INTERVIEW: Former Thieves

Last year, Iowa punk outfit Former Thieves put out one of my favorite EPs of the year, The Great and Alleged Great, scoring #30 on my Best of 2010 List. After getting signed to No Sleep Records, they are now in the process of recording a full-length debut.  While at the studio in Seattle, I did an email interview with Matt Schmitz of the group. Hit the jump for the full interview.

The Noise Is: How did the group come together, and how did you come up with the name Former Thieves?
Matt Schmitz: We have all been playing in bands together and touring in the past. We all stopped for a while and tried out the whole “real life” thing and decided that sucked so we decided to start this band, make some music we enjoyed writing and playing, and travel as much as possible. The name came from the idea that we all steal things from the world around us, and wondered if one day we all decided not to do that and truly think and act on our own. That would make us “Former Thieves”, deep stuff!

TNI: You guys come out of Iowa, give me an idea of what the music scene is like out there and do you have a big following?
MM: Iowa is pretty rad. We live in a college town with a great scene that is so supportive of what we do and all the bands that are coming out of there. The DIY scene is very strong, we have a lot of basement and Amvets hall shows. I wouldn’t say “big following”, but I would say we have a lot of friends that are interested in what we do and are very supportive!

TNI: Earlier last year, you released your first EP, The Great and Alleged Great, on Mayfly Records. How did you get in contact with them, and what was your initial reaction to the release?
MM: Bob got at us after our first tour and offered to put something out for us. We had self released the first EP for that tour and decided to that out on vinyl with Mayfly. Bob did an incredible job and the record came out looking incredible! We are so proud of how that release came out!

TNI: One thing Former Thieves never seem to stop doing is touring. What are the positives and if any negatives of touring so much for you guys?
MM: We started this band so we could basically tour full time and we are so lucky that we get to do that! There are too many positives! Some of my favorites are knowing and seeing friends all over the place constantly, getting to find the best food in certain areas, and seeing how people really live and how life is in certain areas. You can go visit somewhere on vacation and think you know what a place is like, but you don’t know a city until you are playing in it’s basements and sleeping on someones floor that has lived there all their life. There is a reality there that few people get to see. Some negatives would be that you are pretty much always broke, finding a job that will let you leave all the time is pretty tough, and keeping relationships while on the road is damn near impossible.

TNI: It seems like many hardcore bands liked Mountain Asleep and Xerxes have just about unlimited people in their groups, where on the contrary, Former Thieves is a solid four piece. What are the best things about being somewhat of a small hardcore group?
MM: It makes getting together to practice and write much easier, it makes touring a lot easier since we don’t need a trailer, and it makes it so we have enough room in the van to drag a few of our shitty friends along.

TNI: When listening to your EP, The Great and Alleged Great, some lyrics jump out at me. Like on “Control and Illusion”, one part goes, “This all seems so complicated/Life is only as hard as you make it/So let’s band together and drop fucking out/Life’s so trivial when standing next to the world.” Is their a specific or general theme you were trying to hit on the EP?
MM: The lyrics for the entire record can be pretty much summed up in those few lines. Watching your friends growing up, graduating college, and being generally unhappy by their own choice of action was something I tried to take aim at. The theme was a commentary on let down.

TNI: A few months ago, Former Thieves got signed to No Sleep Records, alongside La Dispute and Touche Amore. I know you guys are working hard on a debut album, but what are some of the details on the signing?
MM: We started talking to Chris from No Sleep about a year ago about possibly working together. He liked what we were doing and we were big fans of what he was doing. On top of that he’s a great dude and knows how to take care of his bands! All the bands on the roster know each other, tour together, and are friends or have been friends for years. It truly feels like a family. Chris is actually Skyping me from the other room trying to get me to come play Xbox with him!

TNI: Any other big plans for the future right now?
MM: We are in the studio, as we speak, recording our first full length, which should be out around March. As soon as that comes out we are going to tour as much as possible! There are some wild plans for touring this spring that will announced soon that we can’t wait to be apart of! 2011 is going to be a crazy year in the Former Thieves camp!

Random question time!

TNI: Last album you bought?
MM: I just got the new Flatliners and Tokyo Police Club records. If you haven’t heard either, do yourself a favor and pick them up! Amazing stuff!

TNI: TV show you watch regularly?
MM: I’m a Netflix snob and the full series of Daria has been showing up on my doorstep every 2 days it seems like! That show is timeless!

TNI: Best Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
MM: I got a remote control crane when I was 9. For some reason thats the only thing that really sticks out to me. Lets just say I was moving shit all around my room for months after that! Thanks Mom!

TNI: Last DVD you watched?
MM: We watched Layer Cake last night at the house we are staying at. It was apparently the movie that got Daniel Craig the part as the new James Bond. I think he’s great as James Bond, but other than that the dude can’t act to save his life. Plus, he looks and sounds kind of like a British Dolph Lundgren, and thats not a compliment!

TNI: Any tour bus essentials?
MM: Whats a tour bus? GPS, iPod adaptor, Go Lean cereal, tooth brush, 2 pairs of jeans, 4 shirts + a show shirt, 3 pairs of underwear, socks(maybe?), 2 pairs of shoes, sleeping bag, a pillow, and $300 personal burial money. Thats all you need to take over the world.

TNI: Band you’re psyched about?
MM: Bone Dance, Into It Over It, Native, Pianos Become the Teeth, Torche, La Dispute, Hostage Calm, Comadre, honestly there is way too many! The amount of great bands out there right now is astonishing!

Connect with Former Thieves on their MySpace, Facebook, or Twitter.  And you can buy their EP, The Great and Alleged Great, on BandCamp for $1 or the vinyl from Mayfly Records.  Their debut album, The Language That We Speak, will be out in the spring via No Sleep Records.

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