Company of Thieves
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Company of Thieves

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This April, you could find the members of Chicago's Company of Thieves asleep all over the seats in New York's Madison Square Garden, up until about 10 minutes before they performed during halftime at a sporting event. "It was hilarious. It's very surreal being up on a Jumbotron. You should try it," quips frontwoman Genevieve Schatz, who co-writes Company of Thieves' songs with guitarist Marc Walloch.

The Garden opportunity came on the heels of the band's win at the 2007 New York Songwriters Circle songwriter competition, where Company of Thieves took home the crown for the track "Oscar Wilde." On the strength of that song, plus several others from the band's May 2007 debut, "Ordinary Riches," the group may want to prepare for a long stay in the spotlight—or Jumbotron, as it were.

Engineered by Sean O'Keefe (Fall Out Boy, the Hush Sound), the set places Schatz's sexy and idiosyncratic alto front and center. The guitar lines are simple, though they can meander from sparse indie rock to out-and-out blues riffs. Tracks have made their way onto Chicago's triple A WXRT and alternative WKQX, plus some college radio spins and the Fearless Radio podcast.

Schatz and Walloch met through a mutual friend on a train ride originating at Union Station. By the end of their journey, they had decided two things: Mondays suck, and they should try to write together. Every Monday they'd convene and hash out tracks together, eventually adding drummer Mike Ortiz, who had coincidentally quit his former band the day before meeting Schatz.

Since, the group has supported acts as diverse as Jack's Mannequin, Sara Bareilles, Teddy Geiger and Bloodshot artist Ha Ha Tonka. "We are very adaptive and really like variety. Playing as openers, we get to spread our wings as a versatile band, from being really intimate to being a funky and soulful rock show," Schatz says. The group will open for Polyphonic Spree at Summerfest June 29 in Milwaukee and is already in the midst of a national tour, booked with help from Matt Mentele at Events Resources Presents. It hit South by Southwest this year for the first time.

"Being a woman, I have been given a lot of respect, for making rock music and songs. I'm not up onstage in some skanky-ass outfit, and I make it a point for people to hear my lyrics," Schatz says. "When I was in a punk band, girls would never talk to me after the show. But now, when everybody sees a strong woman dancing and singing onstage, I'm glad that they think this is awesome." - Billboard


For Chicago’s Company of Thieves, forming a band, writing songs, going on tour and gaining national recognition has occurred in a reverse order of the usual model. “The thing with this band is that we did everything backwards,” says Genevieve Schatz, the band’s energetic, engaging singer.
Having formed barely a year ago, the band had written several songs and recorded a full-length album, Ordinary Riches, on their own before even thinking of going on tour, Schatz says. Originating as a singer/songwriter act between herself and guitarist Marc Walloch, the group’s sound began to grow. Their soft rock, heavily influenced by the Beatles and Wilco, gained the pair regular gigs at coffee shops like Uncommon Ground. Positive responses from their peers led the duo to look for other musicians to round out the band, and after a recent lineup change, bassist Brad Sawicki, drummer Jim Ratke, and keyboardist Scott Heatherly signed on.
On Ordinary Riches, Company of Theives create melodic, groovin’ tunes that offer an ounce of pop to keep the mood light and interesting. Schatz’s vocals are explosive, dominating the aural palette. Her rich, full and soulful voice evokes Bjork – with fewer shrieks but equally distinctive. Schatz’s commanding voice and her high energy during live shows have given her a reputation as a great frontwoman, something she says is “really genuine.”
For Schatz, the days in the fall of 2006 – when it was just her and Walloch playing open mic nights at local coffee shops – are still vividly engrained in her memory. But things are changing for the band, as they have begun gaining national recognition and performed at the Yahoo/Billboard Live show in New York in late September. The gig, which showcased emerging artists, was by invite-only, and Company of Thieves shared the bill alongside more well-known musicians like Cary Brothers and Chingy.
For Schatz, the band’s popularity was never anticipated – most shows in the Chicago area are packed or sold out – and the 20-year-old singer declares that everything has been moving quickly for her. Nonetheless, Schatz takes it all in stride, asserting that while things are falling into place for the band, they continue to move along as they had been before the sudden attention. “Everything with us is one day, one step at a time.”
- Marcy Miranda - UR Chicago


