Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Nick Thompson Talks Thief Club, Hit The Lights, and Supporting The Arts

>> Pop punk played a vital role in shaping how I view musicians and the art of touring. The "anyone can do this" attitude reinforced the fact that these incredibly talented people that I looked up to were, in fact, just people. Musicians aren't superheroes although their music can be powerful - they're people who need the same basic things to get by as the rest of us. Always keeping that in the back of my mind, actually buying CDs and later vinyl was the norm, as was the habit of chatting with artists after performances to show that their efforts were appreciated. 

>> I was first introduced to a band called Hit The Lights in middle school, but didn't see them live until several years later. When I finally got to catch a show, the band had been largely inactive and was just returning to the scene. They played a one-off on Long Island in 2011 where they performed a new song called "Gravity" and it was incredible. I spoke with HTL frontman Nick Thompson after that show and he was genuinely hyped on the band's new songs. The next album would be different and he was looking forward to changing things up a bit. "Gravity" was fantastic and the record that came the next year, Invicta, became one of my favorites. Other longtime fans of the band didn't seem to appreciate this different sonic direction in the same way, and the momentum of Hit The Lights dwindled once again. The band came back with a fresh album in 2015 that sounded more like the original, more strictly pop-punk sound they had been known for. It went over well, as it should have, but seeing a band I've listened to for so long try something new only to immediately return to the beaten path was disheartening. Why should artists have to stay in one lane?

>> After Invicta, Nick started a side project called Thief Club. An EP was eventually released under that moniker, but not enough people were paying attention. While still working on the most recent HTL record and planning subsequent tours, Nick has also been pouring everything he has into his solo tunes. I spoke with him recently about the upcoming Thief Club album and what this project means to him as a musician, as well as why it's important to support independent artists as much as possible. 

Photo courtesy of Bayly

How long have you been operating as Thief Club? What led you to start this side project?
Thief Club started as a means to keep writing songs and making music. While in Hit The Lights, we had a lot of down time, I had all of these song ideas that either weren't selected to be worked on as HTL songs, or needed more development. There was a period in between when I had kind of given up writing music all together, and after realizing that there was still that drive to create, I dusted off some old ideas, threw myself into a studio and hashed them out. It was something that I just needed to do, and once I tackled it, it was like a weigh off my chest.

How did you decide on what this side project would sound like? Did this sound come naturally or were you aiming for something specific?
There really wasn't a decision on a specific style. I just had these songs, I knew how I heard them in my head, and I wanted to bring them to life. A lot of people make comments on why TC sounds like it could be HTL, and that's easy - because I like to write that kind of music. There's always the freedom with TC to tackle another type of song, and that will always be there. If I write a song for HTL, and the dudes aren't into it, it's cool. If I feel strongly enough about it, I can just release it on my own time, and that takes away a lot of pressure/pride/animosity in my writing process. Don't like this song? Cool, I'll put it to the side and start a new one.

Have you ever felt pressure to make music that sounds a certain way? If so, is Thief Club your way of defying or rejecting those expectations?
While in HTL we dealt with a lot people telling us what to do and what not to sound like. With HTL, I worry more about direction and what the next step is for us. With TC it doesn't matter. I can do whatever, it's much looser. No expectations aside from the fact that I'm still actively creating music.

In my opinion, Invicta is a fantastic record and I don't think it was properly appreciated.
I'm glad you like it! I understand why people do, and I understand why people don't. I still think there are some of the best HTL songs we've ever written on that album, and that's what's important to me.

What would you say are the main pros and cons of a solo project as opposed to being part of a full band?
The pros are certainly that I don't have to worry about everybody being happy, less cooks in the kitchen make decision making and vision a breeze. It's easier to set up studio time, go to whatever producer I want and try new things. I have the freedom to do whatever I want. The cons are that it's all me, and I think that some of my best writing comes from working with other people who are coming at you with ideas that you may never have thought of. When we're bouncing ideas off each other in HTL, it can be harder to write with everyone throwing in their opinions and ideas, but we get some fantastic stuff out of that. I certainly have a comfort zone when I'm writing and recording, and it's good to step out of that zone sometimes and push yourself to try things you might not have ever wanted to do originally.

With your upcoming album Just Give Up, what went into deciding to include both old and new songs?
Greg from We Are Triumphant and I had talked about releasing the new EP, and he had asked me about just putting together everything I'd done onto one record. I don't believe that I've given the songs on "My Heavy" a proper release, very few people know about TC, and I've never ever tried to play out anything live. It just felt that the songs deserved to be exposed to more people, and Greg was someone that wanted to do that. I like that we can release it all on one record and new listeners don't have to buy multiple LP's and EP's to support me. They get a record with 16 tracks for 10 bucks, and I feel that's a great deal, and everyone is all caught up on TC right away.

