Future Thieves, Crouse

Future Thieves

Midway through recording their exhilarating new self-titled album, Nashville indie rockers Future Thieves left the studio and hit the road. It was difficult to walk away from the undeniable stride they’d hit, but the band had nearly two months of shows in Europe followed by a lengthy string of US dates on their calendar, and that meant completing the record would simply have to wait. Far from derailing the group’s progress, though, the road actually brought fresh perspective, with each performance revealing new depths and dimension to the music. The material had the unique opportunity to live and breathe and grow onstage every night, undergoing sometimes radical evolutions in instrumentation and arrangement as the tour progressed. By the time Future Thieves returned to the studio, the songs were battle-tested and sturdier than ever, and the resulting album is a remarkable showcase of growth and maturity from a band poised for a major breakout.
“Taking the new songs on the road gave us a much better feel for how to finish them when we got home,” reflects singer/guitarist Elliot Collett. “We didn’t exactly do it that way on purpose, but it turned out to be the best way to develop the music because we could see what translated with audiences, what felt essential, and where the songs really wanted to go.”
The lengthy process behind the Future Thieves’ new release is a far cry from their most recent record, a live-in-the-studio album captured entirely in an hour. Comprised largely of material from the band’s critically acclaimed 2015 debut, ‘Horizon Line,’ ‘Live at Blue Rock’ garnered praise everywhere from Conan O’Brien’s ​Team Coco to Guitar World​, which hailed it as a “collection of turbo-charged Americana tunes.” Relix similarly raved that the album “captures the quartet’s spirit and intensity,” while ​The Tennessean simply lauded the band as “incredible.” They followed it up in 2017 with “Sucker,” an infectious single that earned love from ​Billboard, ​who highlighted the band’s newfound “infusion of...electro-pop grooves,” and Jimmy Fallon, who premiered the official video on ​The Tonight Show​’s Tumblr. The group’s searing live show, meanwhile, helped them notch festival appearances from Bonnaroo to Summerfest and prompted Live Nation to name them to their Ones To Watch series.
When it came time to write their sophomore album, Future Thieves continued down the road they’d begun exploring with “Sucker,” further pushing their songwriting into bold and adventurous new directions. Ethereal synthesizers, vintage drum machines, and shimmering guitars introduced threads of pop and electronic music into the band’s organic sensibilities, generating dreamy soundscapes and hypnotic grooves as the foursome crafted their most expansive and collaborative work yet.
“’Horizon Line’ represented the first songs we ever wrote together, and it all happened very spontaneously,” explains guitarist Austin McCool. “This time around, we wanted to take a more methodical and premeditated approach. We wanted to explore different sounds and experiment with different palettes, and I think our writing sessions were a lot more focused because of that.”
For those writing sessions, the band (Collett, McCool, bassist Nick Goss, and drummer Gianni Gibson) left Nashville and relocated to a small lakeside cabin in central Tennessee. Over the course of two separate weeklong trips, they generated a slew of new ideas, writing and refining and demoing day and night. Producer Alex Jarvis joined the group on these retreats, offering early input and helping shape the raw material as it flowed out of them.
“Everything started in a single room in that cabin,” says Collett. “We had all our gear set up in there, and we’d just get up every morning and start throwing out riffs and melodies and moods to try and get inspired. It was super collaborative.”
The band’s next destination was Texas, where, after a stop at SXSW, they set up camp for two weeks at El Paso’s famed Sonic Ranch, a massive recording complex that’s hosted everyone from Portugal. The Man and Beach House to TV On The Radio and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. There, the group followed their muse and laid down the album’s infrastructure, letting the songs dictate an ever-changing approach to recording.
“Every day was completely different down there,” says McCool. “Sometimes we’d start with bass and drums, other times with synths or guitars. Even the weather could change our approach. When it was nice out, there was an abandoned water tower on the property we could record inside.”
From El Paso, the band hit the road for Europe and beyond, eventually returning home to Nashville to finish the album utilizing the newfound insight they’d gained from tour. The finished product is absorbing and arresting, the kind of record that immediately draws you into its own uniquely immersive world. Album opener “Online” sets the stage perfectly, swelling from an eerie synth bed into a soaring Pink Floyd-esque vision of a digital dystopia. Our ambivalent relationship with technology (and the divisions it fosters in our relationships with each other) is a recurring theme on the record, one tackled eloquently on the razor-sharp “Machines,” which finds Collett singing, “Oh the machines they come and go / Just stick to your heart and what you know.”
“There’s a fine line you can cross were you get too caught up in technology, where you’re spending your life stuck inside your phone and missing out on all these amazing things going on around you,” he explains. “But at the same time, we’re recognizing that we’re recording this song with synthesizers and computers and using all these digital tools. It’s a testament to trying to find balance in your life.”
Balance (of light and dark, hope and disappointment, future and past) is the ultimate goal of a number of tracks on the album, from the angular “On The Run,” which wrestles with indecision and regret, to the chiming “Dark Spin,” which swims in a churning sea of memories unleashed by running into an ex. Collett’s lyrics often grapple with growing up and accepting that nothing lasts forever, but there’s an indefatigable optimism to songs like the bright and splashy “Prom Night,” an effervescent tale of two lovers committing to each other despite all the outside forces pushing them apart. The wistful “Same Things” exhorts us to make the most of the time we have with our loved ones, while the pulse-pounding “Drive” sees parenthood

as a chance to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, and the silky “Over” makes the case for passing on what you’ve learned before it’s too late.
“All these songs were written to motivate people, to get them on the same page,” says Collett. “We wanted to remind them that there are always other people out there that feel the same way they do.”
In that sense, this is an album that’s ultimately about connection in an increasingly disconnected world, about the lessons and the moments we can share that no machine can ever replicate. Future Thieves are ready to hit the road again, and while they’ll certainly have their synthesizers and electronics in tow, they’ll be bringing a batch of songs aimed straight for your heart, human to human.

Crouse

Don Fredrick

$12 ADV, $15 DOS

Tickets

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Richmond Music Hall (at Capital Ale House)