Once a staple of rock ’n’ roll fandom, the official fan club has been made mostly obsolete thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Who needs a newsletter or exclusive forum when there’s probably a better, cheaper alternative? A handful of notable, named, and relatively organized clubs still exist—Pearl Jam’s Ten Club, the Metallica Club, and Turbonegro’s Turbojugend among them—and most are dedicated to giant, decades-old bands.
The Thorriors buck this trend. The supporters of Valient Thorr—a North Carolina-based punk/heavy metal gang that says it comes from Venus—sport a distinct greeting (the Venusian word “Alahoyus”), a type of apparel (denim jackets with the VT logo stenciled on the back), and some 60 loosely knit chapters scattered around the world. The Thorriors aren’t as mobilized or profitable as, say, the Kiss Army. But, like Deadheads, they’ve become a vital source of community in the band’s world.
Before Valient Thorr’s show at the Triple Rock Social Club this Thursday, March 8 with Torche, Corrosion Of Conformity, and A Storm Of Light, we spoke to energetic and outspoken frontman Valient Himself about the club’s origins, notable fans, and significance.
The A.V. Club: How did The Thorriors begin?
Valient Himself: The Thorriors got together because of a few true believers, and in the beginning, they were just basically hardcore fans. I really don’t even know who coined the term Thorriors. I’m not sure if we said it in a little post on MySpace way, way back when. We were trying to get people to make jackets and show their colors because we thought of it like the old movie Warriors. All the gangs in New York had their vests, sort of like motorcycle gangs from the ’60s. A Thorrior that we call the True Believer—he’s Tim Thorr now—would always show up in Lawrence. He was definitely a Kansas City guy, but there’s a few guys who are older than us. One of the things we started to realize about the Thorriors was that if we would be on Warped Tour, we would get young kids as our fans. If we toured with Motörhead, we would have older rock fans as our fans or [on Warped Tour] dudes taking their kids out would come and see us when their kids were watching some horseshit band like From First To Last or whatever that fuckin’ actor guy’s name is. You know who I'm talking about?
AVC: Jared Leto from 30 Seconds To Mars?
VH: Jared fuckin’ Leto, that guy. When their kids were going to see that, the dads would come over and check us out. This guy [Tim] saw us, and he helped us start this thing called Thorriors Unite. He’s probably one of the first—not the first—to start getting Valient Thorr tattoos, and then all of a sudden, with his help, chapters started popping up everywhere. Back in the MySpace days, there were tons of ’em. Without MySpace or a board, everybody started going to Facebook. The chapters never died, but their online presence sort of did. We thought of it as a Turbojugend thing. [Turbonegro] would sell jackets to their fans. These guys just made their own vests and jackets and patches and would give them to each other. Now, the Great Lakes Thorriors are a chapter who have their own vests [and] have spread from Grand Rapids all the way to Detroit. The Columbus Thorriors made their own. The Dayton Thorriors all have theirs painted the same way.
AVC: Aside from the jackets and the greeting, are there any other Thorriors customs or fashion traits?
VH: Nothing that’s mandatory. All that’s really mandatory is a positive attitude. You don’t even have to have a jacket, I just think that adds to the fun. As long as people are coming to have a good time, that’s the main point. Everybody always goes, “You're a political band,” but we want to be bring people together. There’s lots of politicians who try to drive people apart. Why would you ever support anything that obviously polarized everybody? It’s either you’re this way or you’re that way. There is no this way or that way. There’s always multiple answers for all these different things, and it all is according to your own history.
I was going to give an example of people trolling on message boards or shit-talking or saying, “This band sucks.” We don’t get a lot of that. The cool thing about the Thorriors is once you see our band, I feel like maybe you’re either with us or you just don’t get it. Very rarely do we have people who go, “Man, that band just sucks.” They might not like our music, but I don’t think they [could] see us live and not have a good time unless you’ve just got some kind of chip up your shoulder or stick up your ass or you absolutely don’t get it.
I think the Thorriors, once they become a Thorrior, they’re a Thorrior for life. It’s hard to talk about your own projects because you don’t want to seem narcissistic or anything, but how did AC/DC or Iron Maiden have these fans that stuck by ’em for so long? It’s because they believed in what they were doing and did something good, and people liked it and were in it for the long haul. The Thorriors see something that they know to be true and believe in because we believe in it, and they know that we’re probably never going to change.
AVC: Do you have any stories of social events involving Thorriors that stick out?
