Iconic British band, Nothing But Thieves, are heading to Adelaide early February for their only Australian headline show, along with appearances at Perth Festival and Mountain Sounds Festival. This tour comes shortly after their release of their new EP ‘What Did You Think When You Made Me This Way?’ October last year, and we had the fantastic opportunity to chat to member Joe about upcoming songs, their writing process and his favourite Mariokart character.
Hey, thanks setting some time aside to chat with me today!
Hey, that’s alright.
How are you going today?
Yeah I’m good! We are on down time now, our first gig of the year is in Australia, so we are sort of just chilling at home and writing at the moment.
That’s awesome, and that’s great actually because I wanted to jump straight into your song writing process. All your songs have such powerful emotion behind them and, for me personally, bring out such a strong connection to the lyrics and melodies. What for you is most important in the writing process?
Well, I think, you’ve kind of nailed it really. As long as we are kind of feeling something from it, then we are good to go. So basically, there’s myself, Dom (the other guitarist), and Conor (our singer) we write together and sort of nine times out of ten, if it’s a good idea and all three of us know it kind of straight of way, there doesn’t need to be a debate about it. So, kind of an important part of the process, if all three of us are kind of feeling something from it then we know we have got something.
What’s challenging for you during the writing process, and how do you overcome those challenges?
Well, writing a lot can be quite hard. I think just trying to be relaxed about it, and knowing that it will come within. I mean, people have only heard, well I don’t know how many songs from us now, like thirty? Just over thirty songs, thirty-five? But there have been tonnes of other songs that we’ve written and not even seen the light of day. So it’s just kind of remembering that, and sort of maybe taking a step back and having a week off, then coming back to it. I mean, it [challenges] happens, you’ve just got to learn to deal with it.
Yeah exactly. So, when you wrote your first album what was something that really stood out to you, whether it was through your lyric writing or even just the atmosphere of recording together as a band?
It was such a long process that first album, I mean we had written so many songs that were crap [laughs], and then before it was a really great process and then eventually we got kind of more confident with the song writing. We were musicians first, so we could play our instruments and we could play together but being a song writer is a completely different skill. You can be the best musician in the world but if you can’t write a song, it just makes it so different. So, I think the thing that sticks out to me is that we had written a couple of songs in a row, we wrote ‘Lover, Please Stay’ on the first album and then ‘Excuse Me’, ‘Graveyard Whistling’ and then a song called ‘Emergency’ which is on our first ever EP. I remember, like, once we got those songs something just went click and then, I don’t know, something just clicked in our heads and it didn’t really feel the same as before, like, we kind of felt like we were treading water. But once we had those songs we felt like we were going in the right direction, so I won’t ever forget that.
Did you have any influences when creating each of your albums?
Yeah, loads! I mean, very early on and I guess they’re still influences today, but Jeff Buckley is a massive influence, especially on Conor. I remember showing him ‘Grace’ and he hadn’t really heard much, he had only heard a cover of ‘Hallelujah’ before and that was it, but I think that really inspired him and they both [Jeff Buckley and Conor] have very similar qualities in their voices and where that voice sits around guitars and rock music is a big influence and that. Then there are bands that we all just love, bands like Radiohead, Queens of Stone Age, Foo Fighters, Led Zeppelin and yeah, I guess from them we find that we’ve found it more interesting trying to have outside sources and incorporating those, even incorporating stuff outside of rock music, into what we do. I’ve always found that quite interesting.
Amazing, and sticking with influences. Funny little thing, you guys are my Mum’s favourite band and I’m very inspired by all her music influences and she’s brought me up on a lot of interesting bands and stuff. So, I’m just curious what family musical influences have you had throughout your life that have stuck with you?
[Laughs] Nice! It’s actually the same for me, but it was my Dad. Like, my Dad got me into rock music as a kid, really. When I was young before I was a guitarist, I used to fence, as in the sport and my Dad would take me to training and competitions and whatever, but always in the car he would be playing things like U2, Heartbreakers, Foo Fighters, White Stripes, like, loads of different bands and now that kind of formed my personal history with music, of what I know and what sort of speaks to me. I think when you listen to music at that sort of age, it becomes your dictionary of music and so it must have an influence on me now.
Yeah of course! When you guys met as a band, when did you decide that Nothing But Thieves was it for you?
I was in another band with Conor before this, when we were at school, and then I went off to University and then Conor met Dom, from there they started writing and it kind of just happened. We were writing, well, these terrible songs but we were kind of making the right noises and then we got approached by a manager. I think though at that age, they were like 16/17 at this point and I was 18 maybe 19, when you get approached by a manager when you’ve been doing it for six or seven years at that time playing music, it’s mind-blowing really. Our managers are from L.A, and just being a kid and being like “Oh yeah, we’ve been contacted by a manager from L.A” is absolutely nuts! That kind of got us realising we should probably take this a little more seriously now, we can do something with it and luckily we did!
When did you first start playing music, and what sparked your passion?
