Nothing But Thieves singer Conor Mason talks to Christopher Seeley about the Essex band’s recent debut album, touring with superstars and why he prefers doing some things the old fashioned way.[br]The last three years have been a tumultuous journey for Nothing But Thieves. Having started up in Essex, England back in 2012, Conor Mason, Joe Langridge-Brown, James Price, Dominic Craik and Philip Blake have undoubtedly come a long way. They have gone from performing in sold out venues in the UK and Ireland to trekking across mainland Europe; no mean feat for a group who began in a garage.“When you look back on things, what we’ve done in the past year, it’s been amazing. We’ve done a bunch of awesome things and had opportunities that most kids could never dream of,” Mason says. “We’ve always seen what we’ve achieved in a steady sort of way, but we prefer to look forward, which I think is better for your mindset.”The band’s first album was finally released on 20th October 2015, after a writing process that lasted two years. What began in Dominic’s garage, the band’s eponymous debut album, is already attracting rave reviews, some labeling it the most innovative album of 2015. This innovation and uniqueness is something that Mason finds crucially important to the development and production of their music, and to their success to date. “There are so many bands out there doing things that people have already done over the past ten or twenty years. I think the important thing is to be different and to find something that no one else is doing and really hone in on it, and make it your own. We worked really hard to find something that no one else is doing... We tried to go down that avenue and work on that.”The soft melodies of ‘Graveyard Whistling’ are complemented by a solid bassline and outstanding vocals. They achieve a similar effect in ‘If I Get High’, in which a steady drum beat grounds a more soulful, pensive composition. These, however, and the band’s acclaimed single ‘Itch’, which has accumulated well over one million views on YouTube, are irreconcilable. The album brings a terrifically diverse range of sounds that is a refreshing push for this genre. Another popular hit, ‘Excuse Me’, was the first song written by the band to showcase Mason’s incredible solo falsetto voice, which would go on to be featured in later tracks.The five-piece band released their first single and EP in 2014, followed up by an exclusive Spotify live-session mini-album in 2015. Nothing But Thieves’ achievements inside the studio are almost overshadowed by their achievements outside. They've toured Europe twice now, performing with monumental figures in the industry such as Muse, Gerard Way, Arcade Fire and George Ezra. These are milestones that Mason definitely doesn’t take lightly.“The Muse thing... That was 40,000 people. I struggle for words with that - it was dazzling. There were so many people getting involved and they really liked us. We sold out all of our Italian shows because of that!” Touring is clearly something that the band loves to do, and they enjoy the reaction from fans everywhere they go. “Probably the maddest venue we’ve played was Warsaw, in Poland, where we played the Palladium with Gerard Way. It was our first European tour, and we didn’t really know what to expect, but their fans were insane. That gig was just so good!”
“There are so many bands out there doing things that people have already done over the past ten or twenty years. I think the important thing is to be different.”Fans are clearly important to the band, and Mason enjoys the variety of listeners that they attract. “We have a really eclectic fan base. The young fans, maybe from 15 to 21 are crazy on social media and they’re sharing us and will post and post and post. But then you have the older fans too, who just hear about gigs from their mates.”Mason is an advocate of the “word of mouth” method, and while embracing social media, he prefers the old-fashioned method of playing gigs, getting radio play and selling albums. Radio play in particular played a big role in Nothing But Thieves’ success. The band was promoted heavily by BBC Radio 1 and Radio X, receiving support from DJs such as Zane Lowe and Fearne Cotton. “They both championed us, and that really helped. That’s cool because for us that’s really sort of old fashioned... The radio plays you and everyone has heard you.”This old-fashioned approach is not just relevant to promotion, and extends very obviously into the band’s style of writing and musicianship, and thus, into their debut album. Talking about it, Mason sounds excited, clearly passionate about what they’ve done. “Our biggest influence was Jeff Buckley. The album really does stream on a classic rock front - we’re so into that sound, we can’t help it! Obviously though, there are a lot more modern elements thrown on top, because you wouldn’t listen to it and immediately think it’s a classic rock record.” He’s right, but when you listen closer to songs like ‘Ban All The Music’, featuring bombastic guitar riffs, or the driving beat in ‘Hostage’, a flair reminiscent of the ‘80s permeates.The full two-year period of developing the album and their own unique sound may have started in Dominic’s garage, but it took a fortuitous trip abroad to unleash their full potential and kick start their careers. “With the same white walls, it plateaued a bit. Our managers, who live in LA, offered for us to visit America for a little bit. We basically just… learned the music industry, learned about writing songs, the craft, and producing. We came back and we were wiser for that trip. We came back and the first four songs we wrote formed the EP. It was so beneficial, just to get a fresh perspective, a new head on our shoulders.”Twelve songs and a lot of work later, the band released their debut album. They’ve just kicked off their own headlining tour of the UK and Europe, and are hoping to target America and Australia next. Mason speaks of the unpredictability of the music business, but with this mix of classic rock instrumentation, soulful vocals and more modern effects, Nothing But Thieves should only continue to flourish.Nothing But Thieves play Dublin’s Academy 2 on Saturday 28th November. Their self-titled debut album is out now.