Finally Nothing But Thieves can go on tour again. With their third album «Moral Panic», they are playing bigger venues than ever before. Singer Conor Mason reveals in the interview how the band works, how he used the two-year forced break and how it feels to suddenly hit the accelerator again. In addition, a flashback makes him laugh big time, namely when it comes to the similarities between the latest single «It's Coming In Slow», their first hit «Trip Switch» and their use in the soundtrack to a video game.
Nothing But Thieves are:
Conor Mason (vocals)
Joe Langridge-Brown (guitar)
Dominic Craik (guitar)
Philip Blake (bass)
James Price (drums)
Indiespect: Last time I met you was back in 2015. Your musical journey since that time is amazing. Also in Switzerland you’ve always played in bigger venues when you returned. How did the growing success impact your musical work and your preparation for live shows?
Conor Mason: We don’t overthink that. Stadium music or stadium rock music isn't a thing anymore. It's songs. You get Billie Eilish and Travis Scott playing arenas. I don't think we change our sound as we get bigger. It's just about changing our songwriting and making sure that it’s better each album. Some of the songs that we've been writing this last year have almost, in a good way, gone in on themself again, you know? And I love that. If a song is good, it would sound great anywhere.
I don't think we change our sound as we get bigger. It's just about changing our songwriting
and making sure that it’s better each album.
Indiespect: But you have to think about bigger productions.
Conor: That's very true. For this tour in the big arenas, in the UK especially, that was our full production. It's quite grandiose. Our production manager's done a great job with that. It's nice to be able to play with it, it's fun to have a little bit of space to do more with what you want to production wise, which is good.
Indiespect: Are you also involved in that process as a band?
Conor: Of course. You have visuals for your record that you've worked hard on and you want them to translate live. So you kind of run a brief with your production and your team and then obviously those wizards are going to do their thing. (laughs) We have very much creative freedom but also you know where your strengths are and ours is definitely not in production. But of course you want to be part of the creative process because it's your band and it's your vision.
Nothing But Thieves are (from left to right): Philip Blake, Dominic Craik, Conor Mason, Joe Langridge-Brown, James Price.
Indiespect: Your album artworks are more than just a regular picture, they’re really a piece of art. Do you think about how it translates from your music to visuals?
Conor: Especially as we got later in our career. On the first record we were just 19 or 20 year olds, experimenting with songwriting and I was figuring my voice out, really, just playing around. So all of the stuff that came with it, we needed all the help we could possibly get. It was designer Steve Stacey who did our first sleeve, and it was like the most beautiful image. The horse that's coming through that kind of veil. We were like: no brainer. On the next record, Broken Machine, we definitely had more of a grip on what we were and what we were saying. It was just so easy to kind of identify with and piecing one back together. So when we had that idea, we spoke to Steve Stacey again and he came up with the Kintsugi thing. It just works in basically that way. You have your vision but you let these people be as incredible as they are. I don't like that when bands try to control everything. That's just nuts. You can't do everything.
I don't like that when bands try to control everything. That's just nuts. You can't do everything.
On «Broken Machine», Nothing But Thieves have found their own artistic voice
Indiespect: Maybe that's also the reason why you have more time to create those amazing melodies and riffs
Conor: Yeah, that’s Dom. He’s mad! We were talking about our writing process the other day and we were saying what makes us tick as different people. I would say that Dom is one of those people who would just sit and work for like 5 hours straight on an idea or a riff until he makes it good. That's a really incredible way of writing.
Dom is one of those people who would just sit and work for like 5 hours straight on an idea or a riff until he makes it good.
And I'm the opposite way. I will not touch anything for weeks. And then, before this interview, I got a flash of inspiration and then you just sit and when it hits, you just write down whatever it makes you feel or whatever the inspiration is. When it hits me, I'd sit in a corner on myself and just do it for how long it takes. And then I'll bank it on my phone until we get back to our studio. Whereas I find it incredible that Dom can just keep going and just break through until the inspiration – he makes the inspiration. That is amazing. I just can't do that. He's very prolific with his riff writing and his musical writing really. He does it nonstop and throws away 70% of it.
Indiespect: At least in the early days Joe wrote the lyrics. Did you now also start writing them?
Conor: No, it’s still Joe. That’s the way we work and it just works the best for us.
Nothing But Thieves on stage at Halle 622, Zurich
Indiespect: So, your ideas are more melody related?
Conor: Yeah. I still write all the time, anyway. I do different projects and stuff like that. It's just about being creative. But Joe and I are brothers and we discuss everything that we want to write about. It’s our baby together. It's such a weird family dynamic we have in this band, respect and love, and it just makes us happy.
When we released «Trip Switch» we got all these comments on the video that were like: found you from Fifa, but then, the other half of the comments were like, we found you from a porn site because someone had used our song in a famous porn video.
Indiespect: Your latest release «It’s Coming In Slow». Was the single only written for Gran Turismo 7?
Conor: Kind of, yeah. We had this riff and the tagline floating around and we got this game offer for a driving game, and we just thought it would fit perfectly. We did it in about 3 hours and sent it off. We really got the gig and we thought wow, we didn't even think about it when it came through.
Indiespect: And it's not the first time you are represented on a game soundtrack. «Trip Switch» was featured on Fifa 16. Did this help to boost your career a bit? When you check out the comments on the YouTube video there are a lot of people that wrote «found you on Fifa».
