Published Feb 26, 2009After appearing in the Kitsune label's umbrella in 2007 with the narcotic-heavy sing-along "Drugs In My Body," American/Swedish electronic pop trio Thieves Like Us released what many thought was their debut album, Play Music, a tripped out amalgam of American hip-hop, Swedish pop and French touch suited for the aftermath of a debauched night out. According to vocalist Andy Grief, however, what made its way onto the internet was only the shell of the record, which now makes its way into stores (courtesy of Fantasy Memory/Shelflife) completely finished and ready to be consumed on March 10. Grief took some time out to answer some questions, clear a few things up and enlighten us with some history on the band.
The album was first released back in 2007. Why has it taken two years to release it here in North America?
Ha ha. The album was never released before. Some demos of songs have been circulating the internet. Those were done on a four-track. A lot of people think this is our record. But it is not. This one was finished up in 2007. Kitsune said they wanted to release it. But we had a falling out. They thought it the record was too depressing and lo-fi. They wanted Alan Braxe to remix the whole thing. And they wanted to put there cute little artwork all over it. It is now coming out on vinyl and compact disc on Shelf-Life Records.
I first heard it though file-sharing sites. Did having the album available through MP3 blogs and P2P sites bother you at all?
No. If it spreads and people are listening to it, that is fine with us. When people speak with us after concerts, we usually take there email and send them a free digital copy: All we ask is that listeners just come to the shows and buy a T-shirt if you like us.
Seeing as the album was recorded a while back, is there new music on the way?
Yes, we should be finished with our second record entitled, Again and Again by the end of June.
The name seems like an obvious reference to New Order, who also seem like an influence. Is that where you got the name from?
When we heard Duran Duran was already taken, we were gonna call ourselves the Dreamweapon for the Spacemen 3 record, but then we were on our way to the studio in Berlin and we saw a piece of graffiti that read Thieves Like Us - we thought that sounded cool so we chose that. Obviously we listened to a lot of Factory Records stuff when we were making the record. So the name has a double meaning. But we haven't robbed any banks, yet.
Two of you are from Sweden, one of you is from the U.S. You met in Berlin, are based out of Paris, and also recorded the album in places like Brazil, England and Austria. Do you think all of these locations had a significant effect on the music?
Yes. We always find influence with travelling. An environment can have such an impact on the music. When we first started writing Play Music we would go out for these long walks in Berlin and then come back into the studio to work. There is such a specific ambience there. The city is geographically massive. Much of it was constructed during Germany's industrial boom in the 1910s. Since the second world war it is largely underpopulated. So it's a bit like a ghost town at night. Disfunctinoal Soviet-era buildings colliding with new buildings. Living there makes for some sort of schizophrenia which manifests itself in the nightlife I think. Hopefully we will go to Rio De Janeiro soon to record an ambient album. It's like Mars there!
There is a heavy club influence to the album, but I feel it's suited more for winding down after a night out. Was there any kind of setting you imagine people listening to your music in?
No. I think we are all kind of club rejects. I remember going to clubs in Berlin. Standing round and waiting for something to happen and thinking what the hell am I doing here. I suppose these are the songs we would want to hear in a club. Eleven different versions of "Enjoy the Silence."
There's this kind of disoriented elation I always get hearing the album. Was there any kind of mood or reaction you were hoping listeners would feel or take away from the music?
They should maybe dance, but also think about things - like why am I at this nightclub at six in the morning?
In the press release it stresses that TLU are a pop band, first and foremost. Do you find people often misrepresent you as something else?
People ask us what kind of music we play. We always answer pop music. I hate it when people say electro or new rave. We are songwriters first and foremost. Bands could do cover versions of our songs and we could play them accoustically. I don't think Ed Banger or Kitsune Records will ever be releasing an unplugged record. We do not want to be put in a category with those bands!
There are plenty of hooks throughout the album. Is that why you feel the connection to pop music is so strong?
Whatever city I live in I tend to walk a lot. I carry a dictaphone with me. Whenever a melody comes into my head, I capture it there. La la la. The singing melody comes first with us. With modern technology, anybody can produce a professional sounding track. It takes soul to write a good song. Hit the streets, kids!
Have you done a lot of touring? Will you do any touring over here?
We have gigged a lot. Often in discotechs at two in the morning. The crowds are difficult and probably would rather hear deejays. We really want to start playing more regular concert venues at regular hours. Hopefully with the official release of Play Music, this will be a possibility. These songs were written for music lovers, not just club kids.