Nothing But Thieves: “You Can’t Rush Art”

2015 was an extremely hectic year for Southend on Sea’s Nothing But Thieves. Having kicked off the year as main support for Gerard Way, the band further went on to tour the world playing shows with Muse and AWOLNATION, as well as at various festivals across the planet. Last November, the quintet toured Europe by themselves for the first time, speaking to All Things Loud ahead of a sold out show at Rotterdam’s Rotown.


It’s a busy day for the band, with an extremely packed room just a few paces away from their small, gritty dressing room. Vocalist Conor Mason is off to do some vocal practice, whilst guitarists Joe Langridge-Brown and Dom Craik are seated on a purple sofa near the back wall. Various crew and band members walk in and out over the course of our chat, which centres heavily on Nothing But Thieves’ self-titled debut. The recording process, according to Langridge-Brown, took a “long time” and could’ve been finished far quicker “in an ideal world”. As Craik jokes, “you can’t rush art”, with his bandmate concluding that it’s the main burden of being a self-professed perfectionist. Craik claims that a lot of tracks were redone and re-recorded throughout the process, adding that they were still busy recording it during the summer festival season. Drawing Pins, a percussion-led anthem, was the last song to be recorded for the record. “We recorded it just before the album came out, so it was about a year-long process to get it all done” explained Craik. Most of the album was recorded at Northampton’s Angelic Studios, which is a converted barn house that doubled up as an “escape” for the band. “You could immerse yourself in the whole thing and just get away” said Craik, adding that the band were able to just unwind and play table tennis and football whenever they needed a release from the music. Some further recording was done in London, with the pair subsequently telling us about the songs which didn’t make the cut. One of these, Some Gods, was recorded and fully ready for the album when the band realized that the demo version was actually better than the final cut. Another song, Perp Walk, supposedly “wasn’t good enough”, whereas Wishing Well also joined the list of unreleased tracks. Even the original version of Drawing Pins was originally discarded, making it sound as if the band had doubts with this track throughout the whole process.


The story of Drawing Pins in particular is an interesting one, as we later discover. “Drawing Pins is a funny one. We first had a completely different set of lyrics for it, and we didn’t know what it meant” explained Langridge-Brown, adding that a friend of a friend committed suicide between the period of first recording the song and subsequently re-recording it. Langridge-Brown ended up “rewriting half of the lyrics” so that they made sense to him. The song in turn ended up being about this suicide, with Langridge-Brown pointing out that the song wouldn’t have had the meaning it has today did the band not go back and re-record it. As we shift our attention to the glam-infused Hostage (which the band aptly took out of their set list due to the Paris tragedy four days prior), Craik tells us how the song dates back to before the band even had a label or EP out. “We wanted to self-release an EP, so we recorded it at the Fish Factory in London” explains the guitarist, adding that “Joe noticed something ripped up in the studio which had ‘hostage’ written on it”. That word always stuck with Joe, and the track ended up being an experiment for the band. “It started off electronically, sounding very different to everything else we had out” explains Craik, his face lit up with excitement as he tells us more. “We fought a lot with how it should sound, and we battled a lot to get it right”, before Langridge-Brown jumped in to explain how Hostage’s final adjustments were made whilst they reworked Drawing Pins. The band gave their drummer, Price, more free-reign on the song by adding, for example, live drums. By this point, Price is seated opposite us by himself (occasionally adding something to our chat), whilst bassist Phil Blake loiters around the dressing room in silence.


