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The Austin Musician’s Struggle: “A story about being from Austin for us is about trying to leave Austin.”

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You can find a gig in Austin seven days a week. This most attractive quality of the Austin music scene is also its most detrimental. It’s hard to stand on Red River and see past 6th St and over the hill country. For many artists that’s attractive enough, especially when it takes at least five hours to drive out of Texas in any direction.

It’s a trip watching your band fall into their nook of the Austin music scene. It’s just as cool seeing where your contemporaries land. We’ve had the privilege to play with a lot of great local acts, and it’s humbling to call the same city home. And that may be the best part about Austin music; an incredible band in any genre can be tracked down and seen live soon enough down the street at some bar or venue. That’s pretty intimidating when you think about starting a band. How can one not only compete but also stand out? Maybe more importantly, why have any motive to try and prove anything at all?

Our scene is no longer bands of similar genres, but bands that work as hard as we do; musicians as talented as they are functionally jaded (an equally important characteristic for a serious musician). Peers who go to sleep on the wrong side of the bed and wake up for whatever job allows you to earn money to fund your latest musical project. After the shitty demos and first attempt at a release, if you decide to keep going, you play for respect. Respect from yourself and respect from others. And the two are viciously exclusive.

Then there’s the stigma, Live Music Capital Of The World. Equal parts blessing and curse. Equal parts fire and production haze with a lack of emphasis on the word live.

But the hardest part of being a band from Austin is making it worth a damn. It’s wounded balance found in fear of music becoming an excuse for putting life on hold and not the reason. And the uncertainty that playing music has already become a crutch or a drug you shiver without.

We’ve played three shows in eight days on a tour supporting the biggest album release of our eight-year career. When we started the band, Billy worked at a candy store in the mall and was finishing school. As soon as he graduated, Skiles and I started college. We could only tour during the summer and winter breaks and school was more of an annoyance than an obligation. Andy worked all the time but was always broke. We were playing parties every other weekend and supporting slots for touring packages on the weekends between. And in nine days, Billy comes home to an uncertain job future. Exactly ten months from today he’s getting married. He is one of my best friends and I don’t know how he sees any of this as worth it. Skiles broke his foot during a show we played to 20 people in some shit town in the middle of nowhere and is facing surgery because he refuses to lie in bed and not work his production gigs or cancel the shows we already have booked. I’ve always felt cursed, falling prodigally in the middle of this band. And in the past week upon returning home with a busted transmission and maybe 15 physical record sales to put towards it, I’ve ignored the reality that Thieves will probably be put on the back burner. We’ll finish writing the next record and eventually record it. We’ll pick and choose our local gigs, field offers of decent supporting slots for bigger shows, but we’ll be here in Austin pledging allegiance to a fire that will eventually burn out. I’ll be damned if it didn’t keep us warm.

A wiser part of me even feels guilty, but we got in the van every time. Tour is when every day is a weekend but feels like a Monday. Our show tomorrow in New Orleans would be the equivalent to a coworker bringing in doughnuts—It’s still fucking Monday. We are a product of our city. Just junkies hooked on giggin’, man. The most potent dose is found on a stage anywhere but Austin. It’s the worst feeling having something you pour so much heart and energy, time and money, emotion and grit into fall short of reasonably sustaining itself. It’s gut wrenching. It makes you want to push everyone away, marry your misery and argue with yourself about whether or not you made a dent. But the 30 minutes playing live in front of people is the purest of the drugs. And while you may have done the best you could, success is seldom determined by one’s own benchmarks. More often than not, it ruins everything and everyone for you because they’re not doin’ it like us, the way it SHOULD be done. You’re not hitting it right. Have we taught you nothing!?

I don’t think we know how to do anything else. Or maybe we’re not as good at anything else as we are at jumping around on stage together. About a year into Thieves’ career, my friend Troy wrote a show review for a blog contending that no band has more fun on stage than Thieves. We’ve held our live show above all else since day one. Shit… I started playing bass because I wanted to go nuts on stage like The Jonbenet. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen at the time. Billy moved to Austin after high school to (go to school and) join a band so he could play with Recover. Skiles’ dad supported their family on a drummer’s income until he was almost 50-years-old; so his picking up guitar wasn’t exactly a hobby—it was inevitable. We can’t function without the toxicity of being in a no-name indie band.

Born out of Austin TX, Thieves is an aggressive pop punk band made up of four members whos love for energetic music and convictions for a hard work ethic brought them together. Using powerful riffs and atmospheric guitar leads, the Texan natives deliver a uniquely refreshing twist to the pop punk scene. They parallel this with reflective lyrics in hopes that their experiences and stories will encourage listeners to strive for better –an ideology thoroughly embraced by the band’s members. The band released their latest LP, ‘No Motive’ in Nov 2016. 

 

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Angela Mastrogiacomo

Founder of Infectious Magazine & Muddy Paw Public Relations. Lover of passion, ice cream, and books.

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