The song "Talk About Me" features vocals from Matty from A Loss For Words. How did that collaboration come about? What was the writing / recording process like for this song in particular?
I've had a few of my favorite vocalists on TC tracks already (Will Pugh and Shane Henderson) and Matty has definitely been a great friend and an amazing vocalist, so it just felt right to ask him to be a part of it. The song itself is just about me questioning my musical mortality I guess. I don't feel that people take me seriously, no matter what I do and that leads to those internal questions about if I should even be doing this anymore. Honestly, I don't know why I keep going, all I know is there's something inside me that tells me to keep going, so I do. The song is just about confronting that honesty of how people see me and how easy it easy to succumb to that self deprecating thought process.

How did you choose which covers to record and include on Just Give Up? Which one(s) did you have the most fun with? 
I'm a huge fan of cheesy 80's ballads, and "Waiting for a Star to Fall" was always one of those songs that I loved and thought it would be awesome to cover. With the Jimmy Eat World cover, we had rocked it out a couple times live with HTL, and I felt it was something I could tackle while paying homage to a band that means so much to me. It was a song I felt I couldn't butcher TOO bad, and would love to play live. The "Jealous" cover came about just from sitting around with Danny and Rick at King Sound Studio and talking about how sweet it would be to cover it. Then, we just did the dang thing!

A few months back, your song "The First Place" was included on the Music Gives Hope compilation celebrating the 15th Anniversary of Keep A Breast. How did you get involved with that compilation, and what did being included on that track listing mean to you as an artist?
It was an opportunity to help out with a song that means a lot to me, so it was kind of a no brainer. I was contacted by Jen, who was helping with the PR for the compilation, and I said "sure!" It literally took no work for me, and goes to a great cause, there was really no reason for me to say no. Cancer is pretty terrible, and something that most people are going to have to deal with in one way or another during their lifetime.

Could you see yourself taking part in similar endeavors, whether they be other compilations or charity work, in the future?
You have to be careful about which charities you work with anymore. Check where the profits REALLY go, etc. If it's helping something, yes. But there's a lot of profiteering going on in guise of helping, and I'm not ignorant to that fact. That being said, I certainly don't feel I do enough to truly help people, and I'm hoping I can get better at that in the next few years of my life.

How do you plan to balance Thief Club with Hit The Lights, especially since you'll be out on the Pure Noise Tour when Just Give Up is released?
Right now we'll gauge the response of the release and how well it does. If there's a demand for TC, I would love to play some shows and get a chance to bring these songs to a live experience. Right now, touring just doesn't make sense, but I am very open minded and I'll stay positive about it. If people keep passing my music along, hopefully that will help to make it possible. For right now, HTL has the Pure Noise Tour and then I'd really love us to start writing a new record. So I'm sure with all the song writing that's going to happen, I'll get a couple TC tracks out of it as well!

Photo courtesy of Aud Lew Photography

What's next for Thief Club - More shows? World domination? Cat memes?
We shall see! All positive!

Anything else you'd like readers to know about you or Thief Club?
If you like what you hear, please pass it on! It's always a beautiful thing when people enjoy something I've created, that's the only reason I release it!

Anything happening in the scene today you'd like to comment on?
I have noticed, especially in the last couple years, people's attitudes towards artists and their music have become incredibly flawed. I notice it now more than ever, and I think it's because a newer generation of listeners has come up with the expectation that music isn't something you pay for, just something to keep them occupied for a few moments before they're on to the next thing. I can't tell you how many people would complain about my music not being on Spotify, when they could have just bought it for 9 bucks and had it forever. They don't view music as something worth paying for, and I don't think they realize that streaming a song from an artist on Spotify, even 50 times, doesn't even give that artist the $1.29 that they could've given to actually PURCHASE the song and have forever. I am not saying that I don't have Spotify, or that I haven't illegally downloaded albums, but there is a serious disconnect in listener logic and the reality of supporting an artist you like. People spend 10 bucks at chipotle no problem, but don't want to pay to own an album and support someone they like, while at the same time, having this entitlement to have your music for free. It took me forever securing a release for Just Give Up, and I've had these amazing funders that have been SO patient waiting almost a year to get there packages and haven't said a mean word to me except "All good man, happy to support you!" Then I get comments from people who, even thought they could've paid 9 bucks for the record for the past 2 years, are mad at me because I took down My Heavy from Spotify and iTunes for the re-release. Like, they never even THOUGHT about purchasing it. So I see both sides of the spectrum, and if it weren't for the few that have supported me through this entire thing, it would feel pretty hopeless. Either way, that's the reality of it and it's the worst for smaller, struggling artists that need it the most. I think people just need to be exposed to how much it really does MEAN to buy records from artists you love, now more than ever, because there's a very poisonous mindset that is helping to kill music that people love, and the excuse that the internet is giving an artist more exposure than ever, doesn't mean an artist is actually benefitting from it. That's my rant, I feel like an old man yelling at kids to get off the lawn. Thanks for everyone who supports TC, and I look forward to everything coming with this release!

>> Thief Club will release Just Give Up on April 29th, 2016. Pre-order the album now via We Are Triumphant here, or on iTunes here

Get Connected:
Thief Club: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Nick Thompson: WebsiteTwitter | Instagram


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Watched these guys last year in Birmingham UK when they supported Four Year Strong. I haven't stopped listening to Summer Bones since! I await more albums!