Breaking into the music industry with Nothing But Thieves

Image credit: Chub Magazine

Hey guys, this is my first interview ever, by the way so please excuse nerves.
Conor: Oh cool good luck.

Thanks, my first question has to be: which of you is considered the best looking?
(Laughter)
Phil: It’s our guitar tech, Stu, he gets all the ladies, I tell you, he steals them all from the band. It’s ridiculous.

And least good looking?
Phil: Stu, our guitar tech.

How’s the tour going, were you always big fans of Twin Atlantic?
Conor: I remember really well how about two years ago when we first got the band together and were meeting up to write songs, we’d be driving and listening to ‘Make A Beast Of Myself’ on the radio. We loved that song and now we’re playing with them. So it was like a dream of ours come true really.

Are they a big inspiration to you guys then?
Conor: Yeah just in the sense that they’re a cool credible band. They flip between being all rocky and then all the Radio 1 stuff as well so they’re a really good crossover band in that sense. That’s sort of inspiration for us.

What other inspirations do you have? I was listening to your Spotify playlist today and there’s a lot of variation, you like a bit of indie rock I noticed.
Conor: It’s just all over the place!
Joe: Well when you’ve got five members you’re always going to have so much crossover.
Conor: Yeah, we’re so influenced by a range of things from like indie rock to old school classics like Led Zep. Then there’s Foo Fighters, Joe’s heavily into Foo Fighters, and I love all my Jazz singers so it’s just all a mix really.
Phil: And Britney.

Are you coming out with an album soon?
Joe: Yeah hopefully around April next year. It’s all recorded, all done, just mixing up the last few songs.

So you’ve been to some festivals this year, any good ones?
Dom: Yeah we did, we did T in the Park, British Summertime, and then we did some smaller ones like Truck, Y Not and Brownstock which were really good.

Which was your favourite?
Conor: T in the Park was pretty sweet.
Joe: I liked British Summertime cos we played with Arcade Fire and we were planning to go to the festival anyway to see Arcade Fire so that was pretty cool.
Dom: Yeah that was weird, we were getting tickets, our friend was sorting us out, and then our manager was like oh you don’t need tickets anymore you’re actually playing it.

What’s your one festival essential?
Conor: Baby wipes.
Phil: Wet wipes yeah.
Joe: Booze?
Phil: Dry shampoo.
Dom: Instruments.
Joe: Well yeah when we’re playing we have to take our guitars.

Do you get them out and play Wonderwall around the campfire?
Joe: I always hated those dickheads who played Wonderwall at the campsite.
Dom: You’re looking at me like I was that guy.
Phil: You were!

Did you guys go to Reading when you were 16?
Joe: Yeah! Reading in 07 or 08. Those were our glory years.

So you’re all in your 20s. Are you enjoying your 20s more than your teens?
Dom: Well yeah seeing as we’re in a band.
Joe: Yeah this year’s been amazing.
Dom: Teens are shit aren’t they, you’re still at school. Actually sixth form was good laugh wasn’t it?
Conor: Yeah.

So you all went to school together?
Dom: Yeah ish.
Joe: Yeah we went to school together, Conor and I, the others did too.
Price: I didn’t go to school.
Dom: He was home schooled.
[Laughter]

How did that work out for you? You look like you’ve turned out alright.
Price: I didn’t get home schooled.

Oh right, an in-joke I'm not getting
Joe: [Laughing] Yeah.

Did you always want to be in a band?
Dom: Beats getting a real job right?
Conor: Yeah we were all in different bands when we were kids you know, so this one just kind of worked the best, and we got better as writers and players.

Are any of you musically trained?
Joe: Dom is.
Conor: I played trumpet, grade 8!
Phil: Not dropping any grades or anything! There’s no trumpet in our live shows by the way, sorry to disappoint, don’t get too excited.
Dom: Yeah I started on classical guitar and then Phil was like, that’s going to get you nowhere.

So is it important to know what you’re doing or do you just kind of improvise?
Joe: I don’t know, we’re all such far ends of the spectrum, I’ve never had lessons in my life and Dom was classically trained from like, birth. So yeah you need a mix really.

