An Interview With The Chicago-Based Band TIME THIEVES On Life During the Pandemic, Their Newest Music and More!
Get to know the rising indie power-pop band from Chicago called Time Thieves! On July 3rd, they released their new album, Space, via Anxious & Angry Records. They are a collaboration of musicians from various other bands who’ve come together to create enthralling and passionate music.
The group is currently made up of Annie (This is My Fist/Ambition Mission), Jonathan (Brickfight), Lilly (Chicken Happen), Mike (Sass Dragons/Rad Payoff) and Tim (Horrible Things/Hospital Job). Their music is all about huge hooks, sweet keyboard licks, a rock solid rhythm section, and killer vocal harmonies,
Connect With Time Thieves Online Here: https://www.facebook.com/timethieveschicago/
Learn more about Time Thieves in the following All Access interview:
Thank you for your time. So given these unusual Covid-19 times, what does a typical day look like for you all? How have you adjusted to these times?
Hello! Jonathan here. We’re all doing different things- personally, I run a screen printing business primarily by myself, with occasional help from people that work with me, so my day to day hasn’t changed too much. I’m so used to working alone that social distancing isn’t ever a problem, and it makes it so my keeping the front door locked all the time seem like I’m just maintaining the status quo, when in reality I was doing that before quarantine, haha. Never said I was *good* at business!
Everyone else in the band is out there working, too. Mike and Tim both work in the service industry, so they’re really out there on the front lines serving people their senses of normalcy because they just can’t wait for a few more months. Lilly also works in an essential food and wellness business, so she’s been at work the whole time, and Annie’s a vet! She’s keeping pets safe and sound during all this insanity.
What has been the hardest/most challenging part about being quarantined? Is your city starting to open up more now? Have you been able to get together and play at all?
I definitely don’t go out as much as I used to (read: at all)- but not being able to go to shows is definitely the toughest/weirdest thing. I remember moving to Chicago and being overwhelmed at having to choose between 2 or 3 amazing shows EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. And it’s always like that in this city. You naturally start going out less as you get older and whatnot, but it’s nice that there’s always an option, y’know?
It’s like, I don’t go to the Art Institute every day (or week, or month), but it’s just nice to know that I CAN. All that is on hold right now, and that’s the hardest part. One good thing about it: no more FOMO! It’s nice to know you didn’t miss the most amazing shit ever just because you couldn’t muster another 2 a.m. Tuesday night. I’ve taken that opportunity to dive headlong into my work and new demos, and that feels good.
Chicago is cautiously opening up, but I feel it’s going to snap shut again soon, even for as good as this city tried to be with its restrictions. But, if you drive in certain more affluent parts of the city where patios are open, social distancing is pretty much null and void. I see this every day and I think of that part in Terminator 2 where Eddie Furlong (or is it Linda Hamilton? Can’t remember- in my head it’s lil’ Eddie) has a voiceover about how humanity is doomed while the two kids have a toy gunfight.
We haven’t played live together at all, just remotely working on some stuff. I think soon we might actually brave the practice space and try to play live again- flesh out some demo(n)s.
How have you been able to use social media during these unprecedented times? Are you finding that you use it even more to stay connected to fans and other musicians?
Honestly, since social media is pretty much all anyone is doing right now, I’ve kept our band pages quiet. There’s too much going on; very important things are happening every day, every HOUR- and I feel it is important to listen. I know we just put out an album, and while I do want to promote it, and I really, really want people to hear it, because I genuinely do think it might help some people in some way, the album will always be there. I would rather listen and support where I can, when I can. Forums like the one you provide are great for people who want to hear more about what a rock band like ours has to say can seek out, rather than be bombarded with it every day in their Instagram feed. So I really do appreciate this opportunity to speak with you and anyone else who’s read this far!
What has it been like having to reschedule your spring, summer and most likely fall shows? What shows in 2021 are you are already excited for?
2021?! Oh god, who knows? I’m just looking to get past November of this year. Will there BE any shows in 2021 if Trump is re-elected? I doubt it. I’m excited to remove that idiot from office and watch the world collectively smile and learn to deal with PTSD in 2021.
Since we are all desperately missing live music, can you recall a favorite show of yours from the past? What do you think ultimately makes for a great show for you? What about a favorite show that you attended? Who would you love to see perform next year?
We played this show last year in a basement with our friends Spowder from New Jersey. This show was at a DIY spot in Chicago that rules. It was a Tuesday or Wednesday night and no one had shown up. Gotta remember- it was winter, middle of the week, and back then, shows were like air- readily available! So sometimes you’re just not surprised when no one shows up. That was the case this night. While there were a few house members, band members, etc milling around upstairs, when we started playing our first song, literally no one was in the basement. This is typical of basement shows- you play your first song (usually a throwaway or the one you’re most worried about fucking up) and people filter in. Kind of par for the course. So we played our first song, looked up to see, and… not a single person had come down, haha! It ruled- we all felt super free after that and played an amazing set. By the time we were done the room was full, though. But feelings like that are what playing music has always been about for me, and I never want to forget it. I absolutely love playing in a band with my good friends and having fun regardless of the surroundings. If that’s not why you’re doing it, I suggest moving onto a different profession.