Chicago band Company of Thieves was impressive in an old-fashioned sort of way: They played clean, perfectly balanced songs with compelling writing and a great lead vocalist. Writing and recording well-crafted songs is one thing, but conveying that studio magic in a tangible and visceral way is another, and precisely the task at hand for the CMJ-bound. But Company of Thieves played with apt dynamics, shaping each song into moments of low contemplation and high exhilaration. Singer Genevieve Schatz was controlling and gentle in her vocals, exuding a comfortable maturity. Guitarist Marc Walloch, who twinkled delicate lines during verses but could also detonate an electrifying solo at any given point, deftly complimented this, sliding the songs back into equilibrium with each transitioning line. Keyboards also provided an even counterweight when things got more complex. Dancing around like an elated flower child during their last number, Schatz looked to be channeling her inner Janis Joplin, bandana on and tambourine in hand. She also showed strong conviction in her singing and coy stage presence, leading the crowd in some key “na na na’s” during a final chorus. That the crowd eagerly picked up the a cappella moment was justification of the band’s stellar set. - Pop Matters


New York --- Four subsidiaries of Wind-up Entertainment and the Chicago-based Company of Thieves have entered into agreements for this broad-based relationship. The band's future recordings will be released by Wind-up Records. Additionally, the sale of all Company of Thieves merchandise at on-line, retail, and touring points of sale will be handled by Wind-up Entertainment's Pronto Merch. The band's publishing will be administered by the company's Sakyamuni Music Publishing, LLC. Company of Thieves has also entered in to an agreement with Wind-up Artist Development Corporation, regarding touring and appearances.



Genevieve Schatz (vocals), Marc Walloch (guitars), and Mike Ortiz (drums) are Company of Thieves. Their debut album ORDINARY RICHES was released independently in May 2007, receiving across the board raves. Yahoo! exclaimed, "Hands down, one of the best debut albums of 2007," while Billboard offered, "One of the best unsigned acts out there," prior to the deal with Wind-up. The band's "Oscar Wilde" took first place in the New York Songwriter's Circle contest last year. Company of Thieves cites Motown, soul, 1960's and 1970's rock n' roll, Wilco, Neil Young, Fiona Apple and The Beatles, among their influences.



Wind-up Entertainment President Ed Vetri shared, "Company of Thieves is an artist that brings to Wind-up unbridled passion, superior commitment, powerful songwriting, and a dynamic live show. Genevieve is a star, and exudes a confidence in performing that we all are going to get to enjoy for a long time. The band's unique sound, which has already attracted a significant fan base in their hometown of Chicago, is one we look forward to bringing to the rest of the world. Wind-up is proud to have Company of Thieves as part of the family, and we look forward to launching their career under our all encompassing developing artist structure."



Company of Thieves Genevieve Schatz offered, "Unlike their competition, Wind-Up is home to a diverse family-like team of true music fans who pave their own path within the industry. We have a mutual appreciation that allows us to keep our artistic integrity intact, which is paramount and hard to find within this day and age of the industry." Marc Walloch added, "Although Wind-up's roster in the late '90s mainly consisted of alternative radio-rock bands, they have already begun to branch out and sign more eclectic artists like Pilot Speed, Jeremy Fisher, and Civil Twilight. We are proud to be a part of this new direction for the label. It also makes us feel at home knowing that we are the only band in our genre on the label, requiring a special attention that every band should desire."



Company of Thieves continues to tour across the Midwest, where the band has built a significant following. They plan to return to New York for CMJ's Music Marathon October 20-24 after several stops in Illinois, Milwaukee, Detroit and Cleveland. The imminent re-release of ORDINARY RICHES is planned for late 2008 digitally, with a physical release and national promotional support to follow in early 2009. - (Official Press Release from Wind-up)


Company of Thieves
Band most likely to … play Lollapalooza’s local stage
You’re a fan if you like ... Fiona Apple, The Hush Sound, Wilco
See them: 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, with Down the Line; tickets: $15

