When Thieves Are About are a punk-rock band from Lyndhurst, NJ. The band's music showcases an old-school punk feel while still keeping their tracks modern.
We got the chance to chat with Ryan Struck (vocals/bass,) and Alfredo Diaz (vocals/guitar,) about the inspiration behind their sound, tour experiences and more!
Your newest record We’re Literally Almost There, showcases fast paced tracks and dramatic transitions within the same tracks. What inspires your sound?
We really just want to keep things interesting while showcasing some of the influences we’ve cumulatively accrued through the years. I feel like we really try to write the kind of music that we would listen to ourselves, while somewhat setting ourselves apart from other bands; I hope we’ve achieved that to any extent! Matt Dumont from Punknews.org, gave us an overly-flattering review and kind of summed it up very nicely: "an album full of musical curve balls to keep a longtime punk rock listener interested. While the band could easily say they sound like “Nofx mixed with Strung Out and Boys Night Out”, it’s much easier for a listener to draw their own conclusion." That was really where we were coming from with this record.
There’s a strong screamo presences throughout the record, for example in “Singe” and “Brave The Apogee,” and even in previous EP’s, what is the importance to you in keeping that consistent throughout your musical growth?
Again, you know, that was a big part in finding ourselves musically. I can say for myself that I am as big a Thursday or Blood Brothers fan as I am a Daggermouth or Leftover Crack fan, and that kind of stuff just naturally finds its way into the music. Alfredo and I used to jam to Burn Piano Island Burn and lots of early Thrice and Thursday when we were younger. Both of us being the lead singers, we kind of refer to that to get some of that sound. We have always been a fan of bands that scream over melodic, catchy, and thoughtful music.
In “Youth Decay” there’s a sense of relatability in the lyrics, what influences you when writing the words to match the music?
Thanks for saying so, I’m so glad you were able to connect to it! Typically, once the bones of the music is written, we will hang out listening to a demo of it and just start trying to hum out phrasing and melodies using nonsense words or placeholders. During that process, those words that just come off the top of our heads may reveal something we’ve had in the back of our minds that we may want to confront, and we will kind of just start pulling out ideas and discussing topics. Other times, someone will show up to a practice and say, “I really need to get this off my chest,” and we will start hashing out topics. Just a couple examples: “Is Wayne Brady….” Is a silly title, but it’s actually a response to the passing of a friend. “Singe” deals with the negativity and self-doubt I felt growing up knowing my father had abandoned me and my mom. “Razor Wire Maze” is about having to push through some trauma to get to where you need to be, despite how disfigured you may be when you come out the other side. These are all things that can be traced to events that were affecting us during the time of the writing; it was like therapy for us.
Besides signing to Manic Kat Records, what was the biggest difference in recording your EPs to the full-length record.
The EPs were actually all engineered and mixed by our drummer Josh in his basement. He went to RIA for engineering and kind of rolled up his sleeves and said, “I got this.” We learned from Challenger that it is a poor idea to not get your records mastered, so we went with Bill Henderson from Thursday to master Senescence. It’s stressful enough trying to get good takes, and it gets rough when we are so emotionally invested in the mix, knowing we are controlling every aspect of the sound and trying to make the best of our meager setup and figting over what the mix was going to end up like. Not that Manic Kat didn’t give us free range on our mix, it was just a relief for me knowing that once we were done tracking, I was off the hook for most things mixing-related and left it to James Gorrel and Chris Kinnick from Manic Kat to edit. It was also, like, such a crazy thing to have John Naclerio from Nada mixing and mastering the new record because that guy has done so many of my favorite records growing up (I Brought You My Bullets You Brought Me Your Love, Your Favorite Weapon, Shady View Terrace/Lawrence Arms Split, Bitter Verses). It was also cool, just generally speaking, to have a team of people behind our music popping into the studio to see how we were doing and sneak a peek at some of the tracks we were laying down, and give us input on some of our performances. It’s hard when we are recording ourselves with no outside perspective, so I was stoked on all that!
