The multi-national Thieves Like Us have just released their fourth album Bleed Bleed Bleed, further distilling their striking mix of disco, Italo house, art-rock and Krautrock into bitesize chunks of glamorous pop. This distinct sound that they’ve come to master – and which first alerted influential French label Kitsuné to their existence – confirms that they are, at heart, a pop band. The core members of Swedes Pontus Berghe and Bjorn Berglund, and American Andy Grier, have been joined on this record by another couple of Americans (Martine Duverglas and Anna De Marco) and German Dani Imhoff, additions which have expanded the number of members yet helped to streamline their music into sleek and glistening pop. We catch up with the band for a quick chat, and find out how the new members are settling in as the record is about to hit the shelves.
I begin by asking about the name, Thieves Like Us. Is it after Robert Altman’s 1974 film, or is it perhaps more obviously the New Order track, given the dance leanings of the band? “It’s just a name,” they reveal. “It represents our style in a good way; we steal a lot from others to create something new.” I regret asking, but I suspect a bit of both given the visual aspect of the band, more of which later.
Thieves Like Us are made up of a variety of nationalities, and recently picked up a few new members. Now, with such variety in the band, and living all over the world, is there a place that Thieves Like Us call home right now? “We are living in Berlin and Paris at the moment. We go a lot between the cities to rehearse and hang out, it’s a good mix as the two cities are complete opposites, Paris being filthy rich and beautiful, Berlin being cheap and down to earth.” So are the new additions to the line-up settling in okay? Thieves Like Us’s answer is straightforward and simple: “Women! It creates a new atmosphere in the band; it expands our world and opens up more directions for us as a band. It’s a new beginning in a way… Our musical backgrounds are very different since we all grew up in different parts of the planet. Thieves Like Us were never a homogeneous band at any time though, our family is forever expanding.”
I move on to the new album Bleed Bleed Bleed, and ask if the themes of the record are equally as dark and graphic as the title, given that the band have suggested in other interviews that war and politics have been prime influences. They don’t, however, give much away: “It’s moody… so are we.” Okay then. I try a different tack, asking about the album’s disco/electro/pop style. They’re not overtly singing about love and breakups as we might expect, so do Thieves Like Us think it’s easy to sing about politics and world events in these genres of music compared to straight-ahead guitar music? “Anything is possible in today’s music,” is the reply. “Everything is mixed up, there are no rules anymore. Hip Hop is full of politics yet you can easily bob your head to it!”
That’s a fair point, as you can argue that the nascent disco scene was formed as a response to political and social/economic circumstances. Do Thieves Like Us have any influences? I can hear Studio 54 disco, 80s house and pop music, the early Air records…”We listen to A LOT of different music,” they admit. “If you listen closely you can hear many different styles in there. We record with the equipment we have around at the time and for this album we had this 70s string synthesizer from Italy that ended up on a lot of songs. We never try to sound like a specific time period when we make music, we always try to mix up sounds and styles as much as we possibly can. I think nobody cares about genres anymore; everybody is listening to everything all at once.”
There does seem to be an important visual aspect to Thieves Like Us, from the artwork for their albums to the videos for their singles. I ask about the videos first, in particular as they all seem to be clips from European cinema from the 1970s and 1980s, a bit of Fassbinder here, some Eckhart Schmidt there, are these images that suit their music? “We plan to stop doing these cut up videos,” say the band, “since our fans are taking over and making them for us! It’s an interesting phenomenon, thank you YouTube.” And do they have a favourite filmmaker? “When we can’t sleep at night we watch movies from Fassbinder.” And what of the album and single artwork, who is responsible for that? “All the covers and photos are done by us; it’s our friends that show up in the photos. There are always details in there that tell a story or a reference to something we like. If you take a good look you can make up your own story.”
I end by asking about plans for touring; will Thieves Like Us be taking Bleed Bleed Bleed out on the road, and how easy is it to recreate the sounds of the record in the live arena? “Yes, we will be touring the new album in the summer/autumn this year and we hope to finally make a proper tour in the US.” So are they excited about this? “Our new line-up is going to be amazing! We try to write our songs with live performance in mind because we used to create songs that were impossible to play so we learned our lesson. It’ all about the live experience we realised.”
Whilst they might not be the most expressive band in an interview, by the sounds of things you really need to get out and see Thieves Like Us at a venue near you. Bleed Bleed Bleed is a very good record, and the band’s excitement about playing the songs live should help those songs make the transition from record to the stage.
Bleed Bleed Bleed is available now through Captured Tracks.