If you hear no other Chicago-bred artist this year, take a chance on Company of Thieves, the art-pop quintet that began its journey two years ago after a chance meeting between singer Genevieve Schatz and guitarist Marc Walloch on the Metra. Months after Billboard’s music gurus singled them out in New York as one of rock’s best unsigned bands, not even a stolen trailer could deter this innately friendly group from headlining Metro and scoring a spot on the Red Gorilla Fest this month in Austin, Texas. On top of a sound that smartly melds heart-tugging Americana with triumphantly key-pounding pop, Company of Thieves are probably some of the most appreciative rockers in the local biz. Let’s just say that if “Give a Fan a Hug Day” existed, this band would surely sponsor it.

So when Company of Thieves spread out across Beep’s corporate offices recently, it was no surprise that they downplayed exciting show news (they’re sharing the stage with Ben Kweller at The Great Lakes Room in Marquette, Mich., later this month) to focus on the people who bought their CDs when they needed the money to buy a new trailer and save their tour.

“We just really want to thank the fans,” Schatz said on behalf of the group. “Thanks for coming to our shows. It really means a lot to us.” - Beep


In the space of two years, Company of Thieves blossomed from the dreams of Marc Walloch and Genevieve Schatz into "the most talked about band in the industry." The outfit's track to success began, appropriately, at Union Station.

Guitarist Walloch remembers meeting singer Schatz through a mutual friend there.

"We were on the same train and just talked for the whole train ride and hit it off," Walloch said. "We started having nightly music jam sessions every Monday night at my apartment. We'd watch movies, play guitar and sing songs for fun. Then the songs just sort of started getting good."

Scott Heatherly (keyboards), Jim Ratke (drums) and Brad Sawicki (bass) round out the lineup of Company of Thieves, finalizing the band personnel a week before heading to New York for Billboard and Yahoo's "Next Big Thing" showcase.

As the band nervously waited their turn on stage, a Yahoo promoter stepped to the mic and introduced Company of Thieves, saying, as Walloch remembered, "Up next is the band you've been waiting for, the most talked about band in the industry."

"We were just like, 'What? How is that even possible?' We freaked out," Walloch recalls. "But it turned out awesome. … [The audience] got up and gave us a standing ovation and asked for an encore."

That show plus a series of successful open-mic night performances in Chicago have built a solid fan base for Company of Thieves--a foundation they want to spread throughout the country in 2008.

"We did a great job, I think, of building up a following in Chicago and getting the fan base going. …We just really want to do that in every other city now," Walloch said.

The band's success in such a short a time has its price, however.

"Its overwhelming in both positive and negative ways," Walloch said. "Sometimes I ask myself why I'm still doing this. I have no money; I'm really stressed out and freaking out."
- Red Eye Chicago


Anticipation is in the air as Chicago’s Company of Thieves takes the stage at New York City’s prestigious listening room, The Bitter End. The young band is the last of five talented acts to perform at the finals of the New York Songwriters Circle 2007 Songwriting Contest. Though the room is full to capacity, an immediate silence settles in as singer Genevieve Schatz walks gracefully toward the microphone. After a brief introduction and a heartfelt thank-you to the Circle for inviting them to participate, Company of Thieves launches into a semi-acoustic version of the band’s single, “Oscar Wilde”. Schatz’s explosive and soulful vocals fill the room, reminiscent of Bjork at times but with a softer, sexier edge. The song comes to an end three minutes later, the crowd still fully engaged, and Company of Thieves has won the Songwriting Circle’s highest honor.

Not bad for such a young band. Twenty-year-old Schatz and Company of Thieves’ guitarist, Marc Walloch, met by chance one afternoon less than two years ago at Chicago’s clamorous Union Station. The pair quickly hit it off over their mutual love of the Beatles, and an instant friendship ensued. At that moment, without the pair realizing it, Company of Thieves was born.

Schatz and Walloch soon found themselves holed up in their apartments together, creating, writing, rehearsing and ultimately, recording. In fact, Company of Thieves is a band that likes to do things a bit backwards, writing and recording their debut album before all of the members of what is now a five-piece band were even in place and well before the pair ever considered going on tour. When they finally began playing regular live shows, the twosome started out making the rounds of weekly open mic nights and coffeehouses, most notably the reputable Uncommon Ground, a venue Jeff Buckley frequented in the early stages of his career. It wasn’t long before the duo’s unpretentious introduction to Chicago’s local scene turned into a fan base that grew larger and more loyal with every performance.

