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Back to Music talks to... / Sep 08, 2017

Nothing But Thieves open up about their new album Broken Machine…

We spoke to the band about the album, how they wanted to break new ground and why this is an album inspired by Donald Trump and mental health...

Nothing But Thieves work hard. Very hard. In their five years together they’ve established healthy profiles in their native UK, the US, right across Europe and Oceania. They’ve supported Muse on a series of huge stadium shows as well as opening up for the likes of Gerard Way and AWOLNATION and come into the campaign for new album Broken Machine with a huge UK tour already booked.

Broken Machine, produced by 1975/Take That man Mike Crossey, is a big step-up from their self-titled debut album. It’s bigger, bolder, darker and more compelling, pulling you into areas you’d never expect to be taken.

We spoke to the band about the album, how they wanted to break new ground and why this is an album inspired by Donald Trump and mental health...


How did you want Broken Machine to move on from what you did on your debut album?

Joe Langridge-Brown (Guitars): “We wanted it to sound more like we do now. Our first album was written over a four-year period, some of the songs were quite old, some were newer and the album didn’t really represent us.”

Dominic (Craik, Guitars): “It needed to be more together, more cohesive. We wanted it to be condensed.”

Conor (Mason, vocals): “We wanted it to be more like a band, to be more like we are live. We’ve been touring so much and we wanted an album we can take straight from the studio to the stage. That influenced everything, every guitar, every drum, we wanted to be able to reproduce it.”

Joe: “The first album we wanted certain songs to sound a certain way. That time we wanted the album to sound a certain way.”


Do you write a lot of songs and then choose? Or do you work until you have 15 or so songs and then work away at them?

Dominic: “We write a lot. We had well over 40 demos. The plan was to write on the road as much as we could, build up a big bank of demos, sit down and go through them, hopefully, agree on the good ones. It worked. We agreed on the demos, we played them to friends, label, management, they all agreed, so we had a good sense of the best tunes and we went from there. It was weirdly smooth.”


What was your criteria for deciding that Mike Crossey was the right man to produce the album?

Conor: “You look at their roster, what they can do and what they can bring to you. When we met Mark he just fitted, everyone we work with, from agents to crew to whoever, you need to get on with them. You need to like them or it just won’t work. Mark was like a jolly uncle, he was great.”

Dominic: “He sees music in the same way we do. We were coming from the same angle, we trusted him very quickly and he absolutely understood us and what we wanted. He makes you feel great as players.”

Joe: “We talked before we went in the studio and he was telling me that he thinks rock music is being left behind because it’s not been creative, not as creative as other genres. We wanted to stake our claim with this record, not just make a bog standard rock album. We wanted to add something different and help us make our mark.”

Dominic: “You listen to what producers are doing in any other genre and they’re pushing the extremes. It’s much harder to that in rock music, you’re working with drums, guitars, bass and vocals, it has to come from that. We wanted to find something new in that, find something obscure, something in the edges, I think we’ve done that, I don’t think we sound like anyone else.”


He’s known for working bands quite hard…

Conor: “We didn’t really feel that. But we have a strong work ethic anyway. Though he did make me do thousands of vocal takes.”

Dominic: “I couldn’t sleep after we’d finishing working. The songs would be going round and round in my head. I had to really work on dealing with the process.”

Conor: “I was exhausted the whole time, I’m amazed I didn’t get broken completely.”


What kind of record is it lyrically?

Joe: “It definitely has a theme. It’s a snapshot of us, what we’ve experienced across the making of the album. The title just sums up everything for the album. It’s an album about atheism, about mental health, how we’ve handled touring, it’s about politics and Trump, it’s about all of it.”


Did you have the title before some of the songs?

Dominic: “We settled on it very early. We were all really pleased to have it there, it gave us something to drive towards, to build the artwork and the videos around. The first album was more like a playlist, this is more like a body of work and having the title there definitely helped.”


How are your live plans looking?

Conor: “We start in the US at the start of October and then we’re off to Europe and the UK and then we’re touring Australia with Muse.”

Dominic: “We’ve already had a few festival offers for next summer, which is a massive honour. Normally it’s only the headliners they book this early.”

Joe: “We’re already looking at South America.”

Dominic: “We’ve got a decent platform to build from. We’ve already toured in a lot of places and we’ve established a place in lots of territories. We’re getting radio in Colombia and Argentina already. We want to be available for everyone and not self-contained.”


You’ve been able to tour with Muse a lot...

Joe: “They’ve been brilliant to us. They genuinely love our band.”

Conor: “We’ve learned a lot from them. That’s the ultimate achievement, they can do what they like. You can’t outdo them on anything, especially lights."

Dominic: “It’s a ridiculous spectacle. We turned up with a backdrop to the shows and we were greeted by drones and disco balls and so much spectacle.”

Joe: “That’s how far you can push it. At the moment we’re on Pink Floyd production at £500. It’s a start.”


Finally, last time you were able to get the album together on tour, will you look to do the same again?

Dominic: “Definitely. I’ve got ideas already. No songs, but lots of starting points. We put a lot into this album so the juices are a bit sapped. We need to get on tour and get bored again. We’ve already got plans for a mobile studio.”


Nothing But Thieves’ new album Broken Machine is out now and available here in hmv’s online store.

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