What has it been like coming together to form this group after all your various experiences in other bands? How does the music of Time Thieves compare to your other band’s songs?
We’re all from DIY scenes and we’ve all been at it for decades- so there wasn’t a lot of expectation beyond just wanting to have fun with friends in a new project. For me personally, I asked everyone that’s in the band to be in it because I know them to be incredibly talented in their own right in whatever project(s) they’ve been involved with (This is My Fist!, Sass Dragons, Ambition Mission, Rad Payoff, Chicken Happen, Hospital Job, Horrible Things- to name just a few), and this was more of me just throwing it out there to see if it would work. And it did! They all cover my flubs beautifully. This band is different than any of our other bands insofar as it isn’t “punk,” necessarily. Much less aggressive musically and a lot more focus on melody and vocal delivery, but the fire behind it is still the same for me. There’s so much of this record that is deeply political for me that doesn’t come across as straightforward as maybe my earlier punk band’s material hoped to. I’m fine with that. I’m older now and have learned to let lyrics breathe and to let people interpret them for themselves. Maybe it works, maybe not.
Let’s talk about your brand new album, “Space,” released earlier this month. What was it like putting out a collection during the pandemic? Did you get to finish it before quarantine officially began? Did anything surprise you about the overall process of putting it together?
We recorded the vocals for this record in Springfield, IL mere WEEKS before lockdown started. I think that was in late February- Covid was definitely a thing but hadn’t made it to U.S. shores yet. The rest of the album we had recorded last November. So, the mixing and deciding what to do with the album definitely did come during quarantine. At the time of recording, we thought we’d probably be on tour for this record by now (July of 2020). Once we realized no one was going anywhere, it made sense to start thinking about less “traditional” ways of getting it out there.
While it’s difficult, can you elaborate on some of your favorite songs on “Space”? How did they get to be on this album and what was the inspiration for them?
TWKR was the last song written, demoed, and recorded for this album. It came together so late in the game that there’s not even any synth on it. That does bum me out in a way, but on the other hand there is so much going on vocally with this song that not having keys on it doesn’t make it lack in any way, at least to me. None of us knew it very well when we recorded it (hence the long ass ending), and I’m actually sitting in the very spot where Annie recorded her bass part for it as I type this, and I’ll never forget how long it took us to figure out how many times the drums at the end went so she could hit the last note after four or five takes (spoiler- it’s 12 times).
I wrote the lyrics of this song with some help from my good friend Scott Witt, who lives in Portland. I reworked some of his original ideas into what I was thinking about A LOT at the time. Many people I knew of, and knew personally, who were not U.S. citizens but here on legal visas, were being removed from the country one by one. Whether it was a bureaucratic holdup for years, or some other more nefarious reason, I noticed a lot of foreign nationals slowly having to leave. It was grim then, and it’s still grim now. This song is about that. Friends and family being removed from their homes and placed back in their country of origin, as if that matters in any way.
The second verse imagines what it will be like for those of us who support and fight for those who have been marginalized and abused by the increasingly dictatorial and brutal society that is taking hold. We are all doomed.
The title is not a shortening of the word “tweaker,” even though it clearly looks like that (and is how we all refer to it). TWKR was simply a weird autocorrected text from Mike to me I think he was typing “new one” and it came through “twkr.” And that’s the story of the song title.
Why do you think Anxious & Angry Records is the right label for this band now? Why did you first decide to work with them?
Ryan and Ranae both rule, and we’ve all been friends for years. Made sense to throw a lot of money into the mix too, no?? Pretty sure that’s the normal flow of things.
It also makes sense to me to work with someone who only does things on their own terms and has actually lived in the world of live music, rather than just being a fan or whatever. Makes all the difference in the world.
How do you think future music is going to be influenced by this incredible and absolutely necessary Black Lives Matter movement that the US and even the world is going through now? Is it inspiring this group’s music now?
Like I said before, I want to listen. Of course, everything happening these days informs my opinion and worldview, but goddamn, I’m just another white dude with a guitar in a rock band. Let me hear what everyone else has to say before chiming in with my own well-worn two cents. I’ll be there to back up the cause any time, any day. BLM forever- just tell me where to stand.
What would your dream music video look like?
Hoping to get like $5k from someone to recreate the set of Family Double Dare to do a music video where everyone has to do the physical challenge. Anyone willing to put up the cash gets to be Mark Somers.
Would you like to share anything else about yourself or your music with our readers?
If you’ve read this far I cannot thank you enough! All Access- thank you for your thoughtful questions and time. Can’t wait to talk with you again.