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'This Is A Huge Mistake': Nothing But Thieves On Why You Maybe Shouldn't Jump Into A Fight...

13 August 2021 | 9:21 am | Tiana Speter

"We sat in the room together and just thought: what happens if we try and write the heaviest thing we've ever written?"

Nothing But Thieves are futureproof - and they won't put up with fighting at gigs.

Nothing But Thieves are futureproof - and they won't put up with fighting at gigs. (Pic by Kane Hibberd)

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It's now been five years since five men from Essex walked onstage at a gig in Chicago, not only armed with their debut self-titled album, but also a recent support run alongside a Drones-era Muse and an ever-growing fanbase around the globe. Now, with another new EP under their belt, it seems like there's no slowing down for Nothing But Thieves.

For the English rockers, their flawless ability to weld heartfelt, driving rock with succulent pop saw the quintet rapidly transcend from schoolyard mates to bona fide modern rock icons in seemingly the blink of an eye, with the group initially emphatically embraced in foreign territories before striking a giant chord closer to home. 

With bragging rights of having their 2015 self-titled release become the best-selling debut album from a UK rock band in the USA that same year, to recently carving up one million album sales and 907 million worldwide streams, Nothing But Thieves breed a unique sonic beast that captures hope, anxiety, anger and empowerment. And while officially hailing from Southend-on-Sea in Essex in the UK, the group are, at this point, honorary Australians, with fans down under rabidly falling under the Thieves spell, consistently selling out and expanding shows around the country every time they've stepped foot on our shores, including a surprise show in 2019 at Sydney's Manning Bar which sold out in less than 48 hours.

The success story surrounding the Nothing But Thieves brand could be pinned down to a multitude of factors; from the classical training of guitarist and keyboardist Dom Craik and his inevitable slide into rock'n'roll via his cousin (and Thieves bassist) Philip Blake, to the sharp axe and lyrical chops of Joe Langridge-Brown and thunderous stylings of drummer James Price, there's a unique and permeating magic prowling through each crystalline tune this lot bust out. And while the instrumental factor for the Thieves gents is a sight (and a sound) to behold, the ultimate icing on the Nothing But Thieves cake is undoubtedly the otherworldly and voraciously sublime vocals of frontman and guitarist Conor Mason.

While the journey is well and truly now in full swing for the group since first forming back in 2012, with three full-length albums in their wake alongside a multitude of staggering triumphs, Nothing But Thieves continue to remain as hungry as ever to hone and sharpen their galvanising brand of alternative rock - even if the process has to take place against the backdrop of an ongoing global pandemic. 

With the group's latest release, the new EP Moral Panic II - released late last month - continuing on from their 2020 album Moral Panic, Nothing But Thieves encapsulate and dilate a world gone mad, exploring climate change, digital anxiety, political chaos and the saturating desire to switch off in a short and salient snapshot.

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And as 2021 proves to be the significantly errant cousin to the madhouse antics of 2020, Moral Panic II is certainly a welcome soundtrack to the uncertainty and stress many of us are facing as the year marches on. But, as guitarist Craik told host Tiana Speter on today's episode of The Green Room podcast, the pandemic also allowed the band unexpected time to explore new sonic territories - and a chance to reminisce on the journey so far. Talk quickly turned to some noticeable stylistic shifts on the EP, with some hip hop tendencies bubbling away on lead single Futureproof, alongside a heavy glow-up on Ce n'est Rien.

"Ce n'est Rien is the, kind of, comically heavy song, which is a new thing for us," Craik told Speter.

"We sat in the room together and just thought: what happens if we try and write the heaviest thing we've ever written? And we did it, and at the end of it we were like: 'This is exciting! When we play it back, we're loving it!'

"It became less of a joke the longer we sat with it, and we ended up recording it.

"Futureproof, we spent about... well, we spent months refining the production on it, we really went in on how the drums were gonna sound. And there were lots of, I would say more, like you mentioned, hip hop production techniques, like using 808 drums and layering that sort of stuff in. 

"And how we processed the vocals wasn't a traditional rock song of just distorting one vocal down the middle of the song, it was loads of different layers and how the harmonies worked with each other."

As with bands all over the world, the COVID pandemic ground live shows and touring to a halt for Nothing But Thieves, but the roadblocks and unexpected reprieve offered simultaneous challenges and new opportunities for the group as they faced the reality of not being on the road. And, as anyone who has ever attended a Thieves live show can attest to, these gents are no strangers to commanding a room - or, as Craik demonstrated in Chicago back in 2016, crowd surfing mid-set to break up a fight in the audience.

"We were in America," Craik mused. "And we don't have fights at our gigs, but they only seem to occur in America if we do. 

"And it's bizarre. I don't know what it is, maybe they're used to smoking weed more than they are drinking. But these guys we, like, proper, proper drunk. 

"I saw a fight breaking out, and the security weren't doing anything. And then someone got hit who wasn't in the fight, and I remember just being like: someone's gonna get seriously hurt here.

"I was trying to get attention from my techs on the side of the stage and the security, and I was trying to continue to play the gig, but also be like: 'Someone needs to go and sort that out'. 

"No one did. So, I just ended up putting my guitar down and jumping off of the riser.

"And stupidly - I didn't realise how big these guys were! When you're onstage, you're taller than everyone. When you're actually on the ground at the same level: they're still 6'6", and you're still 5'10," Craik laughed. "I remember looking at this guy being like: 'This is a huge mistake'. 

"He didn't realise I was in the band, so he started, like, wrestling me. And then the band stopped playing, and the lights came on, it was so, so classic."

"They escorted this guy out," Dom explained. "And he was actually outside the venue afterwards, and was apologising to everyone, and he was explaining why it was a misunderstanding. 

"It actually was not the worst thing in the world; but I won't forget that one in a rush, I don't know what I was thinking!"

You can watch the full episode of The Green Room with Dom Craik and Tiana Speter below or here as they dive deeper into the Nothing But Thieves psyche, discuss the importance of Mario Kart and attempt to speak French. 

Alternatively, you can also listen to full The Green Room podcast episodes on Spotify, Apple Podcasts - or wherever you usually get your podcasts from!




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