After years of cutting their teeth supporting the likes of Muse and sharing festival line-ups with big names like Blink-182, UK rockers Nothing But Thieves are ready to launch into the spotlight. After releasing their debut self-titled album in 2015, the Essex quintet have toured their rock n’ roll pop around the world, picking up a passionate legion of fans along the way.
Thanks to their penchant for writing on the road, conit wasn’t difficult for the boys to rustle up material for their sophomore record, Broken Machine. After its release last year, they’re returning down under to tour the record across a bunch of cities in July. Aussie fans wasted no time jumping on the bandwagon, with a second Sydney show recently announced after the first swiftly sold out.
We had a chat with frontman Conor Mason about rejecting rock star stereotypes, NBT coming into their own as a headliner band and what you can expect from the Broken Machine tour… beyond a lot of long hair and bad dance moves.
Music Feeds: It’s only been a few months since your last Australian tour and you’re already coming back. What are you looking forward to the most about this show?
Conor Mason: Well, I mean the shows we did last time were some of the first shows we’d ever headlined and it was so good and so energetic. The crowd was so into it, so it just made sense for us to come back. We were like “we can’t not come back now!”, so we put them on at a lot bigger venues. So it’s very exciting to play for everyone again.
MF: You’ve already sold out your first of two Sydney shows, is it surreal having such a passionate fan base on the other side of the world?
CM: It is mad. I was thinking about this the other day, the fact that we just write songs that we like, essentially, and we kinda just do what we want in terms of that, which has always been good. So to have thousands of fans as far away as you can possibly get from England that connect with the music is amazing. We’re very lucky in that sense.
MF: You mentioned that you’ve only really just started doing your own headline shows. What’s that like? Is it more pressure than a supporting gig?
CM: Yeah, absolutely. I love the headline shows. Supporting is great and it’s really great to meet fans in that respect and kind of win them over. But playing headline shows you can really connect with them and you can really feel the energy on stage. Especially down under, there’s this kind of wildness that’s really refreshing.
MF: Yeah, I think Aussie fans are especially grateful when bands from the UK or the States perform down under because we usually have to wait a little longer between tours.
CM: Yeah, it’s very true. I’ve noticed that in certain countries that don’t get bands out there a lot because of the distance — or maybe the economics or something like that — countries like Russia and Japan. So when we do go, it’s nuts. It’s like a fever out there. So I really enjoy that. The shows are always better because people wait a lot longer and are more excited for it. Whereas the UK are spoilt (laughs). So it’s good to travel so far even if we don’t get to go very often. The connection is always amazing.
MF: You’ve toured with a lot of amazing bands like Muse, The Offspring and Panic! At The Disco. Is there anyone on your bucket list that you’d really love to tour with?
CM: My dream would be Radiohead. It’s not going to happen but that would be good.
MF: You guys were in Australia in December 2017, but what would you tell fans to expect if they missed the last tour?
CM: Ok, well… Joe has a lot of hair that hangs in front of his face. I kind of don’t know how to dance, but I do on stage and it looks ridiculous, so you can expect that. We have a very energetic show and the band puts everything into it every night. I try my best to engage with the crowd but I don’t engage in a typical rock front man way. I find it kind of corny. I just wanna immerse myself and let people immerse themselves and just talk to people on stage. In that respect I want people to be really engaged and enjoy the music as much as I’m doing on stage. That’s kind of what I hope to achieve each day.
MF: You recently released your sophomore record, Broken Machine. What are some of your favourite tracks from the album to play live?
CM: I’m really enjoying the track ‘Soda’. That’s really fun and it’s kind of lighter for us, but the lyrics are quite dark. It’s a bizarre song because it sounds almost summery at times. You can imagine hearing it at a barbecue, but the lyrics are completely dark so it kind of contradicts itself but that’s what I like about it.
You see people who don’t know what it’s about and they’re kind of swaying with their arms up and it’s hilarious (laughs).
MF: (Laughs) Well, that contrast worked for the likes of The Cure and The Smiths so why not?
CM: Yeah, exactly! And that’s the whole point of it. It’s supposed to sound quite sway-y and fun and then it’s not (laughs). Plus, it’s easy to sing live so that’s nice (laughs).
MF: You wrote a lot of the second record on the road, what was that experience like?
CM: To be honest, I don’t mind writing on the road in a way because I think when you’re in the thick of it when you’re away for a month or two, a lot of the time you’re sitting around at venues just waiting for soundcheck or waiting to play. If you can’t go out and see the city or if it’s a rainy day, there’s nothing better to do other than write anyway. So I think it takes up a lot of time and back then when we were writing ‘Broken Machine’, we were going through a lot and it was a good escape to write and take my mind off all that was going on in my head. So I’m glad we did it.
I look forward to writing on the road. In a way, the more I can write on the road, the more I can rest when I’m home (laughs). That’s a good way to think about it for me.
MF: I’m sure you’re not short of inspiration when you’re writing on the road as well.
CM: Yeah, we’re all generally more influenced on the road because you’re completely immersed within the music anyway. Everyone’s got an instrument all day long, so it’s quite easy to become inspired by something. So to be able to log it down quickly or practice it in sound check, it’s like why wouldn’t we write on the road?
MF: You’ve been touring a lot lately, so have you been working on any new music recently?
CM: Absolutely! We haven’t stopped writing really. When it becomes part of your lifestyle, you don’t stop. Since the second album was finished being recorded, we took a few weeks off and then we’ve been writing since. We’ve got 10 ideas that we really like and then other starting points. We’re going to keep writing for the whole year.
It’s just good for us to do that. We never want to be caught out or worried about not having enough songs, so we just keep it going. Even if you’re off and you’re at home and you’ve got time off, it’s still good if you’re feeling inspired to pick up the guitar or whatever. For me that’s really important and I know that’s the same for everyone else.
MF: You wrote a really open article for Independent last year about the importance of talking about mental health and rejecting the typical rock n’ roll front man tropes. What have been some of the responses from that?
CM: Yeah, it was for mental health week in the UK and I was just approached to write this article because they knew I’d struggled with mental health stuff on the road. To me, it was really important because I feel like I’ve battled all my life. Well, not even battled, just been pissed off and frustrated at stereotypes within men –not just within the industry — but that’s what I was writing about. I hate that. It’s as bad as how women are stereotyped. I don’t think we have it as bad but in terms of not being able to be open or show a sensitive side or show that you give a shit about anything, that was really important for me to write about it.
…I think it’s important to be open and to be a nice person and to be sensitive to how other people feel and how you feel. It’s really important to me.
For me, in a position of power so to speak, or of influence to other men around. If they think I’m “cool”, which I don’t think I am, they could read it and think “Well, this is cool”. I just wanted to start the conversation on the male side in that world.
Nothing But Thieves 2018 ‘Broken Machine’ Tour
Tickets on sale now
Thursday, 26th July – NEW SHOW
Factory Theatre, Sydney
Tickets: XIII Touring
Friday, 27th July – NEW VENUE
Eatons Hill, Brisbane
Tickets: XIII Touring
Saturday, 28th July – SOLD OUT
Metro Theatre, Sydney
Tickets: XIII Touring
Sunday, 29th July
Forum Theatre, Melbourne
Tickets: XIII Touring
Tuesday, 31st July
Tickets: XIII Touring