I guess just listening to rock music, I was a massive fan of the Foo Fighters and on the album ‘One By One’ there’s this song called ‘All My Life’, best track of the album. I remember hearing that song and that made me want to pick up a guitar, I was really lucky in school, like, I had friends who were musicians and when I started learning guitar I didn’t become a learner by myself or anything, I mean I did a bit, but most of my learning as a child was with other people in the practice room or at school, or even just talking about it and I think that really helps! I can’t offer that enough to any musician, playing with other people is the most important thing ever. So yeah, that was kind of the start of it really.
Just a curious question, but what was the first song you learnt on guitar?
[Laughs] First song I learnt on guitar was, uh I can’t remember what the song was called but I know it was by Status Quo. My Grandad bought me my first guitar off of ebay with some sheet music, and he said to me “Alright, I’ve bought you your first guitar, now all you need to do for me is learn to play Status Quo”. So, that was the first thing that I did, I’m sure it was terrible but luckily there were only three chords.
That’s awesome. Now, you’ve mentioned Foo Fighters a little bit and if you had to create your dream festival lineup, I’m sure they’d be on there. But, who else would you put on there?
Dead or alive?
Well I have to go with the dead ones then [Laughs]. I’m a massive Nirvana fan, and again seeing the full lineup for Led Zeppelin would be incredible! Hendrix probably, Radiohead would be up there, but I’ve seen Radiohead tonnes of times and I can’t get enough, every show is absolute magic, they’d be on there. Who else… Oh you know what! I’d still keep them on there, but for the longest time it was Jet, who are an Australian band right?
Jet was, like, the first album I ever bought! I was in the stage where I bought the album and absolutely loved it but never got to see them live, they spilt before I got to see them. But they’ve reformed recently and played in London, Phil and I went because we are both fans, but he couldn’t really watch the show, he just watched me because I was loving it so much, honestly I don’t think I’ve sung along to a gig so loud before! It was amazing, it was re-living childhood, so I would definitely put them on there.
That’s wicked, it sounds like a good lineup you’ve got there. Speaking of festivals, where has been the most mind-blowing festival or even venue you’ve performed at?
Oh! We played in Japan, we played Summer Sonic in Japan and it was incredible. To the left of the stage there was a body of water, and the crowd were in front and over to the right was a mountain range, it was the most ideal setting. It was something you rarely get to see as a musician, normally you're playing in dingy venues or bigger places, and sometimes there will be places that leave you breathless, it doesn’t really matter where you are in the world sort of thing. But that place was pretty incredible, and likewise in Italy there was this place, it was a bit like Colorado Red Rocks, have you heard of that?
Oh yes, that place is insane!
Yeah, it’s kind of like that but in Italy and in forty degree heat! It was incredible, I like those kind of spaces. It’s very rare you get the chance to play them, so they’re always cool.
Would’ve been a great atmosphere! I’m actually also curious about what goes into creating your live demos and acoustic recordings, is there much of a process behind that compared to your usually writing process?
The live ones on YouTube? Yeah kinda, we are lucky in the fact that Dom is our in house producer for the band, he does a lot of that stuff. He mixes a lot of those performances, having someone like that within the band is unbelievably useful. It can be a bit difficult when you play a festival and they put it online, and it’s gone through another mixer who doesn’t know the band and just wants to get the job done, sometimes it’s amazing but sometimes they don’t really give a shit. But to have someone like Dom in house, in your band, they know the band better than anyone, he spends a lot of time doing all of that and he’s really talented.
You recently released your EP, ‘What Did You Think When You Made Me This Way?’ October last year. What is your personal favourite song off the EP?
Hm, personal favourite… It does change quite a lot, but probably um… oh god good question. Probably, ‘Forever & Ever More’ at the moment, just because we debuted it at Reading Festival and obviously no one had heard the song before, we hadn’t released it or anything and even then the crowd kind of knew what to do and it was a really good live song, and even though we hadn’t played it before we knew it was going to be a good live song for us. So that’s always really fun to play, but yeah, I don’t know! I know in Australia ‘Take This Lonely Heart’ has been taken as a single, and that hasn’t happened in many other places, so I’m looking forward to coming back and seeing what the reaction is like then, and it will be the first time we would have played in in Australia as well.
Oh wow, that’s really amazing! Are you looking forward to coming to Australia again?
Oh absolutely! It’s one of our favourite places to tour, it’s beautiful, food is good, the crowds are good! We always have a good time and people love a drink, so yeah very much looking forward to it!
Alright, well I’ve got one more question, who is your favourite go to character in Mariokart?
[Laughs] See, I’m a basic bitch and I love Mario. Is there anything wrong with that? I feel like now you’ve asked the question I should have had a better choice.
Oh No! You’ve got to stick with the OG’s sometimes, don’t you?
That’s what I think! It’s called Mariokart for a reason!
Exactly! Thank you so much for chatting with me today, can’t wait to see you guys perform in Adelaide real soon!
Thank you very much, Cheers!
You can catch Nothing But Thieves on the 10th of February at HQ this year, make sure to snag yourself a ticket to see one of the world’s best live rock music bands, you won’t regret it!
All images via Nothing But Thieves Facebook page