Thursday, United Nations, and No Devotion vocalist Geoff Rickly released his first book Someone Who Isn't Me on Chelsea Hodson's new independent press run Rose Books this week. It's a novel with memoir-like moments inspired by real events in Geoff's life, but it's definitely not a memoir. The crux of the book is that Geoff goes to a clinic in Mexico to participate in a monitored trip on the psychoactive substance ibogaine in order to kick a heroin addiction, and it's also not a self-help book, nor is it a book about the opioid epidemic. "To me it’s more an ibogaine book," Geoff said in an interview with GQ, "this fictional-sounding drug that’s actually real even though this is a work of fiction. 'Opioid epidemic book' was not the way I was looking at it."
It's a fascinating read whether you're a longtime fan of Geoff's music or entirely unfamiliar with his work, and you can pick up a copy from Rose Books now.
Geoff helped launch the book with a release event at Ferguson Library in Stamford, CT that was presented and moderated by BrooklynVegan. The event also streamed live, and video of the full event is now available to watch whenever you wish. You can watch the full thing below, but first, here are five major takeaways from the interview...
Other books and authors that influenced him
Geoff cited Tonight I'm Someone Else by Chelsea Hodson, whose new company Rose Books released Geoff's book, as a big inspiration. "When my agent gave me her book, I read it in a day, and then I read it a second time the next day," Geoff says. Later on, he says, "Chelsea was like, 'I can't stop thinking about [your] book, I think it's really good, and I also think the major publishers don't have the imagination to pick this up. They're not gonna know what to do with it. I just think like, what if we did it together?'"
He also spent time doing a deep dive into the autofiction genre, reading Karl Ove Knausgård's My Struggle, Ben Lerner, and Juliet Escoria's Juliet the Maniac. "That one was a huge influence on me because it was realism that didn't seem real," Geoff said of Juliet the Maniac. "It really made me think I could tell something that is real, and not have it be realism."
Parallels between releasing the book with a new independent publisher and DIY punk
"When I was a kid, I didn't subscribe to Columbia House because I wanted all the major label stuff; I started writing letters to Dischord because I wanted them to send me 'post-paid, $10 from Dischord, the new Fugazi record!' To me that was cool, going into a record store and being like, 'Why aren't you carrying this Fugazi record? You need to write the label and carry it.' It was like every person that listened to Fugazi was on a mission to make the indie record label happen that they started, because we knew that they treated their artists fairly, we knew that they had ethical practices. So the idea to be a part of that, something that I believed in, in a new venture, the more I thought about it I was like, 'This is cool, I can get excited about this. It's not just whether or not I'm good enough to be accepted by a major publishing house.'"
How he approached writing about real people as characters
"The book is in the first person, so it's like the character Geoff is telling the story, and that might be hard to figure out like, me Geoff telling the story, but it's actually the character. So it's like, you have an active heroin user telling you a story, and you find out from a lot of people coming up and talking to him that you can't rely on the things he's saying, that he doesn't see the world right."
"I think that it's a novel and that it's fictional. That protective layer allowed me to write things I never would have put in a memoir. Because it's a novel I thought, 'Well, I'll put this in for now and then later I can go back and change some names and change some stuff,' and then at the end of it I was like, 'I can't change this. I can't go back and change these names.' If I have a different band name, and then I have like a different name for Tucker or something, people are gonna be like, 'Yeah okay, that's Thursday, that's Tucker' [laughs]. It would just read so corny to people because they'd know exactly what I was trying to hide."
"One of the things that kept coming up was the closer I was to somebody, the less I wanted to characterize them, because I was afraid of reducing them from this beautiful three-dimensional person who had so many strange characteristics that I would never be able to fit in the book because it would have to be like 100 extra pages just to talk about [them]. It's impossible to talk about people when you really know them, and all the people I was writing about, I really know them. Thursday I've been closer to than anybody for 25 years, my partner [Liza] I've been living with her for like 10. I just found myself not wanting to characterize them. And so Monika my agent, she kept telling me like, 'They're not real. They don't have any characteristics. I think maybe you don't know how to write, like, a woman maybe? Like Liza doesn't have any characteristics.'"
"[...] In the end that was the biggest challenge that I had, trying to flatten people that I really love into how they're most useful to me for propelling the plot. So for [Thursday guitarist] Steve [Pedulla] I had to be like, 'Okay, Steve's a bully.' And that's so reductive, you know? And I had to be like, 'Steve, I'm kinda making you a bully in my book,' and he'd be like [in a defeated tone], 'Yeah like everybody else,' you know what I mean? It's like, 'Noooo, Steve!'"
Why he titled it Someone Who Isn't Me
"'Someone Who Isn't Me,' or the acronym 'SWIM,' is sort of an old school, drug forum thing that all these drug users when they'd say, 'Look, I tried to use this to freebase on and it didn't work,' they thought if, 'I write that on the internet, the cops are going to come to my house and arrest me because they'll know that I'm freebasing cocaine or whatever. So I'll just say someone who isn't me did this last night, and they were wondering why it didn't get them high or whatever,' so they believed that as long as you said 'someone who isn't me did this' that the cops are not allowed to touch you anymore [laughs]. When I put it in [the book], it was just a section, and my wonderful agent who I love and respect so much, she underlined it and was like, 'Title.' And I already had a title so when I saw that, I was like, 'Okay so she doesn't like my title first of all [laughs], and second of all I get it.' Because the whole thing now can be like, 'Hey guys, this isn't me.' I thought it was a really nice subtle trick, and it's also kind of a very understated title for a book that can be quite overstated and maximal and too much."
Writing the book inspired him to write more with Thursday... even if they never release another record
"Even if we don't want to make another record, or release more music necessarily, how about once a week we get together and write, just to see what happens? Because we love each other, and we're still in a band after all this time!"
Pick up Someone Who Isn't Me here and watch our full conversation with Geoff below.
Thursday are also touring in celebration of War All The Time's 20th anniversary, including two Rocks Off cruises in NYC (September 13 & 14) and NJ's Starland Ballroom on September 30 with Sparta, Tim Kasher, and Koyo. All dates are listed below.