Alternative rock five-piece Nothing But Thieves have been conquering the music scene this year. With an incredible debut album released last month and numerous epic singles, there is no stopping this band. We caught up with guitarist Joe and bassist Phil before their headline show at a sold-out Thekla in Bristol. The show itself was outstanding, the live-set itself was flawless and the boat literally rocked. Check out our interview below:
First question, so how did the name Nothing But Thieves come about?
Joe: There’s a quote and it said, ‘Don’t be impressionable, your religious leaders are nothing but mega thieves.’ I don’t think mega thieves is a very good band name, but thought Nothing But Thieves is a good band name so there you go.
Phil: What would a mega-thief be like?
Joe: Steals everything like it’s not bolted down, it’s gone!
When did you all decide to form a band? Were you always a five-piece?
Joe: It kind of morphed. It was probably myself, Conor and Dom. We were jamming for ages, just kind of wrote songs. Then, as we kind of got songs together we needed members so...
Phil: You can’t really do the live thing without drums and bass. So those guys went to school together, me and Dom are cousins.
Joe: Price used to open with his band for our old band and when our drummer left we took on Price.
Phil: We stole him, we are mega thieves.
Was alternative rock the genre you always wanted to go into?
Joe: It was always going to be rock as we play guitar. However, we try to be more than just your typical rock band, I guess more alternative rock.
Phil: We have loads and loads and loads of inspiration behind our sound.
Joe: Anything that takes rock music but doesn’t do it in the standard way. You get a lot of guitar rock bands which I just find a bit boring. So like, Arcade Fire do something really interesting with their sound, Radiohead are really interesting too. Back in the day, Pink Floyd as well. Anyone like that really.
Tell us about your album artwork. How did the horse logo come about?
Phil: I got it tattooed.
Joe: He did, there (points).
Phil: It got infected.
Joe: It’s bad luck for the album isn’t it.
Phil: I couldn’t believe it, I bashed it. I got it done when we were on the road, not actually on the road like in a tattoo place when we were on the road. I had it done and then I bashed it when I was playing the bass and damaged it completely.
Joe: But the design actually came from when I was doing my dissertation. We needed album artwork and I was procrastinating and I just started looking up photos that maybe we could use and I came across this elephant that was disintegrating. I liked the image, it was cool, there was an actual element that was kind of falling apart. I gave it to our artist who does a lot of our artwork like the circle logo and stuff. He’s good, we really like what he does. So I gave that to him and he came back with the horse with the actual element of being enclosed by smoke.
So is this one of your first headline shows in Bristol apart from Dot to Dot?
Phil: Not quite true, we did The Birdcage back in the day. Technically that was our first show here in Bristol. We met a band called Cursor Major who we love. They were a local Bristol band.
Joe: This is like our second show technically. But, the first big one. Dot to Dot was really good this year. My guitar stopped working during the first track which was great!
Phil: That was one of the first shows we did actually that when we played we realised that people were actually hearing the music, it was getting out there. The radio were playing us a lot and it was the first time that we could see a load of people singing back.
Joe: That was actually part of the switch for us. It was the point where no-one really knew us and then there was a little buzz around the band.
Phil: So yes it was actually Bristol where we realised that. Also, we played Thekla before supporting Darlia and Conor did his first ever stage dive.
What’s been your favourite show so far on this European tour?
Phil: Poland was mad. We seem to go down there quite well. It was an 800 capacity venue that was sold out which was mad. I felt like I was in the Beatles or something. They were screaming for us. It was mad.
Joe: We did our first Italian headline in Milan and Bologna. Both sold out and it was just crazy.
Phil: They’ve all been like really really really special. They’re our own shows and lots of them have been sold out so that’s been insane on its own. We enjoy what we do so they’ve all been great.
How was festival season? Favourite festival you played at?
Joe: Reading will always be good for us because that’s the one we always went to as kids.
Phil: What was that one after Rome?
Joe: So we played with Muse in Rome which was amazing. But the very next day we went from that and flew from Rome to Belgium to play this festival, I can’t remember what it was called.
Phil: We didn’t even have a hotel, we went straight from Rock in Roma to the airport. So we played in front of 36000 people and then we got on a flight, went to Belgium.
Joe: And we played to about 40 people.