Your sound has clearly matured throughout the years, what is one change you would like listeners to take note of?
Thanks so much for saying so-haha! Our sound may have matured, but we make more dick and fart jokes than ever. I couldn’t really say one thing about that, to be honest. I mean, I have personally noticed more intricate parts, both melodically and technically, finding their ways into songs. We are really big on harmonies and we really work hard to make each song as good or better than the one we wrote before it. I would just like people to personally connect with the record the way my favorite records connected with me growing up and into today.
Your sound reflects the likes of NOFX and Blink-182, is there any other artists you pull influences from that fans wouldn’t guess at first listen?
The list from our bandcamp goes: NOFX, Boys Night Out, Lifetime, A Wilhelm Scream, Comeback Kid, Saves the Day, Set Your Goals, Daggermouth, Title Fight, Leftover Crack, Blink-182, Green Day, Lagwagon, New Found Glory, Minor Threat, Glassjaw, Thursday, Thrice, Such Gold, Bad Religion, Dead Kennedys, Weezer, The Beatles, The Beach Boys.
You recently got to play three dates of the final cross-country Vans Warped Tour, as an up and coming band, what was it like to experience that for the first and last time?
We are just honored about how many people were interested in us, and all the long-time fans who came out, many of which were excited to meet us at the Manic Kat Records tent and pick up our new album, grab an autograph, and tell us how much we meant to them. In all honesty, that meant more to us than anything else because this band (or any band for that matter) is really nothing without the support of the people who make them, and that’s the fans. We are only in this position because our supporters believe in our music. Also, this run wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for Peter James and the Manic Kat Records team believing in us. They busted ass and were vending the whole tour as well. It was a great experience.
How has appearing on Warped Tour boosted your fan base?
It has helped out a lot because I think supporters take you more seriously when they see your band is featured at such a big event. We thank you Peter James, Manic Kat Records and most important Kevin Lyman and the Warped Tour Team.
Following Warped, you also played Punk Fest, how was the atmosphere there, compared to other shows you’ve played?
It was a great time! The Stanhope House and their team has always been great to us. The shows are always a good time and there is usually a good crowd there. The day of the punk fest, we came in to the parking area with our mini school bus and wound up having to look for parking for like 10 minutes. We look at each other...there are, literally, no spots available. We're all bitching, “What the hell, man?! This SUCKS. There isn’t one parking spot in this huge parking lot! REALLY?! Like come on!” Then I paused and said “.... wait.... that’s a good thing... what am I talking about?!” It was a good time, made new fans, and the crew is always great. We had a blast.
What has been your favorite on tour experience?
Hmm….this one is tough. So, I’d say for a music-related experience, probably kicking off tour playing in Trenton with Such Gold. They are so incredibly nice, so incredibly talented, and it’s always so great to hang out and play with them; also, they really set the bar for how a band should be performing, so that was all-around a really nice and inspirational send-off for us. I'm also a nerd and fanboy of theirs, and I have to actually focus on not being a fucking weirdo when we are playing, and I feel like I just need to play better. That night, we met this street-rapper guy named Vampire. How apropos, because he scared the shit out of me. For my own personal tour experience…we got kicked out of a Wal-Mart parking lot that we were camping in very early in the morning, so we had nowhere to sleep. Despite being incredibly groggy and somewhat-hungover, I brushed my teeth, got the largest coffee I could find, and started trekking to St. Augustine, FL. Everyone but Mike was asleep; he had this caffeine powder-stuff that we were lacing our Gatorades with, and we just played some 80s music and some Chon and crushed farm-lined county roads at 85 MPH as the sun was coming up. We also went to the beach, where we shamelessly danced to 90s dance hits. We had *the best* BBQ in Nashville. I slept on a desk in Richmond. We got cheese steaks in Philly. Sorry, I know that was more than one experience.
Be sure to check out the band's newest record, We're Literally Almost There, and tell us what you think of it!