English rock band, Nothing But Thieves, are heading Down Under next month for a mini-tour after a busy 2018 of touring and festivals, even finding the time to release a new EP What Did You Think When You Made Me This Way. Ahead of their dates in Perth, Adelaide and the Central Coast, which mark the third time they’ve come to Australia in just over a year, we caught up with guitarist and lyricist Joe Langridge-Brown.
Written while the band was on the road last year in the month between playing festivals and their Australian/Thai tour, their new 4-track EP incorporates some newly written tunes and some which were ideas formed many years ago. “Gods” is one of their oldest – it’s almost six years old, but Langridge-Brown notes that this time, it felt like the right time to come back the track.
“We always knew we wanted to do something with it. Basically, what happened was we went to record the first album. We had the demo, which was kind of roughly like it is now, but we went to studio and we fucked it,” he laughs.
“We just got it completely wrong. We tried to go in a completely different direction, it didn’t work and then we were like “right, done with that song for a little while.” … Then when we recorded the EP and we were talking about how we were wanting it to sound, that song was just in the back of our minds and also just thematically what it talks about – it just being really relevant at the time – so yeah, just seemed the right moment to rework it.”
As the main lyricist for the band, his sharp critique of today’s political climate, something that also has been explored in songs on earlier releases, comes through strongly in “Gods”. But song meanings like this aren’t always so clear-cut, even for Langridge-Brown.
“It’s very rare that the song is cohesive in, like, “oh this is about one specific thing.” Normally, they’re a jumble of thoughts that go along in my head and I write them down. And then, eventually, when I piece it together it creates a story. But normally for me, they’re all different little bits of what I’ve been thinking at different times.”
We can see these lines blur in meaning in “Soda”, a track off their last album, Broken Machine. Despite having a tone that Langridge-Brown describes as “sing-a-long”, which often has crowds swaying their arms during their concerts, its lyrics touch on issues including addiction and mental illness. And it’s because it was written in this way that he feels it has gained a new meaning and “completely different mood,” because “people come together over it.”
As a result, it’s since become a staple on the Nothing But Thieves setlist, and looks like it will continue to be on their coming tour. But, with the release of new songs always comes a shake-up of what songs get played live and, in this respect, the band experiences some familiar difficulties when deciding what to play each concert.
“…it’s really hard to know what songs to cut. Everyone seems to have a different favourite song,” he laughs, adding “no matter what setlist I write, it doesn’t matter what you do, someone will always say … “oh, why didn’t you do the first song you ever wrote when you were fourteen?””
Langridge-Brown’s disappointment at having to cut songs also comes from the fact that they are no longer able to integrate covers into their sets like they used to, mentioning that he’d personally love to, at some point, cover “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division. Luckily, last time they travelled to Australia, they made an appearance on Triple J’s Like A Version, where they played “What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out” by Gang of Youths – a cover which made it into Triple J’s Hottest 100 last weekend.
This is just one more success in an already long list of achievements, driven by an almost non-stop schedule of recording, releasing and touring since 2015 (managing to reach even Australia a few times), as well as having the insight to change their name early on in their careers. Langridge-Brown, in a sea of fake stories surrounding the true origin behind the name, Nothing But Thieves, has at last been gracious enough to give us the truth.
“We were going to be called the Butt Thieves, but we didn’t think it would be very good for our career, so we made the change.”
And their success hasn’t gone unnoticed either – the band has their fair share of famous fans, including Kristian Nairn (Hodor on Game of Thrones) and fashionista Donatella Versace, Langridge-Brown even mentioning that Michelle and Barack Obama’s daughters were rumoured to have watched their set at Chicago’s Lollapalooza. But one star was particularly exciting for the guitarist.
“Megan from Love Island UK, that was a really big one,” he laughs, later declaring his love for the show by adding “Love Island is an institution.”
Despite all of their accomplishments, it’s refreshing to see a down-to-earth Langridge-Brown still get excited about tour dates, especially in new locations. The band will play in Adelaide for the first time, in between two other dates at Perth Festival and Mountain Sounds on the Central Coast.
“It’s always fun playing new places. It’s kind of a thing with our band – normally, the first time we go to a city is one of the best shows in that city. I don’t know what it is, I guess the people haven’t really seen it yet … one of the best things about what we do, really, [is] being able to go to these different places … Adelaide is going to be awesome.”
Nothing But Thieves will be appearing on the following dates courtesy of Secret Sounds and XIII Touring:
Saturday 9th February – Chevron Gardens (Perth Festival).
Sunday 10th February – HQ Adelaide.
Saturday 16th February – Central Coast (Mountain Sounds Festival).
For more information check out the Secret Sounds website.