THERE is a lot to learn about Century Thief.
I have been finding out about the band and their E.P., Deaf Beneath the Waves. I ask whether there is a track from the set they favour; what the stories behind the songs are; why they isolated themselves in a cabin to create the songs – they reveal the future in terms of gigs and what they want to accomplish before the close of 2018.
The guys tell me how they got together and when they started making music together; whether the Canadian band is coming to the U.K. to play; how they spend their time away from music; the advice they would give to new musicians – they select some cool songs to end the interview with.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
O: I’m good, thanks! It’s been a busy week. I’ve been rehearsing a bunch because I’m going on tour with two acts - and I’m playing the guitar in one band and bass in the other. I’m also moving downtown Toronto in the middle of the tour. But, it’s all very exciting and I can’t wait to get goin’!
M: Great, yeah! One of those bands is my solo project, so I am in a similar mode. I’m also moving Omar downtown, which I’m excited about. Also, it was Canadian Music Week, so we played a showcase and I got to see some great shows so I’m inspired and excited!
K: I am busy, good; getting over a cold, feeling the warmth of spring...
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?
M: Hey, world! We are Century Thief. We make moody Rock music.
O: We often use ‘Trash-Lounge-Folk-Prog-Rock’ to describe ourselves. A Montreal sound engineer described us as that once and it seemed fitting so we stuck to it.
K: What Mike said…
Deaf Beneath the Waves is your latest E.P. Can you talk about the inspiration behind the songs and how it came together?
M: A couple of years ago, we did this project for In the Soil festival in St. Catharine’s where we worked with some artists; our filmmaker friends Brandon Benoit and Greg Francis and visual artists Suse Silva and Tony Darling made a film to accompany our set and built an installation. We had this idea of how places change over time and our relationship to places, and we each developed a song around that. That kind of morphed into the material we have now, including these songs and our upcoming stuff.
O: Yeah. We’ve been working on a slew of songs for a couple years (around twelve) and we’ve decided to release the songs in sets of three-four-song E.P.s. These songs just seemed to fit together well. There are three principle songwriters in the band and we think it’s important that each E.P. showcases each songwriter. This helps keep things interesting for the listener: I hate getting into a record or E.P. and getting bored because every song sounds the same.
K: Science of Solace came out of some youthful rumination of the way our lives go that only seems to resonate more as I get a bit older. You can’t logically say steps A, B and C are going to get you from point A and B and that’s why it eventually ends in a wash of noisy celebration. Our songs tend to hit similar chords (pun intended, maybe), philosophically, and it made sense to put these three together. We didn’t know they fit until In the Soil, though. Happy accidents.
Is there a song you each gravitate towards as a highlight?
O: There are only three tracks, so I’m hoping people can listen to all of them and choose their favourite. Haha. We chose 406 as the single and I’d say you should listen to that, but I think they’re all great.
M: Yeah. I think they work well together; listen to them on your morning commute.
K: Whatever one my mom says is her favourite. That’s to be determined…
Did you isolate yourself in a cabin/farm when recording the material? What was the reason for this?
O: Our first record took so long to record, largely because we had to balance six members’ schedule, plus the producer. By going to the farm, we dedicated a full week to recording and we got a really solid foundation laid for the rest of the record. It was also so cool recording in such an old structure. The reverb in that house was amazing. We set up a microphone upstairs in a wooden hallway to capture the reverb on the guitars and it sounds so cool.
M: I think we kind of had a romantic idea about it as well. It was really nice to just shut all the distractions and requirements off and solidly focus on making something together for a little while. I look back on that week fondly, although I immediately (also) remember how sleep-deprived and loopy we all got by the end of it. It was late winter, too, so we were basically indoors for a week.
K: I was pissed off about how we recorded our last album. We had very little control. It was cathartic to write and record on our own for the first time. As a band that’s been playing together for so long, it felt right to be isolated and enjoying each other’s company.
How did Century Thief get started? When did you all start jamming?
O: Well. I went to school with Mike and Kathryn at York U. and we’ve been jamming for around eight years. We used to lock ourselves in my bedroom and practice all day, once a week. Haha. We’d bring a ton of food and beer and other fun things and just work on stuff till it was perfect. A couple years later I met Adam at a coffee shop we worked at together (Coffee and All That Jazz) and he, shortly, joined the band.