How did you choose your name?
Dom: Funny story, there was this local band in Essex called Nothing but Thieves, so we thought we’d just borrow it.
Conor: Just ironically we thought we’d steal the name.
Dom: Yeah. So fuck them.

Did you have any other suggestions before you got to that name?
Dom: Yeah so many shit ones. The shittest one was Number One Elephant.
Joe: That was pretty bad. We have a whole list somewhere. It’s appalling. But I think metal names are easy to come up with. Like Hammer Gods.
Dom: Maggot Death!

What do your parents think about you being in a band?
Conor: I don’t know, they don’t really care do they.
Joe: They’re probably just bored of it really.
Dom: We used to spend pretty much every day at my house in the garage where we wrote songs, or tried to write songs at least, and my mum would be like, quite cool about it.
Conor: I just ate all their food. Just go to the fridge and take what I want.
Dom: Yeah! And now we’ve moved out it’s a little bit quiet at home, but yeah they’ve been cool, they still come to shows, they’re not bored of it yet.

They like your music then?
Dom: Hope so otherwise they’re really good liars. No yeah they’ve been great.

Who writes the songs, and do you find the music or the lyrics coming first?
Joe: There’s no formula really… But Dom, Conor and I are the writers.
Dom: Lyric + Music = Song. That’s the formula.
Joe: It’s not like, lyrics comes first or music comes first it really just depends.
Conor: Yeah sometimes it takes weeks to write one song, and then sometimes it takes a couple hours. It just changes.

Do you have any other favourite newcomers bands-wise?
Conor: Yeah! We love Royal Blood, we’re obsessed with them to be honest.
Phil: Marmozets.
Conor: Yeah Marmozets, they’re killing it.
Joe: Catfish and the Bottlemen.
Dom: Darlia as well, they’re doing good. They’re the nicest guys.
Conor: Jack Garratt’s being doing a lot recently and it’s really good.
Dom: Yeah there’s so much good music coming out recently.

Is it hard then do you think starting out as a guitar band these days?
Conor: It’s hard to be original.
Dom: Yeah that’s what we spend most of our time trying to do. Everything’s been done really.
Joe: Well it’s so easy to release things now you just put it online and people will listen to it.

There’s so much shit as well though.
Joe: There is a lot of shit.
Conor: Yeah. But it’s good to have competition, you need that.

What do you think of all those manufactured commercial bands, are they bad for rock music?
Phil: You wouldn’t have one without the other.
Dom: Yeah we kick back on that stuff. Also I wouldn’t say all the commercial’s stuffs bullshit, like even underground stuff can be pretty rubbish.
Phil: Like your old band.
[Laughter]


Nothing But Thieves prepare to steal show        Image: culturecollide.com

Is there any song that changed your life ever?

Joe: I picked up a guitar, that changed my life.
Dom: (to Phil) What song did you listen to when you shaved off your beard?
Phil: Something by Radiohead. Something from Kid A.
Dom: That’s very weird and dark, Phil. I think certain songs inspired us to learn certain instruments.
Joe: Yeah for me, All My Life by Foo Fighters, was when I was like, I’m going to learn guitar now cos I just love that song.
Dom: Michael Jackson, Black and White was the first song I heard on electric guitar and it was pretty cool.
Conor: Yeah, for me it was AC/DC, I got their High Voltage album when I was like 10, and Rock’n’Roll Singer off that album just made me think, I wanna be a rock n roll singer!
Dom: What was yours Price?
Price: Mine was definitely Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye. Great sex song.

What’s the best sex song?
Price: Let’s Get It On obviously!  
Conor: Is it sad to say that we’ve all had sex to Jamiroquai?
Dom: I definitely haven’t.
Joe: I don’t where you’ve got that from Conor. I don’t really listen to music when I have sex, I need to be in the zone.
Price: Drake’s album!
Conor: Yeah Drake’s pretty sexual.