Phi: When we first went on we played to around 10 people and we were just laughing. We were just drained and we had to just laugh about it.
Joe: The night before was obviously incredible and just before we got on at this festival we realised we were back down to earth. But it was still fun. Reading was amazing. Also, there’s this festival called Lowlands in The Netherlands.
Phil: It’s like the Dutch Glastonbury. That was great.
Joe: There was such a buzz about our band and the tent was so full that they had to send people away and close the sides of the tent to stop people trying to get in.
Phil: It was a nice feeling.
So your debut album came out last month, what was the songwriting process like?
Joe: It differed from track to track. It was written over a long long time, over like two and a half to three years maybe. So it’s odd to collate it all into one album really. It all seemed a bit fragmented. All the songs came out differently, we don’t really have a formula when we write so the album sounds quite different from song to song. We designed it that way, we don’t want to write the same song twelve times. Sometimes they come from a lyric, sometimes they come from a drum loop, anything really. I don’t think we are good enough to have a formula, we just kind of jump on anything that works.
Do you have a favourite track off your album?
Phil: I think we worked so hard on making it a full album that I don’t really have a favourite. I actually just kind of like enjoy listening to it. We’re all quite proud of it. I’m proud of everything that we all did.
Joe: I wouldn’t put it on to listen to yet because it’s too recent. I still know what went into it. We’re not sick of it though.
Phil: There’s not a particular favourite though.
Joe: I’m probably proud of the song, ‘If I Get High.’ It seemed really cohesive to me.
Your most recent video that’s up is ‘Wake Up Call’-how was it filming that clip?
Joe: You know how we say that we’re not sick of the album. When you do a video you get so sick of the song.
Phil: Yeah, that was outrageous. They always like doing slow-motion shots, but to get that you have to play to the track sped up, so when they slow the track down it looks like you’re going in slow-motion and you’re playing in time. So you play along in time with it and the quicker you move, the better it will look. So playing it fast that much was tiring. The paper flying around was also weird. There was a lot of smoke and they were all going ‘CUT’ and everyone was coughing, it was really bad!
Joe: Originally there wasn’t enough paper so it kind of looked like someone had just thrown a paper aeroplane about. Eventually, it turned out alright though.
How was it performing the VEVO live sessions?
Phil: They were good, although again it was playing those songs a lot of times in a row.
Joe: That was part of the VEVO lift thing we won so that was cool.
Phil: They got us a plaque!
Phil: That’s going to go up somewhere.
Joe: It’s the first thing we’ve won as a band.
Phil: It’s the first thing I’ve ever won really. I really wanted a medal as a kid but never got a medal.
Joe: But yea, the performances were fun! That’s our favourite bit as a band. Especially nowadays, you get asked to do a lot of stuff that sometimes isn’t very fun. The music bit is the fun bit.
More things coming up soon?
Joe: Can’t tell you what but lots of things coming up early next year. New single. We’re just talking about the new video now actually.
Phil: The one thing we can tell you is that it’s on the album! You can find it on there but I can’t tell you which one but it’s there!
So with your music videos do you help with the ideas?
Joe: Yeah, massively. We send out a brief to a load of directors and they bring it back and then they might help with the rewriting of some of the ideas and stuff.
Phil: We’re currently in that process now. We know the power of a music video, they really affect a song. You can spend so long on a song and then have a really rubbish video behind it so we’re quite strict with it being good.
Joe: We want it to be good so...
You’ve got a massive tour coming up, including Shepherd’s Bush Empire, excited?
Joe: Yeah, crazy excited about that.
Phil: There are some big big dates there. It will be really exciting. I can’t wait! But we have a lot of stuff before then.
Joe: We go to Japan, Australia, America, and other tours.
What was the last track you listened to today?
Joe: I listened to ‘Hungry Heart’ by Bruce Springsteen.
Phil: I listen to this band called Silver Sun Pickups who not a lot of people know but they’re really good. I highly recommend them. They have this really really good song that I listen to all the time but the title is a little bit embarrassing.
Joe: Go on.
Phil: It doesn’t mean it, like they’re American or Canadian but it’s called ‘The Royal We’. The end bit he’s just like shouting ‘The Royal We’ and I’m just like, ‘That means something different!’ I recommend that song though. It’s an interesting title and I have great music taste.
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