Then, Colin and Dante are friends of Adam that, over time, have just become a part of our collective friend-group. Colin and Adam are also in a band together (since forever) called Honesty.
K: We started as backing bands for each other’s solo music in, like, 2010 or 2011. Then, we found out it was fun and challenging to play as a single band - and we worked well together so we’ve been doing that!
Do you all share musical tastes? Which artists do you count as influences?
O: We do; we bond over Radiohead, Arcade Fire; Broken Social Scene and so many more. With six of us, obviously, we all have our own influences and, for example, I listen to a lot of Rap that other members wouldn’t. So, when writing, we all have our own influences to draw on. Bonus: Adam has the best taste in music and is always showing us amazing new bands.
M: Adam has designed my personal life-soundtrack for the past eight months. His recommendations are really on-point.
K: Almost all musical tastes are shared except…I don’t really like some of Omar’s Emo classics. (Sorry, Omar) Makes for almost-perfect road trips.
Where are you heading on tour? Where can we catch you?
O: We just played Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto a couple weeks ago which is becoming our usual circuit. We have a show in St. Catharines on July 6th at the Warehouse with our good buddies in Fat Moth. We’re hoping to go out to the East Coast of Canada in the fall, so keep your ear to the ground.
Do you reckon you’ll come to the U.K. and gig here at all?
We’d love to. It’s not in our immediate future, but the U.K. is in the list!
K: I’d love to!
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
M: We are self-producing this batch of material and it’s getting smoother as we go. I want to do more experimenting, figure out new ways to present these songs.
O: We’re hoping to continually release new content that engages and grows our fan base. We’re also hoping to play cities within that seven-hour drive from Toronto more consistently to really grow our fanbase outside of Toronto.
K: Make and play more!
Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
O: It’s hard to choose one: we’ve been playing for so long and I feel like I’m trying to constantly create new positive and memorable moments in my career. There are two things I can remember specifically: we had a P.R. campaign for Pillar which was the single off our first record, Reverie, and that was the first time people were really talking about us and listening to our music. I remember reading some of the reviews and just feeling so happy people were into the music we make.
The second is that installation Mike mentioned earlier. It was so much work to organize but we played a set in front of the film and had the installation as set design and it all came together really well. It was also in front of my hometown crowd in St. Catharines.
M: Going out to the East Coast a couple years ago was really exciting. We hadn’t done anything like that before and we were definitely in party-mode. It was so much fun; we always have a good time playing out of town together, but that was extended and it just felt great.
K: Definitely our trip to the East Coast.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
O: Probably Feist. There are others that come to mind but she’s just so amazing. My rider would include smoked meats and cheeses, salads – but, like really, really good salads. Nothing too heavy before you sing (and good beer).
M: Yeah. Fruits, veggies; hummus and craft beer for the rider - Wye Oak for the artist.
K: Probably Little Dragon! For rider: coffee, Baileys; beer, sparkling water and chicken wings. I’ll steal some of the healthy stuff from Mike and Omar.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
O: I always feel weird giving advice because I’m still learning so much myself. I used to say I never stop playing ever. Always try and better yourself. It is still true, but I think I’d probably say don’t wait for someone to do the work for you; don’t wait for a booking agent, a label or a manager etc. Book it yourself, promote it yourself.
Being a musician is a business and you need to treat it like one. Most people who are successful have worked their ass off away from their instrument to get to where they are.
M: Yeah. Make stuff happen for yourself. Book shows you’d want to go to: those are the ones that always turn out best for us.
K: Keep positive and an open mind. Talk to people. Find mentors. Play a lot. Record a lot.
IN THIS PHOTO: Big Thief/PHOTO CREDIT: Shervin Lainez
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
O: I cook a lot. I love cooking and I find it’s almost meditative for me. Besides that, it’s mostly music-related things or late -night video games (currently, I’m playing Star Wars II and NHL).
M: Music is definitely a really big chunk of my life - but I like to run and I love having a good beer with some family or friends. Also, television and video games help with unwinding.
K: My friends and family, my pets; beer, binge-watching shows and video games.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
O: Addictions - Lucy Dacus
M: Slow Death in a Warm Bed - Little Kid
K: Drifters - Patrick Watson
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