Who do you think is the greatest lyricist of all time?
Conor: God that’s so hard. It’s personal opinion really isn’t it?
Phil: I think Elliott Smith.
Conor: The guy who wrote the Balamory theme tune’s pretty good. He’s pretty unique.
Joe: Recently I think Alex Turner’s been pretty amazing. Anyone that crafts their own style like that…you can read his lyrics and know it’s him which is amazing.
Phil: I definitely prefer their earlier lyrics though. They were so available and it made you really question what you saw socially.

What do you do to get pumped for a show, any rituals?

Dom: It’s not as fancy as other bands I’m sure.
Conor: We just blast some Slipknot.
Dom: Look this is what we’re doing tonight (takes out plastic bag with tin foil and balloons)

(Confused look)

Joe: Basically it’s the last night of the tour so we’re going ruin Twin Atlantic’s dressing room. Are you interviewing them?

No.

Conor: Yeah I was going to say, don’t tell them. They ruined our room the other day so we’re getting them back.
Phil: We’re just going to tin foil everything and put loads of balloons in their room.
Dom: They’ll come back like gasping for water and won’t find any.

[Hilarity]

Are you scared of getting too famous?

Dom: No.

I mean like, losing touch with reality.
Conor: I don’t think you worry about that at this stage…
Joe: No, definitely not.
Phil: We can all be pretty confident in the fact that none of us are ever going to be like that.
Joe: As soon as one of us ever started to be like that, the rest of us would be like, get over yourself.

What about like what’s happening to Alex Turner though?
Joe: That’s definitely put on for show. As far as I can see.
Conor: Yeah it’s a show, it’s theatre, he is theatre, that’s the way he is. It’s cool I think.

Yeah now that they live in LA I guess their life has changed a lot…have you been there?
Conor: Yeah our managers are from there so we’ve been out there a few times to do producing sessions. It kind of changed us.
Dom: I think New York was more inspiring. We went to learn how to write and to meet producers and stuff and we did a little trip from LA to Nashville to New York, and you can kind of tell the different styles of writing and styles of music throughout the US which is cool. Nashville’s like country central, New York was a little bit more produced and LA was a bit of a spectrum really. So it was quite inspiring to go through all of them.

Do you have any advice for people starting bands?
Dom: Just give up, get a degree. Get a good job, die happy.

Degrees are overrated.
Joe: Well just keep writing songs and don’t just release anything straight away. That’s what’s so tempting, it was for us too, just to start playing shows straight away but if you haven’t got good songs no one’s going to listen to you. So yeah just write and write.
Conor: With playing and writing it’s like anything you learn, whether it’s your art degree or history degree, you need to learn to play and write, properly. Don’t give up on that, it’s so important to just practise.
Joe: Learn your craft.

Do you prefer the writing side or playing live?
Joe: You need both. For us we were quite surprised by how much we enjoyed the writing, we had always just wanted to get out and play…
Conor: When you write a good song, you come out and you feel awesome, but then when you’re on tour it’s also amazing. This tour is such a great experience for us.
Dom: You get to perform the songs you’ve spent so long crafting.
Conor: Yeah we’re going to miss this. Tour blues.

Do you have any funny stories from tour?
Conor: Yeah I have a really bad one, well not really bad I just got in a bit of trouble in Glasgow. I was being nice to this old lady at this service station, she was really sweet and sounded just like Mrs. Doubtfire, so I told her. And she said, in a thick Scottish accent) “You think I look like Mrs. Doubtfire?!” I was like "no, but you do sound like her!" And she turns to me and says, “I hope you die in Glasgow.”

Apart from that, it’s been pretty boring really.

What are Twin Atlantic like?
Joe: Oh it was in Glasgow too that we went and DJed with Twin Atlantic didn’t we, which was amazing.
Dom: We’re basically David Guetta now aren’t we?
Joe: I mean, I have been getting a few emails from him.
Dom: No they’re the coolest guys, they look after us. And they genuinely like our music, that’s why they brought us along. It wasn’t the booking agents or the label, they were just like we like this band and that was sort of humbling.

Very cool.  
Conor: There you go. Well done for your first interview!

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