I met with Thundera on January 19 at Smash Studios in Midtown, where they practice weekly. I got there a few minutes late and could hear through the door that they were in the middle of a song. I awkwardly stood outside, debating whether I should wait for the song to be over. Even muffled through the door, they sounded great- hard, steady rock that gives a nod to punk without relying on the simplicity that is sometimes a cliche of the genre. Finally, I walked in.
Thundera formed in 2011, their first practice sessions starting that Spring. After a string of bad luck with bassists, they decided to stop looking for one about a year ago, and remain a trio: Rissa on vocals, Marianna on guitar, and Bruni on drums. Rissa and Marianna met at City College of New York, where Marianna is finishing her last semester, and Rissa just graduated. After some hesitation (“I get nervous about these things”), Marianna answered a flyer that Rissa put up. Marianna’s sister then found Bruni on craigslist. “She was looking for a used car, though,” Bruni jokes.
We could faintly hear the sounds of a cover band start practicing in the room next to us – it sounded like they were playing a bad version of “Roxanne.”
Bruni said that she had been looking for a band for awhile before meeting the rest of Thundera, but hadn’t had much luck. “Some Craigslist ads are really weird… there was always some weird angle to it. Some people get really specific. Like – we really love Meg White or whatever. So you have to kind of look like her. And you have to play this way, the way she did in this concert. It’s not a costume party!”
Rissa’s flyer mentioned the bands she was hoping to find a common interest with potential bandmates: Joan Jett, The Clash, (Well, I like The Clash,” she clarified) Iggy Pop, and Bikini Kill. Though those groups are the band’s foundation, Marianna admits a love for grunge acts such as Soundgarden and Nirvana, and Bruni has eclectic tastes – except for thrash metal. After a brief discussion about whether early Metallica falls under that genre, she clarifies, “They’re still audible in their early stuff. I mean when people are singing like, rarghgargharhga.”
The way they chose their name fits the trio’s playful, laid-back vibe: they drew names out of a hat. Potential titles include The Swirls and The Electronics, but Thundera, which was Bruni’s suggestion, was chosen. Was it rigged? “Maybe,” Bruni laughs. “It was her hat,” Rissa adds.
The cover band next door began an attempt at Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories.
Rissa says they try to play two shows a month; they’ve played venues like the Paper Box, Bowery Electric, The Fifth Estate, and The Grand Victory. When I ask them what their favorite venue is, Bruni jokes, “Madison Square Garden. I like the way they treat me there,” before agreeing that it depended on the venue’s sound. “We’re really lucky, because we know a lot of female bands,” Bruni said. “We play a lot with the same bands, because we’re kind of all grouped together in the Riot Grrl/punk scene. Other shows that we book independently, we’re kind of the only girls.”
“It’s a nice little community to be a part of,” Rissa adds. But, being in a working band takes, well, work, Bruni says: “People want to say that they’re dedicated to music, but because it’s something artistic they also wanna say they’re not tied down to it. But you have to be really serious about it if you want to get anything out of it. It’s like having another job.”
I asked Thundera about their recordings on Reverb Nation, and they collectively groan and describe the recording process as “a weird set-up.” At the end of 2015 they recorded 11 songs for their next album, were starting the mixing process the weekend after the interview. Hopefully, they said, it would be done by the summer.
For a good idea of the band’s sound, check out their performance of “Thundera:”