If you've yet to hear of Southend five-piece Nothing But Thieves, then it’s surely only a matter of time.
While the band's singles have reaped swathes of airplay across Radio 1 and their energetic live shows have helped them build a dedicated following, the release of their debut album on 16 October is set to propel them to a whole new level.
Packed with a veritable bevy of beautifully-crafted alt-rock anthems that bring to mind Radiohead, Muse and Jeff Buckley, the self-titled long player is sure to turn heads, blow minds and capture the hearts and souls of the many.
Nothing But Thieves are living proof that hard graft and ambition do pay off. Four years ago, they started jamming in a Southend garage and began playing the odd gig on their local music scene. Within the space of just a few years, during which time they actively dedicated themselves to perfecting their songwriting, the band had attracted a top management team, scored a publishing deal with Sony/ATV and a recording contract with RCA.
We chat to one of the band’s guitarists, Joe Langridge-Brown, on the eve of the album launch. Joe couldn’t be prouder of the record, although, when it comes to all-out pride and rock ’n’ roll buzz, it doesn’t come much bigger than Nothing But Thieves’ gigging highlight thus far…
“We actually supported Muse a couple of months ago and that was just insane,” enthuses Joe. “We played in Rome, and there were 33,000 people there and we were the only two bands. We were on at half-eight and Muse were on at 10. It was a festival-type vibe; they let everyone in really early and everyone was gagging for music.
“We turned up and it was honestly like we were playing to our own crowd. They were so receptive and kind to us. I’ll never forget that – it was just amazing!”
Sounds and success
What inspired your playing and the band's sound?
“I grew up on rock music and that led me to play guitar and then I played more guitar and it led me to more rock music! All the band grew up listening to Led Zeppelin and Radiohead and that kind of stuff. Very early on, it was all classic rock - lots of Led Zeppelin - and Conor [Mason, lead vocalist]’s a massive AC/DC fan.
“Actually, quite an important moment for the band came just after we came back from travelling around America for six weeks. We went there to get inspiration before we wrote our first EP. I was listening to a lot of Jeff Buckley at the time because I fucking love him and I showed his stuff to Conor because I thought there was a definite similarity between how they sing – that tone of voice and the clarity and that sort of thing. Conor just took it all in and he’s a massive Jeff Buckley fan now. He’s definitely a massive influence on the band, for sure.”
You signed a record deal with RCA last year. How did that come about?
“Basically, we started writing songs after we got back from America and then we went to try and get some publishing money. Getting a publishing deal first isn’t always the way you do it, but we just needed some money to fund our EP because we didn’t have enough money to record.
“We started going round a few publishers and ended up signing to Sony/ATV, and we just used the money to go in the studio and we recorded our EP. We did it pretty cheaply, started touring it, made a couple of little videos on the cheap and we were just trying to get the name out there a bit.
“About nine months to a year after that, labels started taking an interest because they’d heard the name. Zane Lowe picked up on us really, really early. We released Emergency off the EP first, and he picked up on it within like two hours of it going on YouTube!
“After that, we had a couple of labels in for us, but RCA just really got us as a project. They weren’t really too interested in changing what we were doing and they just really bought into everything. We're really happy with them.”
What was the background to recording the album?
“We basically decided to stick with Julian Emery and Jim Irvin [who’ve collectively worked with artists such as Lissie, Lower Than Atlantis and Gabrielle Aplin], who produced the first EP for us back before we were signed or anything. They’re important to us as far as the sound goes and they really get what we're trying to do.
“We went to Angelic Studios, which is a residential studio that Julian recommended. That was definitely the way forward for us, because then we could record at any time of the day we wanted. We’d been to London studios before and the time constraints just don’t really work for us.
“I don’t know why, but for me personally – and it’s the same with the other guitarist Dom [Craik] – we just tend to be most creative hungover. It’s the weirdest thing. It makes my head function in a different way so working in a residential studio helped that because there were no time constraints.”
Guitar rigs and partnerships
How would you describe the dynamic between yourself and Dom as players?
“Guitar-wise, I’ve always been drawn to creativeness rather than technical stuff. A big part of Nothing But Thieves is how different myself and Dom are as guitarists. Dom was classically trained from the age of six or something, so he started playing classical guitar a long time before he ever picked up an electric guitar or anything. Dom has all the technical stuff and all the theory.
“But me, personally, I’ve always been more like, ‘If it sounds good to my ear, that’s what I go with.’ I’m a massive fan of Jonny Greenwood, I’m a big fan of John Frusciante, and I like Tom Morello just because I love how he tries to make a guitar sound not like a guitar at times, which is what I like to do as well.
"I’m massively into my pedals and delays and all that sort of thing. That’s my job in the band – all the noisier stuff and the soundscapes. The clean tones tend to be Dom. He’s great at coming up with riffs, too.”
What guitars did you play on the album?
“I used a Gibson Les Paul Standard for most of the album and Dom used his Fender Tele. That was a conscious decision because we really wanted to try and keep some sort of similarity in tone across all the tracks.
“The album’s obviously so eclectic in terms of the material, so we tried to use a lot of the same gear. I used a Gibson ES-335 at some point, too, and there was an old Martin acoustic - that Angelic had - on there as well.”
And which amps?
“My main setup is a Marshall JMP 50-watt head with a 2x12 cab, and Dom's main amp is his Vox AC30, which we use live as well. We did that on purpose, because we wanted that classic sound and those two amps and guitars are always going to work well together.
“But, in the studio, we also used a Fender Twin and Dom used a [Fender Hot Rod] DeVille. For Painkiller, I ran my guitar through Phil’s Ampeg bass rig as well to get more depth to it. Then, we also used a Silvertone for Drawing Pins. That was just an incredible amp. It’s got that really nice punchy high-end to it.”
Sonic textures and dream purchases
Which pedals and effects do you hook up?
“My favourite pedal, which I got just before we recorded the album, is a Strymon BigSky. That’s got a load of reverb presets on it, and there’s one called Shimmer that’s all over the album. It’s a reverb but it has something extra to it. It’s really distinctive and we decided to use that across a lot of the songs.
“I used an [Electro-Harmonix] Big Muff for a lot of the crunchy stuff and then one thing we did, which is kind of unusual, is that I used a Moog Ring Modulator on the song If I Get High. There’s a load of weird sonics and effects going on at the end of it and that was the Ring Mod with an expression pedal.
“I also have a Marshall Regenerator pedal, but I just use the phaser setting on it. That’s on the album quite a lot. There’s a few other delays as well. I used an Electro-Harmonix Memory Man and a Boss DD-7 in conjunction. If you use two amps in stereo, it sort of flips between them and gives you a really cool stereo pan with the delay.
“Dom’s pretty standard. He uses an [Ibanez] Tube Screamer, which is actually mine, and there’s a few different reverbs going on but nothing major. We try to keep his signal as clean as possible, live and on the album.”
Is there a dream guitar purchase on the horizon?
“Yeah, I would love to have a [Les Paul] Goldtop, but I have a bit of a hangup about it. I think we need to be an even bigger band before I can pull off a Goldtop! But maybe in the future, maybe for album two. If I’m playing a Goldtop, you know I’ve made it!”
Nothing But Thieves’ self-titled debut album is out on 16 October.