THIEVES ASYLUM (from l-r): Alex Grocock (vocals/guitar), James Perry (bass), Dan Thompson (drums), Joe Tomasso (vocals/guitar)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
Thieves Asylum are an alternative/rock four-piece from Stoke-on-Trent.
In the two years since their formation, the band have already achieved a lot.
With a sound that takes in elements from both rock and indie, they have built up a loyal fan base, released some well-received tracks such as ‘Noc Noc’ and ‘I.K.Y.K.I.K’, and have supported the likes of The Pigeon Detectives and Cast with some strong live sets.
I chatted with them in-depth about their journey so far, and what their future aims are.
How did the band get together initially?
JOE TOMASSO (vocals/guitar): Me and Dan had been jamming together since our old band had split up, then Alex came out of his old band, he came down to one of our practices, and we met James at a music shop he works at in Hanley.
JAMES PERRY (bass): They came in regularly, and we would often talk about bands and everything, and then the subject went on to bass players. I came along to one of the practices, and we pretty much gelled straight away.
JOE: Two years on, we’re still going.
How did the name Thieves Asylum come about?
ALEX GROCOCK (vocals/guitar): We came up with two names initially, one was ‘Thieves’ and the other ‘Asylum’.
JOE: They both sounded cool, so we decided to put them together. I wish there was a more detailed reason, but there’s not.
How would you describe your sound?
JOE: We’ve changed it up a little bit lately, it’s now more melodic.
JAMES: When we started, we were pretty much heavy rock, we were going for a Royal Blood, Audioslave-like sound. The way I would put it is that in the last two years, we’ve grown up.
JOE: I think now, we’ve all finally got to a point where we’re happy with what we’re playing together, because we are all into different music and have different influences.
ALEX: We’ve all learned to accept each other’s differences and all our musical tastes have merged together to create our sound.
JOE: Going back to the original answer, I’d describe our sound as rocky, but now with bigger choruses and more of a beat and groove to it.
What are the band’s musical influences?
ALEX: Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian…(all laugh)
JOE: At the moment, I’m really into Tame Impala, all your kind of psyche stuff, but then, I’m also a big fan of Kasabian, like everyone else is probably.
ALEX (to JAMES): Are you?
JAMES (to ALEX): Are you? (all laugh)
JOE: Yeah, we’ve been influenced by a lot of different music.
JAMES: I’m influenced by Kings of Leon, The Strokes, mainly indie rock, whereas Alex is more into indie pop.
ALEX: Not really. I do like Snoop Dogg. I could show you my playlist, and you would see how varied it is.
JAMES: Then, you got Dan, who’s into Audioslave, Foo Fighters, any rock.
JOE: Altogether, we’re all fans of Led Zeppelin.
JAMES: The way we do our breakdowns is very much influenced by them.
What is your approach to songwriting?
ALEX: What happens is that to be honest with you, we faff around a bit. Usually, a song will spark from an idea that one of us has come up with in our own personal time, and it’ll kind of develop from there.
JAMES: A lot of it is jamming, one of us will play something, and the others will say that it’s awful, but then, someone will play something that we all think is cool. We’ll tell them to play it over again on a loop, and we will experiment a bit, putting other stuff on top of it and so on.
It’s very much like, we’ll come up with different melodies, and then we’ll realise that some of them fit well, we’ll put them together, and that’s how we usually create a song, and we could go on doing that forever.
ALEX: A few of the tunes that are in our current set have been kind of put together, not in a studio or rehearsal space, but on our phones and stuff. ‘Noc Noc’ was done in Joe’s kitchen, with me and Joe both singing the different guitar parts.
JOE: Every song that I bring in, I tend to have done it on my phone, using a voice note app.
JAMES: In terms of songwriting, the lyrics are usually the last thing we ever think of.
ALEX: To be fair, we don’t really have many lyrics, do we?
JAMES: More often than not, we will just come up with something, like for example, an attractive girl we saw at a bar, a nightclub fight, stereotypical stuff.
