ROLLACOASTER MAGAZINE: EMERGING TALENT: FASHION & MUSIC.

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Celebrating togetherness from their homes overseas, 53 Thieves drop their kaleidoscopic album, Latitudes.

Celebrating togetherness from their homes overseas, 53 Thieves drop their kaleidoscopic album, Latitudes.

The transatlantic quartet sit down with Rollacoaster to discuss the making of their latest project. 

Though for many of us lockdown consisted of stunted creativity, hundreds of binged series and a stable addiction to supermarket runs, it was also the catalyst that brought together 53 Thieves — the transatlantic quartet best described as a transient escape into the multilayered universe of their uniquely cultivated soundscape."Latitudes is an expression of distance, written by the four of us, who live in four separate locations. We want to emphasise how this distance felt from our individual and collective experiences, how it felt through the uncertainty of lockdown, and to showcase what we have learned together,” explain the band. 

Emulating this distance, every track of the 12-piece outfit exudes a sizeable slice of escapism, with futuristic synths and hushed vocals so soothing that they illicit a lucid state with every stream. With intoxicating production, tracks such as “coastal” and “3rd floor” exemplify the labour of love dedicated from each member of the band — coming together to create a whirlpool of different styles existing in total harmony of one another. 

Elaborating further on their artistic choices, they explain, “Every song features the theme of distance to some extent, be it emotional or physical, heartfelt or apathetic, we designed the intensity curve of the album to be connected through this theme, like an unbroken line of latitude connecting each track from into to islands.” 

To celebrate the release of Latitudes, Rollacoaster chatted with Conor, Caleb, Will and Jess to discuss the making of the album, their affinity for the number 53 and what lies in their near future. Head below now to stream the album and to read the full interview…

Hey 53 Thieves! How are you doing? Where am I speaking to you from?

Hey, we’re great thank you! We’re currently in 4 different locations, Austin TX, Bloomington IN, London UK, Derbyshire UK.

Let’s discuss the name… Why 53? Why 53 Thieves?

Caleb came up with 53 Thieves based on his personal affinity with those numbers and the ‘thieves’ part of it just seemed like it worked with our aesthetic and sound. We also didn’t reveal our identity for the first two projects so the ‘thieves’ part of the name made us anonymous. It’s kind of like our approach to music, it’s not always about following traditional theory or imitating what we like from other artists, we just listen to it together and if it works it works and if it doesn’t then we come up with different ideas!

How did the four of you meet? What prompted you to start the band?

Caleb and Will met on Soundcloud and started producing tracks together about a year before 53T formed. They had made the beat for ‘what you do to me’ and were looking for some singers to write/record over it. Caleb had heard ‘Denton Thrift’ (Conor and Jess’s band at the time) through Majestic Casual, so they hit us up and the rest is history!

Have you always been musically inclined? Or was it something that developed over time?

Conor: I remember being told I was musical when I was a kid, but I never really acted on it until I got a guitar at age 14, I became completely obsessed and have played every day for the last 17 years. I’m still not sure how I ended up as a singer, but I’ll definitely be playing a lot of guitar on stage so it’s all good! Haha

Caleb: In all honesty both. I’ve always been surrounded by music. My Mother was a famous disco artist in the 80s so she showed me classic tunes when I was young. She got me bongo lessons when I was 6 and said I was always drumming with chopsticks & random kitchen utensils. But my true musician journey with guitar & piano started in my late 20s.

Will: Both of my parents play musical instruments exceptionally well and introduced me to guitar and piano early on. Learning how to make my own music definitely developed over time though; it’s just something you get better at the more you try.  

Jess: In a similar way to Conor, being a vocalist was something I came to much later in my musical career. I trained as a percussionist having always been drawn to rhythm and groove from a young age which led to me joining the percussion ensemble at my school. From there I discovered how much I love playing alongside other musicians and making music together.

What has been your biggest learning curve so far?

Conor: The biggest curve for me has been learning to co-ordinate everything over such a long distance across three different time zones, that being said, we’re at a place where it really works for us! We have our strategy for making music remotely, but I think the biggest factor in the success of 53T has been the passion put in by all of four of us.

Caleb:The biggest curve has been the collaboration process. Balancing the workload with Will, Jess, and Conor can be tough. We are rarely in the same room. So getting ideas across is difficult at times. I also haven’t played instruments for nearly as long as my bandmates so I’ve felt like I’m always playing catch up!

Let's talk Latitudes… congratulations on the release! Did the project end up how you initially planned it to? What were your intentions going into writing it?

Will: Thank you! We knew when beginning writing most of the songs that we were trying to put together a full length project. Because of this I think we gravitated towards finishing songs we knew would fit into an album well. Still, until the tracklist took shape I’m not sure if any of us knew how it would flow. But we were very pleased with the result.

