Company of Thieves, as the name might suggest, is most definitely not just a "girl singer with a backing band." The Chicago three-piece are as much about inter-band equality as they are about making their big dream come true, and these two key values are more than apparent on their first long player and Oscar Wilde-influenced Ordinary Riches. First released almost two years ago, their debut album is getting another burst of attention with a February 24 re-release on Wind-Up Records and a supporting U.S. tour with Thriving Ivory. With so much growth between then and now though, is such a personal album still relevant? Lead singer Genevieve Schatz took the time out to explain her views on life, society, and why the band deserves your attention this time around.
What's changed between the album's first release and this re-release?
Well this time the album has all new packaging, including new artwork and lyrics, and some bonus material that can be downloaded on iTunes. As for the band, our live show is much more fleshed out than it used to be. We make all kinds of changes on stage with our music and discover things with our audience during the shows because we like to make each one different.
What do you think sets you apart from other bands?
I would say the fact that we're not afraid to make those live discoveries even though we're playing the original arrangements, for the most part, and the fact that we are a band. It's not just me being a lead singer, who happens to be a female, with her backing band; we definitely are a unit and a team. Along the way we've found that has set us apart.
Do you find people pigeonhole you because you're a female vocalist?
You know, it goes both ways. Some people praise for it and some people pick for it, but really I think people are just not used to seeing and hearing that, it's rare for them. Even when they make comparisons to other female artists they only have a handful to grab from, you know?
You have a wide variety of vocal styles - does that make performing more difficult for you?
I think it makes it more exciting! If you're an artist and you have a huge talent to work with and you just keep mixing a few things here and there, you come out with something new each time, something unexpected, something fresh. I try to throw in a bunch of different styles to hopefully provide something for everybody. I don't think we set out to really hit any specific age group but I've noticed our audience ranges from as early as grade school and elementary school all the way to people around fifty years old.
You seem to strive for equality within the band, so how does this affect the song writing process?
The songwriting has always been a collaborative effort. For the most part, the songs on Ordinary Riches were composed equally between Mark Walloch, the guitarist, and myself, and we would just come together and share ideas for melodies, music and help each other flesh out the ideas that we brought to the table originally to make a more cohesive piece. Then we'd talk about what we want the song to represent and I'd work on the lyrics, or sometimes I have them already and share them with him and he gets inspired to write something around them. It's always been spontaneous and the natural progression of things as to what's going on with our lives at that time.
When I listen to the album I feel like it's running through different emotions. Do you think that's a fair assessment?
I think that's completely right. It was a hectic time to pinpoint in our lives. We were figuring out what it meant to be independent in the world and take care of ourselves and navigate through our lives and our relationships. It's tough, you know, and so we experienced several different emotions, all of which were overwhelming to a point where you're so filled up with them that you just need to burst and instead you write a song!
The literary influences on the album are obvious, but it's also very theatrical. What is it that inspires you most outside of music?
Definitely novels that I've read and films that I've seen but honestly, it's mostly people and the way they interact with each other; how they are when they're by themselves, how they are in crowded places, and the emotions and things that I see and go through when I'm in transit. A lot of times when I'm travelling I allow myself to be very open to people and the world around me, therefore I let in a lot. A lot of inspiration comes from that. I like that you said that there's a lot of theatrical moments on the album because I think a lot of the time people experience these film-like moments in their lives and they chuckle about it and say "Oh my gosh, I can't believe this is happening to me, its just like that movie." It's easier for people to relate to a sort of cinematic moment because they feel like they've seen it before or they should feel a certain way depending on what they've seen or heard as responses in that similar situation. That does play into our music sometimes because I think when people interact with each other on a daily basis, if you tune into it, it is very theatrical.
With that in mind, what do you think the album says about American society?
Well, that fortunately the idea of the American dream is very possible, and it was never supposed to be easy to achieve but if you set out to live your life to the fullest and truly put your good into the world, put your passions into motion, then taking no for an answer is not an option if you want to succeed. Also, that, personally, I feel like we as a society need to come to together over something that's bigger than ourselves in order the pull ourselves out of the amount of corruption that has set us back for innumerable years. I'm definitely an optimist and I wouldn't want to jump as far as to say we're moving on but I think the intent is to move on to a better place. And that's exactly what I mean because I feel like for far too long we've been putting ourselves first, even on an individual basis I think that people are forgetting about their fellow brothers.
So where do you think your music will go next?
The new songs are definitely in a much more focused area, I've noticed. They're more personal. A lot of Ordinary Riches songs were about things we had to deal with directly, and these ones are in result of going after the dream that we set out for, really, and what's happened to us thus far; how we've treated people and how we've been treated. Things that we've seen in the obstacle course that is life, that get in the way of following the fire, you know?
In the next 12 months what would be your ideal situation with the band?
Just making sure that everybody is still on the same page and supporting each other, feeling like a family and touring a lot, meeting other bands, collaborating with them, then buckling down and getting started on the new album. We'll be doing that soon I hope.