JOE: Getting pissed up Hanley, hating the police etc… (all laugh)
The band are from Stoke-on-Trent. What is your opinion of the music scene there currently?
JAMES: I’d say at the moment, it’s really good and has improved a lot.
JOE: In comparison to when we first started, it has improved, not in terms of the quality of the bands, but more in terms of the recognition. The bands have always been there, but now, more people seem to be taking notice of them.
JAMES: I’d also say that people are working with each other more. The scene in Stoke has more of a community feel now. I know in previous years, when I wasn’t a part of the scene, you guys were and you said to me that the bands used to see each other more as rivals, whereas now, the rivalry is a lot more friendlier.
ALEX: I think things like the Staffordshire and Cheshire Music Awards have helped a lot towards this. The difference between when I first started and now, and we were actually chatting about this the other night, is that it seems to be much harder to get people to gigs and watch bands. I think it’s a hard time at the moment.
We were on about this, weren’t we Joe, I remember going to a gig of yours, I think it might have been at The Sugarmill or wherever, where it was full and you didn’t have to do anything. I think within the local music scene itself what people are doing is brilliant, but it’s difficult at the moment to get others to jump on and help push it forward. I’m quite happy with that answer, to be fair.
JAMES: I’m not.
ALEX: Sorry, I really feel I’ve twisted everyone’s head here.
JAMES: Yeah, you have. Right, next question.
You were nominated again recently for a local music award. How did that feel?
JOE: Yeah, it was absolutely amazing.
JAMES: It’s proof now that we are being appreciated for our music by people other than us, because we all know how we feel about it.
JOE: We’ve always been quite self-critical about how we are and how we play.
JAMES: Yeah, we are.
JOE: It’s always nice to get positive recognition, because to be honest, every band are probably critical of themselves, a band is never happy until they’ve finally got that finished product in the studio. Little things like getting nominated for awards can give you the drive to go further.
JAMES: It just shows you’ve got to keep doing what you’re doing.
How has the reaction been to the band’s music?
ALEX: We’ve had some nice things said.
JAMES: Some very nice things, yeah. One thing you do find is…
ALEX: Go on, tell us Jim!
JAMES: One thing you do find is obviously your friends will always come and watch you, no matter if you have a great gig or terrible gig, they’ll still always say to you that you’re good, because they’re your friends, but we do get a lot of people come and see us who we’ve never met before, for example, a random guy from Doncaster came down here to see one of our gigs.
ALEX: Going back to the original answer, the reaction’s been good, and another good thing is that nobody’s come up to us yet and said we aren’t very good.
JAMES: The only people who have really told us they don’t like our music have been ourselves. (all laugh)
How is it for you playing live?
JOE: It’s the best part of being in a band!
JAMES: There’s really nothing in comparison to it.
ALEX: This year, to whoever’s reading this, there will be a lot of chances to see us, if you want to, because at the beginning at the year, we all made a resolution that we were going to gig a lot more, and that’s it, let’s move on.
Is there anything planned for the near future at all?
ALEX: We’re turning into a boyband!
JAMES: We’re actually getting a female singer! (all laugh)
JOE: Recently, we’ve been demoing our first tracks for what we think is going to be an EP, we’ve also been practicing loads and loads, and April looks set to be our biggest month yet as a band, we’ve got some headline shows in Stoke lined up.
JAMES: And a few local festivals as well.
And what are they?
JAMES: We can’t say anything right now, but we will be announcing them soon.
JOE: Yeah, some big shows, and hopefully, we’ll be releasing some new music around April, May time, and then hopefully, an EP sometime later this year, that’s the plan.
What is the band’s long-term aim?
JOE: Sometimes, we can get bogged down in trying to make ourselves bigger than we are, and we can forget how fun being in a band can be, but at the moment, we’re just loving what we’re doing, whether it’s practicing, in the studio, or playing live.
JAMES: And also working on and listening to the final product and feeling proud of it.
JOE: We would like to become successful, like any band in our position would.