Company of Thieves
A soulful, indie rock band from Chicago whose style can't be described by any form of modern approach, rather a "thievery" from a century of music.Share
The members of Company of Thieves are collectively grounded, and well-versed in the challenges The World faces today. This is a scary time for a lot of people, government-wise, art-wise, and especially business-wise, says singer Genevieve Schatz. People seem to be very held back in what theyre willing to invest in personally, emotionally, and financially. But at the same time, theres a new, gutsy energy coming out right now, almost a generational thing. Todays youth, and to some extent their parents, are really wanting a change, and theres a feeling that were at the edge of big change right now. Great art always rises up when change is going on.
These exciting if uncertain times are reflected in the eclectic sound of Ordinary Riches, an album that moves effortlessly from the seemingly jaunty, piano-led In Passing and the catchy pop tones of Pressure to the arena-ready sing-along chorus of New Letters and the Jonny Greenwood-ish guitar figures on Old Letters. They are erudite without being pretentious, hooky without being saccharine, and plainly dedicated to its ideals, Company of Thieves stunning debut album Ordinary Riches reveals a band very much of its time.
Its true what they say about new bands, that you wait your whole life to write your first record, says guitarist Marc Walloch. This is the sound of us piecing together things we wanted to try out, playing different parts to see what happened.
Were influenced by a lot of different artists, Schatz adds. Everything from jazz and Motown to Billie Holiday and the Beatles. Seeing how they expressed themselves helped us to figure out another way to express ourselves in music.
Its like when you read a really good novel, she continues, and you end up thinking like that character, or in that writers style.
While the influences are at times detectable a little Fiona Apple angst here, a bit of John Lennons social activism there the band is far from being mere mockingbirds.
Thats where the bands name comes from, Walloch says. Weve taken what we know and put our own twist on it. Its a kind of thievery, but its all about paying our respects to what we were inspired by.
One of those inspirations is Oscar Wilde, whose name not only serves as a song title but whose essay The Soul of Man under Socialism also gave the album its title: Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.
The Anglo-Irish bard may not be everyones idea of a rock n roll icon (notwithstanding his appearance on the Sgt. Pepper cover), but Schatz explains that his Victorian-era lifestyle speaks loudly to the group.
He was very in-tune with his culture and upper-class society, but at the same time he was making fun of them in his work, she says. And they embraced and loved him for it, but at the same time they so disapproved of his private life that he was shunned. And in the industry, there are a lot of big shots running around who love the idea of having an artist around only when its convenient. People like that embrace you but dont realize theres more to life than all this other, superficial stuff.
Another lesson from Wilde that applies equally to the group is his indefatigable spirit, says drummer Mike Ortiz. Its better to struggle doing what you love than just settling for doing whatever everyone else is doing, he says. We all took risks with this band, and had to make sacrifices in our personal lives, but if you really pursue what you love then youll ultimately reap benefits from it.
That Company of Thieves presents such a united front is no accident: this is very much a band, as opposed to what they laugh off as a chick singer with a backing group.
For at least the past 10 years in mainstream music theres been this overwhelming focus on the front man, which has really gotten out of hand, Walloch says. When we were kids we knew the names of every member. It was the bands who were important then, and were hoping to bring that kind of feeling back.
The band also strives to hearken back to a time when songs subject matter went beyond hitting the dance floor and hooking up. Time and again, Ordinary Riches presents a cinematic vision of a relationship gone sour or a world in turmoil that speaks to deeper truths.
We all go through life processing so many things all the time the weather, the setting, the mood, Schatz says. Lyrically, were exploring real-life experiences and how people navigate relationships. Traveling around the Midwest allowed us to see America for what it is and isnt, and helped us get in touch with ourselves.
As such, Company of Thieves songs are often more outward- than inner-looking. Theyre not necessarily first person; more from the point of view of a camera, she says. This is about us presenting our worldview and how we see things today.
Thats not to say th
"Ordinary Riches" (May 29th, 2007 - Self-released)
Company of Thieves' set list contains energetic originals, with the occasional cover. Their brilliant lyrics and organic presence hypnotizes the crowd, always creating a demand for an encore.