Life is all about allowing yourself to move forward and evolve in every aspect of your existence. That is why the former members of Authority Zero, Allout Helter, Boldtype were able to buckle down and look ahead when they came together for Record Thieves. Their drummer, Jim Wilcox, admitted that while they had some revolving members at the start, the music came about naturally. Fast forward to this moment in time and Record Thieves is on the verge of dropping their debut LP, ‘Wasting Time,’ on November 24th. We talked about coming together, signing with Thousand Islands Records, and just how they’ve managed to get around the curveballs 2020 hurled at the world.
Kendra: Coming from other bands, did anyone have any issues walking into something completely new? Like it’s common to bring old knowledge, but were there any bumps in the road when you started working together because maybe Authority Zero practiced this way or Boldtype’s writing process went about a particular way?
Jim Wilcox: Honestly early on development of the band was like any other. We jammed, wrote some tunes, lost some members, gained some members. It was a pretty typical process when trying to create a new project. After a while, Allen, Mike, and I just decided to get together on Tuesdays at my studio (Ten Thousand Sounds) and write a record.
Previous to this project I had already written and recorded multiple albums with friends in different states just because technology allows us to do that today, so the idea of writing something and then practicing it, later on, wasn’t anything new for me or Allen. Allen also had owned a studio a few years back and was very comfortable with this type of process. About 3/4 of the way through the writing process we shared some demos with Fred who’s band Allout Helter was de-solving at the time and he loved what we were doing. Fred then started recording some overdubs at his house to show us what he could bring to the table and we got super excited. Fred’s style and additions to what we already thought was great and added that extra layer of “wow.”
Once we finished the recording process we started practicing the songs together and it was then I would say the hard part started. At that point, we had to go back and remember all the little details that we did so we could make sure we were performing the songs accurately to the album. I also feel Chad, our bassist, had it the hardest. Chad came into the band after the album was fully finished so he had to learn all of the songs from scratch. He did a great job and is now fully up to speed on everything. All in all, we’re now jamming weekly and simply loving being able to perform the album live.
Kendra: Over the past decade or so we’ve gotten used to seeing bands go about their business in a very DIY manner. Whether that’s self-releasing music or setting their sights on smaller indie labels. Do you think this has proven to be an advantage for artists?
Jim Wilcox: The artist being able to have more control over their product is a huge thing in terms of being able to control what happens with their music more and put out albums they can record on their own if they want with very little cost. The flip side to that is the music industry as a whole is now FLOODED with music. The last statistic I read was that Spotify is seeing around 280,000 songs each WEEK. So it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. Where there is a lot of good music out there, there is also a ton of garbage.
Another thing to look at is the devaluation of music because there are many releases people just think “oh it’s just music it’s not that hard” so it makes those of us who have spent our lives perfecting our instrumentation/recording/mixing/mastering process feel like what we do has no value. This to me is where a good label becomes more important. Releasing on your own is fine and all but where’s your marketing? Social media is all that people rely on these days, and when their new song or album only gets 400 likes and 500 plays they feel like a failure. A quality label who understands how the industry works and has the correct connections to get your name in front of the RIGHT audience will push your album much further than most typically can on their own thus giving you a sense of worth put behind all of the hard work you do on your own.
Kendra: Speaking of, you signed with Thousand Island Records, congrats on that! What sort of pressures are taken off your backs with label representation that perhaps we wouldn’t commonly think of?
Jim Wilcox: TONS! Kind of continuing on what I was saying previously when we decided to shop this album and our thought process was “if we can release this with a proper punk label we could get it out to a built-in audience and have a much better chance of it being successful versus us putting it out on our own and hoping for the best.”
We shopped the album to a few labels but it was Bruno from Thousand Islands that expressed the interest we were looking for. He wrote me back after the weekend had passed and mentioned that he has been listening to the album non-stop all weekend and was extremely stoked about it. That made us happy. It’s one thing to have a label behind you but it’s a whole different thing when the label is excited about your product and truly believes in it.
This now circles back to the idea that a label can help. Bruno and TIR had a plan right from the get-go, release dates, merch packages, and hiring and PR company to try and push this release over the top. It’s not to say you can’t do this on your own as a band but when you realize all the work it takes to do that and many other details that come with it, it becomes overwhelming. When you’re adults in a band and you have full-time jobs/careers/small businesses not to mention kids and wives the idea of trying to be the band, recording studio, label, and PR company just isn’t an ideal situation.
I believe if you get to a more “professional” statute in the music industry working with labels is a must. Let the professionals handle what they do and let the band be the band. As long as your art isn’t being compromised and you’re happy with the people you’re working with, all will be well.