VH: Yeah, there’s things called Thorrendezvous that happen. There’s only been one official one, but I planted the seed of the Thorrendezvous a long time ago. What I wanted to do was have this really huge festival called Thorrendezvous, but we’ve never taken enough time off for me to properly get it started. There’s Thorriors obviously all around Europe and Australia and Japan and South America and everywhere now—places we haven’t even been. But at least in the States, I wanted to throw a Thorrendezvous where all the Thorriors could be able to cheaply bus or fly to this place and have a crazy party. I wanted to have a couple of bands that are our friends, like Big Business or Melvins, and then maybe make it like a camping thing—a two-day thing where at least one whole day was bands we know of that nobody else knows because [the bands] don’t ever get to come out.
AVC: How many Thorriors’ chapters would you guess you had at the peak? How many now?
VH: It would be hard to say. I really don’t even know. I know there was definitely 60 or 65 at one time. I feel like maybe we said there were 70 or 80 at one time, but there have got to be more now. I feel like every city has a contingency of people who come out with their jackets on and consider themselves Thorriors. Some are bigger than others, and then there’s definitely dudes who consider themselves Thorriors who would never take the time to make a jacket.
AVC: You mentioned one main Thorrendezvous. What was it like?
VH: The first one we had we decided to have on our 10th anniversary. We had it in Raleigh, North Carolina. People flew in for it. There’s a couple of people we would call Super Thorriors. There’s Dawnowar—she’s from the Cincinnati/Columbus area [and] worked for Manowar for a long time—and then there’s [Brian St. Thorrior]. He always comes to Minneapolis and he’s from up north and runs a KFC. If you look up online, there’s a video he made on a KFC sign that’s really, really awesome. We have much respect for our fans for being that fuckin’ psyched to go out of their way to meet up with each other and with us.
AVC: Are there any notable Thorriors out there?
VH: Well, I don't want to namedrop, but I mean, yeah. I would say Lemmy [Kilmister] is a fuckin’ Thorrior. Elijah Wood’s a Thorrior. He’s a good friend that we met on the days we were touring with Gogol Bordello. There’s Thorriors who range from big to small. I don’t know if I should throw those names out. I feel like I’m namedropping if I do that.
AVC: You once discussed planning a project called Bang For World Peace. Was that the same as the Thorrendezvous or something else?
VH: Bang For World Peace was going to be the Thorrendezvous. Actually, Bang for World Peace before that was going to be in December when they said it was supposed to be the end of the world. We were going to try to get everybody across the world simultaneously to listen to a song that was picked out. Maybe not our song, but “Master Of Puppets” or something. Then I was like, “Well, they can really listen to whatever they want, as long as everybody [stopped, and] even people who were at war put down their guns for a second. It’s like a certain time all around the world where everybody's listening to music at the same time to say, “Okay, let’s pretend the world was going to end. If we all pause for a minute and listen to music, and the world didn’t end, we successfully stopped it from ending.” If we all pause for a minute and we’re not fighting, that’s peace. If you can do it for a moment, you can do it for a lifetime.
AVC: How important has having a defined fan base like the Thorriors been to the band’s success or stability so far?
VH: We’re doing something we consider art so if people appreciate it, and it’s made a difference in somebody’s life, well, then that’s all that matters. There’s bands who are flavor of the month bands. It can kind of hurt your pride a little bit if you think about it. Take a band like Vampire Weekend. I don’t want to say “shitty band” because I’ve never even listened to ’em, but it’s a band you’ve never heard of whatsoever, and then all of a sudden, bang, they’re on the cover of fuckin’ Spin magazine. You go, “Who the fuck is this band?” They’re playing Coachella and all these huge festivals, and you go, “Wow.” To be on the scene for 10 years, you get frustrated because you want the opportunity. You think you work hard enough for the opportunity to get the invites to play these kinds of things, so it’s kind of crazy when somebody comes out of nowhere. No disrespect to [Vampire Weekend]. At one time, I would have said, “Fuck them,” but I’m not jealous of that band at all. These bands just pop up and get used and abused and fucked and thrown out by the record label, and you never fuckin’ hear of ’em again. We’re getting ready to do our sixth album and we’re not going anywhere. We have our fans solid and it will only keep growing unless we did something really fucked up or weird.
AVC: Would you recommend other bands to establish fan clubs like the Thorriors?
VH: Well, I guess so. It can’t hurt. The Thorriors started by itself. That, to me, is what’s so cool about it. If you’re really DIY, you have no fuckin’ time to organize something like that. It has to be grassroots, because if you’re writing music and driving yourself and booking your hotels and getting to the venues, it’s just one thing after another. If you’re a DIY band and can get it going, more power to you. But for sure, the stability of the band will always be there as long as the Thorriors are there because they’re like our support group. When nobody else gives a shit, at least you’ve got your fans who are going to be there.