Imogen Clyde-Smith

Nothing But Thieves steal us away: an interview with the band

by Imogen Clyde-Smith

Hugely talented break out band Nothing But Thieves armed with their intricate guitar lines and angelic lead vocals are breaking hearts the world over. With an incredible following including none other than legend Zane Lowe, I caught up with the band on their original sound, inspiration and …aubergines.

Nothing But Thieves, welcome to Liverpool! Have you got many funny stories from tour?

Dom: There’s so many, I can’t think of any.

Joe: Most of the funny ones we can’t tell you, because it’s going to get out to the public.

Tom: Last time we were here we had a run in with Santa.

Dom: This Santa was special. He was maybe three feet tall, he was small and he was happy about it. He was running around Liverpool –  more like wandering, and selling drugs to people, and ten people came to our gig which was a bit rubbish but then we saw him…

Tom: There was ten?!

Dom: Including the bar staff and the sound guy and us.

Phil: and Dom.

Dom: seeing old Chris Cringle there brightened up our day a bit.

Where was that gig?

 Dom: It was at Korova, it’s gone now apparently. It was all a bit mental.

Tom: There were more people queuing outside this gig today today than there were in that entire show.

Have you met any crazy fans so far?

Dom: A lot of the crazy ones stay at bay on the old social media.

Phil: There’s someone here tonight actually, Joe has a nickname –  Joeaubergine, combination of Joe and aubergine –  and someone has brought an aubergine.I wanna see what they’re going to do with it.

Joe: I hope they don’t lob it at me.

Dom: I reckon they’re going to cut it up like of bits of lemon in their drink.  “I’ll have a gin and tonic aubergine.”

How did that nickname come about?

Joe: It’s from the emoji.

Phil: Yeah, every time he said something stupid I just sent him the aubergine emoji and then he just became Joeaubergine. And is saved in my phone as Joeaubergine now, which is really difficult to find in a rush.

Dom: We are hilarious, pretty mental right?

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Nothing But Thieves in Liverpool, taken from Instagram

So you’ve been to Liverpool before then, did you go out at all?

Dom: Yeah, once it was really good actually, I don’t remember much. You (Connor) slept in the van.

Connor: I had work at seven.

Dom: This is when we were living back in Essex and we didn’t have a Travelodge or anything, and we went out after the gig for one and obviously because we’re rock and roll it turned into two and Connor stayed in the van and the whole thing spiralled out of control.

Phil: You guys have never been to Beatles weekend.

 Dom: No, Phil’s a lot older than us, he’s 72.

Phil: I went when I was fifteen. It was so good, it had all theses stages set up and Beatles tribute bands from all over the world. I saw this Japanese one and they were so good!

Where did you go out in Liverpool?

Dom: I can’t really remember – we were in a bad way. We went out with some family friends of mine and slightly older friends of my parents and they said they’d show us some bars. I remember a lot of teenagers trying it on with my mum’s friend’s wife. It was a bit awkward because she was just sort of standing there with her wine in a club and we were just there getting rat assed. But yeah we had a good time… God knows what’s going to happen tonight.

Sounds like the good old Scouse charm there, what can the audience expect tonight then from your live gig?

Dom: We’ll be there. We’ve got some new songs and got some old songs, some people would of heard and some people wouldn’t.

Joe: There’s a cover we’ve thrown in.

 There’s a big spectrum and a lot of variance in your music…

Connor: Yeah it’s not something we consciously did. It’s just how it came out when we were writing. We didn’t overly think about what kind of music we were doing.

Dom: Yeah it’s been a natural development, which has been nice. We don’t sit there to write and think ‘we’re missing this’ or ‘we need this’ – it just falls out.

What inspires you to write?

Dom: Vegetables, aubergines, broccoli…

Connor: Each other.

Dom: No, I mean we love being creative.

Connor: Yeah we admire bands that try to do something different on purpose, that actually make an effort to stand out and be different. So we take that on but that’s all we take from them really.

Dom: I think more recently from playing shows with people that are coming to you, you remember why you do it and why you first started playing the guitar because you enjoy the feeling, you enjoy people appreciating it. So when people are turning up because they’ve listened to your songs and enjoyed it and want to come to appreciate it, that’s really sort of quite humbling and it reminds you of why you do it.

Joe: It’s like you’re in a room with people because they all like the same songs. That just happen to be our songs.

Dom: Yeah it’s really cool. Tonight we didn’t think we were going to get close to selling it out and we have.

Connor: Yeah it was like that the whole tour, we didn’t expect that at all. We were flattered.

 Dom: Yeah, as I said last time we were here, there were ten people and a dwarf dressed as Santa.

