An Interview with Nothing But Thieves
Since the release of their eponymous debut album in October this year, Essex 5-piece Nothing But Thieves have embarked on an almost completely sold out tour across Europe and the UK. Ellipsis caught up with James and Phil on the penultimate night of the tour at Liverpool’s own Arts Club.
Ellipsis: Hi guys, how’s the tour been going so far?
Phil: I think we’ve just gone into week seven?
James: Yeah, it’s been very long, we’re all itching to get in our own beds but the shows have been sublime, amazing, like there hasn’t been a rubbish show this whole tour.
P: There haven’t been any big problems, we’ve sold out so many of them.
E: This is your first headline tour, right?
P: We did one previously but we don’t really talk about that. This is our first proper headline tour. It had to be a long one obviously because the album’s just come out.
J: Yeah, Europe included.
P: We’ll go to, like, Rotterdam and sell out a show, and it’s a crazy, crazy feeling.
E: It’s really impressive that, considering you’re only on your first album, you’re already selling out so many dates!
J: Yeah, it’s really, really crazy, it’s a really nice feeling.
E: Where’s been your favourite place so far on this tour?
J: For me it’s got to be… I’ll do two, I’ll do the UK, which was definitely Bristol. Europe… it’s got to be Poland. Warsaw. We have a really, really strong fan base in Poland and we managed to oversell a venue. I think the venue cap was, like, 850 and they oversold it by 100, so we had 950 people in there, including my parents! They flew out to the show, which was lovely to see them.
P: If that’s one show they should’ve gone to that would’ve been it. Yeah, Poland was amazing and Bristol was a really good vibe. But tonight might be the one! We haven’t actually officially finished the tour yet, so who knows?
E: Liverpool crowds are meant to be some of the best…
P: Yeah, we played down the road recently, on the last headline tour, and that was a really good vibe, if I remember rightly. We do a lot of shows, it’s hard to keep track!
E: You’ve supported some pretty major names, haven’t you? I read you supported Twin Atlantic…
P: That was our first ever tour, Twin Atlantic.
J: Our first big UK tour, which was really cool. They’re lovely guys and they taught us a lot.
P: Yeah, they really showed us a lot about how to be a functioning band on tour. We’re so lucky that was our first one because it really opened our eyes and taught us a lot.
E: Who’s been your favourite band to support?
P: We did a show with Muse in Rome, which was pretty mad.
J: That was fun.
P: We’ve supported loads of people, we’ve supported Darlia on a tour, we’ve supported Young Guns, we’ve supported AWOLNATION, Gerard Way… also once upon a time, for a one-off show, Dodgy! Shoutout to Dodgy!
E: You played Isle of Wight and Reading and Leeds this year as well, didn’t you? How were they?
P: They were absolutely insane. Isle of Wight, we opened up the stage that Blur headlined, and they’re like one of my favourite bands, so that was just insane, and Reading was like… we were on the NME stage, and it was Wolf Alice, Catfish, Everything Everything, Foals did a secret set there… I didn’t leave it, there was all my music there. I remember when we pulled up, there were rumours about it being Foals, but no one knew for sure, and then we pulled up there at like 11:00 or whatever…
J: And we saw all the flight cases…
P: We saw the flight cases saying Foals and I could not believe it. And the thing is, I’m not really starstruck very often, but I could not talk to Yannis, like I couldn’t do it. I thought he’d bite my head off, I dunno why. He’s a bit of a stocky, menacing guy. I’m sure he’s lovely, though.
J: He’s surprisingly short.
P: But the festivals were amazing, yeah.
E: So who would you say your influences were?
P: I think band-wise it’s Arctic Monkeys, Kings of Leon, Arcade Fire, Led Zepplin… we take a lot of influences from everywhere, but they’re like our main ones. Anyone who pushes their music out, especially like Radiohead, how they’re constantly evolving, and every track, there’s not a rubbish one, like it’s there for a reason.
E: I think that’s reminiscent in your music too…
P: Yeah, hopefully. I think every song had to have a different approach to it during recording, but then also feel like a complete piece. So hopefully we’ve kind of nailed it.
E: How did you guys form?
J: Joe and Conor went to school together, Dom taught guitar at that school, then those three started jamming and they were like, ‘oh, this is quite good!’ Phil here, my companion, is actually Dom’s cousin, and I know Dom through the sixth form that he went to, because all my friends, when they left school, went to his sixth form. I went on a few holidays with Dom, to Bulgaria… not just us, that’d be a bit weird…
J: And yeah, one day he called me up and was just like, ‘our old drummer’s leaving, do you wanna come try out?’ I tried out, here I am today! And that’s pretty much it.
P: It’s not the most glamorous of stories, but it all just sort of happened. I got into it quite early, Dom asked me to audition, and I was like, ‘sure, I’ll give it a go!’ and James’ old band opened up for us, the original line-up of Nothing But Thieves, once in London…
J: And as Dom says, he watched us play and was like, ‘I’m having that’ and now they have me.
P: How funny would it be if it wasn’t unanimous? Basically, we auditioned three drummers, and at the end of it, there was Dom, Conor, Joe and me, and we auditioned them all in a row, and we were all just like, ‘okay, after three, which one?’ and everyone said number one. Which was another dude but he couldn’t do it so we got number two!
E: Were you expecting this level of success so early on in your career?
J: When I first joined, I was very excited about it, because I’d been in some pretty rubbish bands for quite some time, so I sort of knew it was a step up, I knew that radio were picking up some of the tracks but just because radio are picking up a track doesn’t mean that it’s gonna be good.
P: It’s a fickle business, you can put it all in the right place and it still won’t work out, so we knew the ball was rolling in the right way, but we are crazily, crazily happy with what we’ve got. We’re actually kind of exactly where we’d want to be, because we got top 10, so in the background with all the label and stuff everyone’s really really happy, and we’ve got so much more freedom. We haven’t had a one hit wonder, we didn’t get BRITs Critic and a number 1 album and Brixton Academy, we haven’t done that yet, so we have so much more to grow into now, we hit exactly what we dreamed we could’ve hit. I don’t think anyone really wanted a number one, there’s added pressure.
E: There’s nowhere you can go from there…
P: Yeah, you’re the top then, and we’re still growing as a band.
J: They say there’s only one way from the top and that’s down, so you don’t want to peak early because it’s hard to stay at the top.
E: What have you got planned for next year?
J: A lot of stuff. Pretty much, start of the year, Australia, Japan…
P: Japan first!
J: Japan first, Australia, although I swear it’s the other way round…
P: No, Japan first, we’re going to Tokyo, Osaka, and then we go to Australia, and then we go to America…
E: And then you’re coming back here aren’t you?
P: And then we’re coming back here, we’re doing a UK tour, and then lots of other stuff to follow which we can’t really say yet.
J: It’s exciting, it’s really exciting, we’re going to play this first album to death now, until we’re absolutely sick of it, but hopefully we’ll be doing a lot lot more of America, maybe European dates, not sure yet, but the April tour’s selling really really well, and they’re big venues, so that’s amazing. And then I dunno, we’ll put out another record.
E: That’s exciting!
P: Yeah, we’ve got about ten tracks that we’re pretty happy with at the moment. It’s a push in the right direction, and we keep talking about how our favourite bands, like Arctic Monkeys and Kings Of Leon, their second albums came out so fast, you didn’t have a chance to forget them. And I can’t tell you when it’s gonna be out, but we’re not going anywhere, definitely.