Kendra: They’ll be releasing your debut, ‘Wasting Time.’ This title hits sort of ironically because being musicians who aren’t entirely new to this, the album has been noted as standing out in terms of production and overall sound compared to a newcomer’s debut. What is a past lesson you learned long before Record Thieves that you feel helped you push this record to a higher standard?
Jim Wilcox: Truth be told it was just our standard. Having been working on recordings myself for quite a few years and having others in the band also doing the same we simply knew we wanted a higher-end product. We knew what with our experience our debut record could sound just as pro as the rest if we took the time to do so. We’re all older, we’ve all been playing and recording for a long time, and have also spent quite a bit of money on recordings so we know what it takes to have a good professional record get created.
I knew without a doubt we could track this album at my studio and get something very pro out there at a low cost to us but at the end of the day, Allen and I said we both wanted an outside set of ears on the album’s mix. He and I, having worked on the record for months, writing and recording wanted to make sure we had someone that would look at the songs objectively and help us bring them to life which is why we went to Felipe at Green Door. I sat with him in the mixing sessions just making sure we caught all the details that had been recorded and when all was said and done he knocked it out of the park, thanks, buddy! From there we sent the album off to a friend of mine in Arizona, J Paul with Sound Center Mastering where he added the final glue to the record and we couldn’t be happier.
Kendra: When did you guys start to work on this and were you nervous at all about releasing new music in a year that left traditional touring off the table?
Jim Wilcox: Well, technically, we started on the album in summer/fall of 2019. As I said Allen was coming up to my studio every Tuesday and I had it set up so we could just jam and work out song ideas. Then, when we were happy with everything we could push record and track a demo of it live. That went on for a few months before we felt like we had all the songs we wanted for a record and at that point, we set up all of the mics and started tracking final takes for everything.
As far as being nervous, I wouldn’t say it crossed our minds. At that time COVID wasn’t something anyone was thinking about or had even heard of (most of us at least) so it was just recording a record like another record. Well, except for the fact that we were recording something we would have to learn later on and we would have to fill some band members in the process.
In hindsight, that was probably what we were more nervous about than anything, simply finding the right group of people to perform with. As for touring, that again wasn’t a thought. Once all the band members were in place, we discussed it, but it was always more of a “when the time comes” because we simply weren’t sure if anyone was even going to take interest in the record or if we were just going to support it locally when it was possible again. As of now we are overwhelmed by all the love and response to the album and have said we’re going to have to figure out touring when it’s all possible again.
Kendra: With all that has transpired this year, how do you feel 2020 has shaped your creativity and drive moving forward?
Jim Wilcox: Well since we went about this more unconventionally, 2020 has only further pushed us into that direction. Allen and I are already working on the foundation of the next album by coming up with ideas and tracking demos to show the rest of the guys. Only this time instead of recording everything and learning it later, we plan to get the ideas down, bring them to practice, and jam them with everyone, letting the songs develop a little more naturally live. Now that we have found a “sound” as some like to put it, it’s a lot easier to get new ideas flowing and when we’re ready, be able to record everything and probably be even more efficient about it.
Kendra: Usually, this is where I ask people what they have planned in the coming months but with the world in a strange place right now, plans aren’t as concrete as they typically are. You can go ahead and let us know what you have tentatively planned but can you also share a song that never fails to get you through when the world around you feels like a mess?
Jim Wilcox: Plans, well we’re not making many at this point. I think you nailed it when you said “tentatively.” We’ve talked about a “CD release” (is it called that anymore??) but doing it as a live stream, possibly an album listening party with a local brewery that supports the scene quite a bit and there’s talk of a music video but all in all, right now we’re just taking things day by day. It feels like things are changing constantly and you just don’t know if you plan stuff a few months out, if it will even happen.
As for songs that get me though, I don’t have a lot of music that carries me that way personally. My day-to-day listening changes based on my mood but I don’t use music to lift me up or get me through moments in time. Most of the time I use music to enhance the feelings I’m feeling at any given moment. I live through my music and let it help me face my emotions and feelings, not walk away from them or act as a distraction.
That being said, right now I’ve been on an industrial/Doom Rock kick, everything from Nine Inch Nails to Alcest and HUM (their new album is incredible), and for some reason, it’s been feeding my moods quite nicely as well as, from an engineer/producer perspective there are details in those types of albums I am in love with. The time and energy spent on specific little sounds always makes me get stoked, I think Mike would confirm my enthusiasm here, I’m always freaking out showing him tiny little parts of albums like “YOU HEAR THAT!?”