 So do you enjoy touring, is that your favourite part? 

Connor: We enjoying all of it really. The recording is actually really fun. People always leave it out – writing is fun and touring is obviously fun because you’re doing what you set out to do in the first place: to play your instruments and your music.

Dom: They’re all necessary aren’t they? They all have their merits and are well needed.

“Our advice to young bands starting up? Just give up… Get a degree!”

Who would you say are your main influences?

Joe: It’s kind of the same bands that try and do something a bit different and new sounding. More recently Arcade fire. No one can sound like them.

Connor: Yeah it’s when you listen to a band and go ‘wow, I’ve never heard anything like that before’ and that’s such a great thing to say about a band. That’s what we want for us.

Dom: Yeah, I think it’s really difficult to stumble across something original now. It would be hard for us to claim our music is original, but we try and get as close to that as possible and do something that’s not been done before.

Are there any artists you would like to work with?

Joe: I’m a massive Foo Fighters fan. Dave Grohl I swear everything he touches turns to gold.

Dom: Jonny Greenwood.

Connor: Yeah, just like Radiohead in general.

Joe: Dom actually met Thom Yorke and froze.

Dom: It was stupid – I was leaving a studio and I walked past him and I froze. I didn’t have the courage to say hello – he caught me off guard! I listen to Radiohead every day. It was really crazy, and after I’d walked past I was thinking ‘why didn’t I say something, that was a once in a lifetime opportunity…’ I popped to the shop for a Fanta and a Twix and came back and I bumped into him again. I was really fan-girly. I was probably shaking like a quivering wreck and was like ‘I listen to your music all the time, I’m a massive fan’. I think he liked it. He said thanks.

I read that you went to the States in 2012…

Connor: Yeah, went on holiday. It was great.

Dom: Disney World.

Connor: Dom, Joe and myself were writing in Dom’s garage for three years and it got kind of stale and the songs were just a bit lacklustre.

Dom: Yeah, they were a bit rubbish!

Connor: So we went out there to just get a taste of  their music scene. We wrote with a bunch of different producers in LA, New York and Nashville, and it was so diverse in each place.

Joe: We just learnt how to write really.

Speaking of writing what’s your favourite lyric?

Joe: ‘No one’s getting younger, would you like a souvenir’ is a favourite of ours but also someone asked me to describe what ‘Itch’ was about today and the lyric ‘I just want to feel something real’ is the most direct honest lyric I’ve ever written.

Dom: Yes, but there is also another part to the ‘Itch’  lyrics which you should probably explain.

Joe: Yes, in Cambridge our mate Gurslusten got nutted in the face and then smiled which is in the song.

 I read that Zane Lowe played your song…

Connor: He’s played every single one.

Dom: Yeah, what’s he doing?

Connor: He wanted to play our song Grave Yard in its demo form.

Dom: At first we were like ‘no don’t, it’s not ready!’ But we had recorded ‘Emergency’ – it was finished and we uploaded it to YouTube. And then a couple of hours later we had one of Zane Lowe’s producers call us and say he wanted to play it, are you okay with it, and we were like ‘maybe’. No, it was amazing.

Connor: It was a big moment for us. Every song we’ve released, he’s played.

Dom: One of our songs was the hottest record the other week.

Joe: It’s a shame he’s left Radio 1 now.

Dom: We were lucky he championed our music. He doesn’t do that with loads of bands so it was nice to have him from the start.

So how is the album coming along?

Connor: Good. It’s done, we recorded it last summer.

Joe: There’s still a bit of mixing to go but it’s going to be out in August. But I can’t tell you the date.

So what would be your advice to young starting up bands?

Connor: Just give up.

Dom: Go and get a degree. No, we get asked this question a lot and its always the same thing. It was the hardest thing for us to come round to – that we couldn’t just play shows and find as many gigs as possible, but just keep on writing because we were writing rubbish songs. We had this urge to just go out and play because that’s why you’ve come together as a unit, to play new live music. But no one wants to listen to rubbish music. It’s important to take time out and write and re-write songs. Practice makes perfect – the more you do, the better you get, and we’ve written over a hundred songs now. A lot of them could just get slung in the bin, but without them you won’t get to the good ones. How’s that for inspiring?

And finally the vital question: does being in a band help your sex life?

Dom: Yeah… I mean it’s nice isn’t it? People appreciate your music and they like to show that in more ways than one. They bring aubergines to the show – it gets pretty creepy…

Read more about Nothing But Thieves on their website, and keep an eye out for new music coming your way in August. Ban All The Music is available now through iTunes. 

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