Brattleboro’s punks with a cause
By Bob Audette, Vermont Country
BRATTLEBORO — One of Vermont’s quietest traditions is also one of its loudest — music from the Green Mountains.
And from Phish to Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Sam Amidon to Neko Case, Miracle Legion to the Arwen Mountain String Band, Vermont music has been sublimely innovative, as if it grew out of the very soil and was nurtured by the hands and the breath of thousands of musicians.
On a mid-morning, chill Sunday in January, the members of Vermont’s newest sensation, Thus Love, sat in their collective space in a borderline-ramshackle, two-story wooden building left behind when Estey Organ Company closed up shop in 1960.
“People subconsciously gravitate to a spot like this,” said drummer Lu Racine, who came to Vermont from Florida as a teenager when his mom moved to Windham County to attend the now-shuttered Marlboro College.
And nearby Brattleboro was a magnet, not just for Racine, but also bassist Nathaniel VanOsdol, singer/guitarist Echo Mars and other trans-identifying, gender questioning people.
“It’s a small town with a lot of freaks and a lot of really, really nice folks,” said Racine.
“We play pretty loud punk music,” said VanOsdol, who grew up in Townshend. “But punk is a genre of music notoriously dominated by cis white men. To show up and be very loud, very queer, very trans … as loud as possible to remind those people that they’re not the only ones who’ve had these experiences that we’ve had … that’s what punk music is all about.”
Mars grew up in Northern Vermont before traveling south where she, Racine and VanOsdol eventually met up, forming Thus Love just weeks before the pandemic shut everything down.
During what Mars called “forced downtime,” they immersed themselves in their music, writing songs and recreating them a piece at a time, recording them in a studio in Buoyant Heart, their collective space on Birge Street.
They also recorded a video with a couple of friends around downtown Brattleboro for $100. “Inamorato” was a sensation and a revelation, joyful and dynamic.
Mars’ antics are pure and delightful as she swings her guitar and belts out in a voice reminiscent of Baz Warne and Ian McCulloch.
Meanwhile, Racine and VanOsdol are implacable and focused, as any rhythm section worth its salt is, as Mars prances about, jumps up and down and leans into the camera.
To say the members of Thus Love got quite the bang for their buck with that video is an understatement. The band was quickly signed to a label, got reviewed in Rolling Stone magazine and has been written about in publications such as NME, Broadway World, Alternate Press, Brooklyn Vegan and The Guardian.
VanOsdol called the band their lifeboat — with one semester left at Marlboro College, the school closed.
VanOsdol was able to finish that last semester, but Mars and Racine were on a ship that they gladly jumped aboard. “I was like, this is the moment, the opportunity.”
Late last year, Thus Love released its first album, “Memorial,” recorded at Guilford Sound with Matthew Hall and has been playing gigs in Vermont and along the East Coast.
In late January, Thus Love played two shoulder-packed shows in The Stone Church in Brattleboro before jetting off to do shows in England, as well as in Dublin, Amsterdam and Paris.
The band members are grateful for the folks who have shown up for them, the people who make it possible for them to do what they love.
“It makes me feel like, wow,” said Racine. “That many people want to take time out of their lives to see us. That’s a gift, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.”
“It can happen anywhere,” said Mars about Brattleboro and the band’s Vermont roots. “It doesn’t matter where you are. You can be, you know, a queer from Vermont and live in a rural town. And you can still make dreams come true. When you be yourself, it’s always vibrant.”
While it’s true it can happen anywhere, you still have to have talent, and the members of Thus Love have lots of that quality.
But that’s not enough, either. You have to have a certain je ne sais quoi, a presence, an unapologetic flag in the ground, and that’s what makes Thus Love special.
“Everything in this world is hard,” said Mars, including making music that grabs people by the heart and soul.
“If I liked doing other things, I’d be doing other things, too. But this is the only thing that makes me want to be alive.”
Bob Audette has been writing for the Brattleboro Reformer for close to 15 years. When he’s not working or hanging out with his 6-year-old son, he can often be found on one of the many trails leading to the summit of Mount Monadnock, in southern New Hampshire.