Conor: It does help. It just just made me laugh because I had a flashback. When we released «Trip Switch» we got all these comments on the video that were like: found you from Fifa, but then, the other half of the comments were like, we found you from a porn site because someone had used our song in a famous porn video. Which amazes me that like people like this so that much, that they checked it out (laughs really hard)
The still current album
- Is Everybody Going Crazy?
- Moral Panic
- Real Love Song
- This Feels Like The End
- Free If We Want It
- There Was Sun
- Can You Afford To Be An Individual?
- Before We Drift Away
Indiespect: Did you watch that specific video and did it work with the performance?
Conor: We've all watched it – as a joke! Not together, that'd be very strange. But it was just hilarious to us, you know?
«Life's Coming In Slow» is Nothing But Thieves' contribution to the Gran Turismo 7 video game.
© Eva Pentel
Indiespect: Before the song for Gran Turismo 7 you released your EP «Moral Panic II» in July 2021. Are you already working on new music or do you focus on your tour and the festival summer?
Conor: It's been so fluid with the pandemic. But we haven't been like: this is writing season, this is touring season. We just do it. We've had a lot of time obviously off and we live really close. So when someone's got a little idea we just met. We did that 2 or 3 days a week for two years. That was great. We were just free and not overthinking it. And we've stacked up so many tunes.
We really got the most out of the solitude and the pandemic in a sense. I mean this in a selfish way. I know it sucked.
Indiespect: I read that you said that for you personally, you were lucky to have time off.
Conor: Sure it was. We really got the most out of the solitude and the pandemic in a sense. I mean this in a selfish way. I know it sucked. But I tried to make the most of it. Work for myself and it worked.
Fans are going crazy for Nothing But Thieves.
Indiespect: But I can imagine that, yes, of course, you're euphoric to be back on stage, but it must be quite hard as well after such a long time to experience that energy again.
Conor: Yeah, it's a shock. I was discussing that with one of our crew today. The first week you go on tour it was like: wow, we're tour, this is crazy. But when you’re half into that, your energy level gets kind of deplete and you think: three weeks left. Let's meditate through the rest of this tour. (laughs) You forget how physical it is and on a personal note, I'm still waiting on some surgeries and stuff like that. Everyone has their own mental health stuff to deal with.
When you press the pedal down and you go on tour, you're with 18 people and doing gigs and traveling. It's just a big shock for your brain.
So it's interesting how this stuff you have a home, coping mechanisms and the way you live your life, let you get into routines as humans without even realize you're getting into routines. And they are all hopefully for you, your brain and your body. And then, when it switches, when you press the pedal down and you go on tour, you're with 18 people and doing gigs and traveling. It's just a big shock for your brain. That first week everything seems like, whoa, this is insane and you settle into the new rhythm of who you are. Again, we haven't done it for so long. It was normal to ebb and flow with those rhythms before. You know, we're having a wicked time and it's so nice to be around people and be in a community again. I live alone and the boys just live with their partners or live with one housemate. So it's quite small compared to this. Yeah. There's just like a group of that. Our best pals really, traveling around together, having a great time. Yeah, it's nice. It's really nice.
Indiespect: Another question regarding artworks. Aside from your owns, do you have a favorite artwork around?
Conor: Oh wow. That's really hard. I could actually prepare for that. I’ll come back to you on that.
Indiespect: Okay, I could also ask another question. Maybe something comes to mind later.
During the pandemic the band has recorded several videos in the so called «Soltitude sessions»
Conor: Yeah, I’ll have to think. The thing is, artworks I like nowadays would be very different to what I deem as my favorite artwork. I'm a huge fan of looks like bedroom artwork, the way Bon Iver or Kanye do their artwork. I love that kind of scrapbook artwork. I think that's so cool and feels intimate. But I was trying to think of the classics, but I don't know. I can't think of anything better than that. I'm really sorry.
Indiespect: I’m reading Paul McCartney’s book «Lyrics» right now where he combines…
Conor: Purple Rain! That’s my favorite album cover. it's like a movie. So striking, isn't it? It is so dramatic. I love that. That's one of my favorite albums anyway.
Indiespect: Wow. While we were talking you really could think about that?
Conor: I know! Whilst we were talking.
Conor Mason's favorite artwork: Purple Rain by Prince.
Indiespect: Great! Coming back to my previous question. I'm reading Paul McCartney’s book «Lyrics» where he combines his song texts with his biography.
Connor: I just got it. I have it on my desk at home.
Back in Zurich after the show at X-Tra in 2018.
Indiespect: Because Joe writes the lyrics, it's maybe a bit difficult question for you, but with which songs do you connect the most personal story and which one would it be?
Conor: Well, I mean, that's the thing that even though Joe has his pen on them, we are not just me and Joe together, all of us are heavily connected to the songs. It's stuff that we want to say, how we’re feeling and and how I feel about things outside of our ecosystem. I would say I'm probably most connected to «Broken Machine» just because of my mental health battles. You can't really escape from that, you just learn to live with it and live a fuller life with it. There's a lot in that record that has a lot of heartache. When we were on tour together as brothers. I’d mostly select songs like «Particles» as well. It depends on the day but overall, I'd say those two songs.
Indiespect: Thank you so much for your time!
Conor: No worries, that was great.