They released their debut album, Ordinary Riches, in the spring of 2007 and soon moved on to larger venues, playing to packed houses at Chicago’s venerable Metro and selling out shows at indie rock haven Schubas. The momentum continued to build with a string of recent high profile showcases, including a spot at the Yahoo! Billboard Live showcase in New York where Yahoo! touted their album Ordinary Riches as “hands down, one of the best debut albums of 2007.”

Company of Thieves have come a long way since that fateful meeting on the train platform. Amidst the favorable reviews and already having shared the stage with prominent acts such as Sara Bareilles, Teddy Geiger, Cary Brothers, and Jon McLaughlin, this authentically modest band remains grounded despite their success. Recent setbacks, including a stolen trailer that caused the cancellation of a recent East Coast tour, remind the Thieves that navigating the waters of an increasingly perilous industry will not be an easy feat. Rachel Komar, from the group's management team at Sceond Wave Music, sees a bright future for the young band. "In a society that is becoming obsessed with the word 'organic,' Company of Thieves is on the right track. Their raw talent and determination is inspiring, and I can't wait for the rest of the world to fall in love with them in the same way that I have." With a busy tour schedule ahead, including the South by Southwest festival in Austin this spring, the rest of the world is not far behind. - Alison Toczylowski - Playback: Spring 2008


Genevieve Schatz is kind of a big deal, according to Q101's Payne, who lauded her "great singing voice." Still, Schatz, 21, said she and the other members of the unsigned band Company of Thieves are struggling to make ends meet. "We're definitely below the poverty level," Schatz, who lives in Ukrainian Village, said of herself and band members Marc Walloch and Mike Ortiz, both 22.

"I just recently stopped baby-sitting because I don't have time for it anymore. We've all learned to make money stretch. We travel with air mattresses so we can stay with people we meet in other cities."

Money troubles aside, Company of Thieves, which formed in 2006, just ended a Midwest tour aimed at growing its fan base. It's her dream, but it's hard work, Schatz said.

"You have to think about this before you do it," Schatz said. "Ask yourself, 'Are you willing to sacrifice some relationships with friends? Would you live in a van for 25 out of 30 days a month?'"

The answer is yes for her, Schatz said, adding that the band is making headway. Last year, Company of Thieves flew to New York to play an invite-only Yahoo! Billboard "next big thing" showcase. The band also builds buzz on its MySpace page. Company of Thieves has had "brushes with label deals," Schatz said, but that isn't necessarily the priority at this point.

"The great thing is we're having time to build our foundation, so when we take that next step [the label] won't be able to mold our house," Schatz said. "They will just build on top of it." - Red Eye


Discography

"Ordinary Riches" (May 29th, 2007 - Self-released)

Photos

Bio

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 they’re willing to invest in – personally, emotionally, and financially. But at the same time, there’s a new, gutsy energy coming out right now, almost a generational thing. Today’s youth, and to some extent their parents, are really wanting a change, and there’s a feeling that we’re 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.

“It’s 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.”

“We’re 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.

“It’s like when you read a really good novel,” she continues, “and you end up thinking like that character, or in that writer’s style.”

While the influences are at times detectable – a little Fiona Apple angst here, a bit of John Lennon’s social activism there – the band is far from being mere mockingbirds.

“That’s where the band’s name comes from,” Walloch says. “We’ve taken what we know and put our own twist on it. It’s a kind of ‘thievery,’ but it’s 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 everyone’s 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 it’s convenient. People like that embrace you but don’t realize there’s 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. “It’s 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 you’ll 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 there’s 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 we’re 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, we’re exploring real-life experiences and how people navigate relationships. Traveling around the Midwest allowed us to see America for what it is and isn’t, and helped us get in touch with ourselves.”

As such, Company of Thieves songs are often more outward- than inner-looking. “They’re 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.”

That’s not to say th