FOR THEIR third album, Themes have pulled back the curtain on a sound that could once be described as somber. Accordingly, Loveweapons is filled with light; it's a loud, brash, celebratory record, and a terrific one at that. While its eight songs sound no less dramatic than Themes' 2007 album War over the Great Plains or 2011's The Phantom, Kelsey Crawford and Jacy McIntosh have turned their songs—which could previously seem at times like a conversation between the now-married couple—outward at the world. Songs like "Get By" and "I Would Die for You, Let's Sing!" are celebrations of hope and gratitude, but more importantly, they're the most inviting and welcoming music the duo has made yet.
"We had written about half of the songs and played a few of them on the road," says McIntosh of Loveweapons, which they recorded with producer Brandon Eggleston. "So there was a good mix of things that had been road-tested and not—because I always go back and forth on the validity of playing something on the road until it's just muscle memory being performed on a tape, or if it's a creative process captured in the studio that becomes something where you get to experience the ideas happening as we do. So it's a little bit of both of those worlds, which is cool, because I feel like we did consciously make the decision to make a rock album. All the reviews of the previous albums were great, but a lot of people would touch on the darker aspects."
Themes first started making music in Santa Rosa, California, and continued when the pair moved to Minneapolis; McIntosh and Crawford have called Portland home since Election Night 2008. While they have every intention of staying put here, they both admit they sometimes feel more at home on the road than staying in one place. Crawford's mom traveled for a living and McIntosh grew up in a military family, each resulting in a childhood spent on the move.
"It's something we're very accustomed to," McIntosh says.
"We kind of have that in common," says Crawford.
"Even when we lived in other cities, we were kind of transient," says McIntosh. "Lots of touring."
Crawford adds, "The turning point for me was when Themes first toured as a two-piece. We'd always had a lot of people with us, and there's something to be said for chemistry with the people you're traveling with. People just make or break the situation, you know, and you have to have space to be comfortable. But when we toured as a two-piece, we had so much fun. We could really be in the moment."
"Still, there's something really magical about the chemistry of a lot of people onstage that nothing can really compare to," McIntosh says.
To that end, the band's upcoming Portland show will enlist the help of their good friends Ephriam Nagler and Jen Grady of Olympia band You Are Plural to round out the rhythm section. Noah Bernstein—of tUnE-yArDs and Shy Girls—will also contribute sax, as he did on Loveweapons (Bernstein's band Grammies is also on the bill). It's an example of how McIntosh and Crawford have built on the solid foundation of their partnership to foster a community of musicians, both far-flung and at home.
"I have to give Jacy credit," says Crawford of the band's beginnings. "He said, 'The reason I want to do this, and if you're on board, let's do this'—because we had started writing music together—he said, 'I just want a band where we can have our friends play in different cities and come join us onstage, anybody can play. His main thing was to have fun, basically, and enjoy the company of our friends that are also musicians. And I love that idea, because as much as I'm still friends with my old bandmates from previous bands, they didn't always have that really positive attitude—it seemed more competitive. And we were just not about that. I think that's why I like Jen and Ephriam so much, because as a couple, too, they said one of their favorite things about working with other people is that we all want to see our friends succeed."