Over the last year, Nothing But Thieves have been compared to the likes of Led Zeppelin, Muse and Radiohead, with frontman Conor Mason’s vocals often praised for their high range and impressive ability. Musically, Craik namechecks Led Zeppelin as an influence alongside Arcade Fire, before pointing out that one of Conor’s main vocal influences is Jeff Buckley (the similarities are definitely there). Langridge-Brown, the band’s chief lyricist, claims not to “read too deep into other lyrics and lyricists”, still namechecking Pixies as one main influence due to their utilization of dark undertones. Muse, who the band have also been compared to and have even supported, are still a big influence on the band. On the subject of their show with the Teignmouth trio in Rome, Craik claims its “one of the best shows we ever did”. “You can’t play to 30,000 people and not enjoy the experience” adds Langridge-Brown, further stating that the show didn’t even feel like a support set. “Sometimes when you support big bands, such as AC/DC, nobody gives a shit about the support band. With Muse, though, everyone was so interested in our music”, before Craik added that they all really resonated with the crowd. The band now have this massive show to thank for the really solid fanbase which they’ve built in Italy, let alone the rest of the continent falling at their feet. Holland are another country who have fallen for Nothing But Thieves, partly due to the huge amount of shows they’ve played here compared to other countries. At the start of the 2015 they played with Gerard Way, before AWOLNATION took them on tour too. Alongside that, there were also appearances at Lowlands, Paaspop and the annual Pinguin Radio Festival. Langridge-Brown thinks that Holland really appreciates them because they’re all just big lovers of music, simple as. “We noticed from the first time [with Gerard Way] that the crowd loved us” explained Craik, with his sentiments ringing true a couple of hours later when their whole front row was practically filled with My Chemical Romance shirts. On the subject of their appearance at Lowlands Festival three months prior, everyone’s faces lit up as they recounted the Beatlemania-esque rush they encountered. The band performed in the tiny Charlie tent (on Dom’s birthday), which had to be shut off for health and safety reasons due to near-overcrowding. “We expected no one to show up as it was quite late, but it turned out to be one of the best shows of the whole year” concludes Craik.


When the band are on tour with plenty of time to kill, it gets hard not to dig deep into other bands in your downtime. On the topic of what music the band have listened to while on tour, Craik immediately claims that Everything Everything’s new album Get to Heaven was on repeat. The whole room nodded in agreement, with Craik going on to talk about his love for albums. “The great thing about albums is how you notice something different every time you listen to it” he enthusiastically claims. Langridge-Brown goes on to further reference Foals’ manic What Went Down as one of his favourite songs of the year, wishing that he’d written that song himself. Earlier in the year, someone introduced the band to Pearl Jam’s The Fixer, with Langridge-Brown claiming that it’s a song which gets the whole band pumped whenever they listen to it. At this point, Price interjects to mention how nostalgic The Fixer is and how great of a song it’s become for the band. Listening to The Fixer may have become a dressing room tradition, however their pre-show ‘walk-on’ tradition has now become playing a Queens of the Stone Age track right before they open their set. At the moment, their song of choice is classic rocker Feel Good Hit of the Summer, which later blared out of the speakers from start to finish before the band started their hour-long set.


To conclude our discussion, we reached out to Nothing But Thieves’ fanbase for a few questions. One of the questions we asked the band concerned the way in which their music can get people through extremely difficult times. The fan in question wanted to know which artists or songs did the same for the band, with Craik claiming that Jeff Buckley’s classic album Grace, alongside most Radiohead records, did things for them. “I think most of us went through a phase of angst as teenagers, and back then Nirvana got me through a lot of crappy days” explained Craik, before Langridge-Brown added that a lot of the angst-ridden, darker bands did the trick for him and got him through dark days. As our discussion comes to an end, Langridge-Brown and Craik booth loosen up as the whole band sans-Mason join in to discuss the mundane nature of touring. “Sometimes we play this game where you slap someone next to you and just close your eyes and pretend you did nothing” jokes Joe, with the whole room bursting into laughter. “That is entertainment” claims Craik, before Langridge-Brown adds that he’s recently spent a lot of time writing new material for Nothing But Thieves’ second album. They have ten songs which they’re happy with, however they’re trying not to get too excited as Craik claims that they’re not due to start recording them until late-2016. The difference between their debut album and its follow-up will be the fact that they’ll have all the time they need to work on it, as opposed to recording it in and amongst lots of shows. Although we have no idea just yet as to how it’s going to sound, we can be sure of one thing – Nothing But Thieves’ second album will just be another step in the right direction towards world domination.

Watch the brand new video for Lover, Please Stay below. Nothing But Thieves will return to Holland this month for the Eurosonic Noorderslag Festival, before playing shows at the Vera in Groningen and London Calling in Amsterdam in March.