a sense, a very old-fashioned approach to writing and compiling a record” – even though it was created when the band members were living in Lawrence, Minneapolis. , Atlanta and Tuscon. Wilson, guitarist Kevin Smith, keyboardist and cover designer Marty Olson, and bassist Karl Hoffmann all virtually reunited for the album.

“Instead of saying it was rock and roll music, you wouldn’t classify it in terms of genre,” Wilson said. “People who’ve been kind of conditioned to (think) ‘Oh, we’re a black metal band’ or ‘we’re a skate punk band’ or ‘we’re a grunge band’ and all that kind of stuff might not be prepared for the same expanse of material here.

Despite the physical distance between the musicians, the experience brought back old memories.

“It was fun, really, to feel like everything was coming back together,” he said. “The relationships were pretty much the same. You have this history, this backlog of shared humor and jokes and all that stuff that bands have.

Thumbs’ journey began in 1975, when the band members — all between the ages of 22 and 26 at the time — who “all met” at different shows, Wilson said.

Courtesy of Steve Wilson “I, Karl (Hoffmann) and Kevin (Smith), Liberty Hall (née Lawrence Opera House) 1981, an evening of William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Thumbs.” —Steve Wilson

When Thumbs debuted Lawrence, he said many bands were reggae, country-swing, bluegrass, or did covers of rock songs.

“You would think rock and roll was the motto,” he said. “So (we) kind of got into this scene where there was really no one like us because we were writing our own material from the start.”

Wilson said the band’s premise was that if they liked it, they played it, as long as it was rock and roll – from Bob Dylan to the Sex Pistols.

Thumbs recorded their first album in 1979 with the help of a “sound engineer friend” who supported the group financially. The album became what some might consider a surprise hit, earning favorable reviews from publications like Rolling Stone and Village Voice.

Courtesy of Steve Wilson Steve Wilson and Iggy Pop ‘enjoying refreshments’

“We were, frankly, a little overwhelmed with the response.”

A follow-up album faded, and the band amicably parted ways in 1985. The friends stayed in touch over the years, Wilson said, despite some band members leaving.

Then, in October 2020, Wilson received an email from Thumbs guitarist Kevin Smith, living in Atlanta. Wilson said he thought Smith was “probably even about five years old when he never picked up a guitar”, and was surprised to read in the post that Smith had written songs.


“He said, ‘I’ve got a bunch of them here that I think are Thumbs songs and I need you to help me write them,'” Wilson said. “So he sent me rough versions some things he had that I started working on to help him finish.”

Wilson contributed melodies and wrote most of the song lyrics, he said, although “there were a few songs that were really my initiation.”

“So we’ve spent this COVID year of 2021 basically putting together a record through electronic means,” Wilson said. “Almost everything we did was send files back and forth to each other.”

Although the album was recorded across the county, Wilson said he “would like to think you can’t say that on this record”.

“I think it has the vibe of a band playing,” he said. “It’s partly because we’re experienced in making records, and it’s always kind of magical. (The) illusion of recording is using the studio to make you sound like a performance .

The response to “Trunk Wired Shut” so far has been “totally positive,” and the album is beginning to receive radio airplay in Kansas City, Wilson said. The album is also available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music and more, and you can listen on YouTube here.

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Emma Bascom (her), journalist, can be reached at ebascom (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more about his work for The Times here. Check out his staff biography here.

To note: This article has been corrected from a previous version.

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