Caleb: Yes this album turned out perfect. The slight direction change in our style worked out flawlessly. We made a pivot from straight electronic music to live instruments mixed with edm. Going in I was trusting Will's direction on the production process because tracking live instruments is new to me. But I jumped right in and did a lot of self teaching & youtube tutorials.

Jess:Woo! Thanks! We are so pleased that we’ve released our first album together, especially as we’ve been working from four different parts of the world. The sound has definitely evolved and shaped over time with the shifts in what has been going on around us in the world and taking a slightly different direction, as Caleb said, with more incorporation of live instrumentation. It feels like a very special piece of work for us as a band because during the writing process we all met for the first time in the UK.

Where did the album’s sound come from? How did you come up with it?

Conor:I personally think it’s a sound that has evolved over our career, we all want to keep the music interesting without deviating too much from our core sound. I think a lot of the sound comes from each of our contributions, they fuse together well which is nice! Will adds 70s disco influences and a production sheen that is mind-blowing. Caleb has an incredible ear for pop and makes musical choices that keep our tracks interesting without alienating our audience. Jess adds these beautiful floaty vocals that I think capture a lot of the emotional vibe we aim for, and I keep Jess’s vocals from floating away into the stratosphere by providing a bassy grounding for them haha

Caleb: The sound came from all of us. Jess and Conor are absolutely next-level singers. They write poetry, and the lyrics of our songs are always gripping. This album was also the levelling up of our sound. Adding in live instruments allowed us to start turning songs into live performances. I believe this album is truly all of our hard work combined over the years.

Will: All four of us are pretty keen on music from the ’70s; whether that be classic rock, soul, funk, country, or music from around the world, we all have our niche. When writing this album I think we all made a point to experiment more with these influences and incorporate them into our style of songs.

What’s your writing process like? Do you work in a studio?

Conor: I think we all have different processes that work for us. Typically for the vocal melody and lyrics, Jess and I will sing random melodies until one clicks and then based on what narrative ideas we’ve had, we’ll add lyrics to the melody.

Caleb:Jess and Conor have their own method of writing. So does Will production-wise, I agree with Conor that we all have our style. But combined it works! We are also all open to new ideas & letting someone work out an idea. It’s low-pressure because we have fun with it.

Will: I attempt to write/work on new music every day during the week. A lot of days it’s a couple of hours of no ideas, but sometimes I'll catch a spark and work on a new song for the entire day if I have the time. To me it’s always been about putting in the effort on a regular basis, eventually good ideas fall in your lap. I think all of us recorded at home; the album was made primarily in our homes and at a rental house we all lived in together for a month last year.

Do you have a particular favourite track? And do you attend to agree on which track is best, or do your opinions differ?

Conor:Well I can’t speak for the other Thieves, but my favourite track has changed like five times over the course of writing and listening! The track “Leaves" is important to me on a personal level, but if I’m on a long-distance drive and need to get pumped up, you better believe I’m going to be listening to “LYD" and “Fault Lines”. 

Caleb:I also can’t speak for the rest of the group but “Heights” or “Lost” are my favourites. The vocals sound so good. Jess and Conor on “Lost” give me “What You Do To Me” vibes. It’s got a taste of our old stuff but with a new upgrade.

Jess:I’m a big fan of “Coastal”. I love the space in the track and the general groove. It also reminds me of when we all met for the first time. Getting together in the Airbnb makeshift studio and writing the melody/lyrics for this track was a lot of fun.

What do you hope your fans can take from the album?

Conor:I really hope people will engage with the overall theme of distance and how it’s conquerable through passion and perseverance. I want our fans to feel like we’re talking to them specifically, on an individual level, so that they don’t have to go through whatever they’re experiencing alone.

Caleb: I hope this album helps heal some of our fans. I believe in the healing power of music and how it can distract us from the stresses of life. I hope it inspires producers, singers, and artists to create. No matter the distance you can always create with others & make masterpieces

Finally, what’s next for 53 Thieves? What do you hope to achieve in the next 5 years?

Conor: Primarily I just want to travel and spend time with the Thieves, they’re such great people and I love hanging out with them! If you want a list of what I hope to do though, then here it is: Tour, meet fans, make music, another tour, meet more fans, make more music, repeat. :)

Caleb:I think what’s next is touring & live shows. I really want us to travel the world and spread love. Our music helps people and it can change lives. I also want a Grammy (haha) it’s always been a dream of mine!

Will: Keep making music, hopefully tour relatively soon, meet folks out and about, and repeat the process! Big thanks to everyone who’s been listening so far!

Words and interview by Ella West

Spring/Summer 2020

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