Nothing But Thieves announced themselves to the world in emphatic style when their 2015 self-titled debut sold over 250k copies, racking up over 174 million track streams along the way. This September 8 they return with their second album, Broken Machine, of which new single ‘Amsterdam’ is the first taste. When we gave frontman Conor Mason a ring to ask him what we should expect, we found him in Ukraine where the band are currently filming the ‘Amsterdam’ video:
Hello Conor, where in the world are you today?
“I’m in Ukraine, coughing up my lungs.”
Oh dear, sorry to hear that. What’s the cause of this medical misfortune?
“We’re in an abandoned factory, so there’s lead and copper everywhere. We’re doing this music video and people are dancing around so there’s a lot of ash in the air.”
And what does a factory have to do with all this?
“It’s the building itself that we came here for. It’s an old, huge, broken-windowed factory from the Cold War. It’s all rusting and there’s machinery that isn’t working anymore. Just broken bits everywhere, and this lead and copper floor. It looks amazing. It’s a beautiful day and the sunlight is coming in through the broken glass. It’s just an amazing venue and the director was really keen on it.”
So I take it that’s the vibe you wanted for ‘Amsterdam’?
“Yeah, it’s a dark, angry, frustrating song. The surroundings here are exactly that. They’ve almost been left to ruin. It’s dark and dense. It almost weirdly feels unwelcoming, but it looks incredible.”
Is ‘Amsterdam’ a good indication of where the rest of the album is going?
“Yeah, I mean, I think somewhat like the last record there’s layers of our different sounds, and there are different songs which give us different feelings. There’s definitely a lot more of those visceral, guttural moments on this album, like ‘Amsterdam’. I really believe in this track. It’s a weirdly fun song for how dark it is. I really love it.”
Why is it called ‘Amsterdam’?
“Amsterdam is a place we’ve all found, I guess, relaxation in. It’s a place that we think is doing it right, so to speak. We come back to it in our minds when we want a relief, and that’s what the song’s about. It’s a visceral song about frustration, and trying to weave your way through life to get to the place you always want to go back to. It’s about that sense of release and comfort which exists if you can find it.”
You’ve toured with Muse a few times – did Matt Bellamy pass on any words of wisdom?
“When we played the round at the O2 with Muse we were just kind of watching how the big boys do it. We’ve done a lot of club shows, and then big club shows like Brixton, but we never did anything like stadiums or arenas. We were just watching how they controlled the audience, them and their entire team. It gave us the drive to get there one day, hopefully. They’re lovely boys. I chatted to Matt Bellamy for a while. It was depressing but exactly what I expected. He said that as a singer – he said: “with a voice like ours”, which made me laugh! He said you need to be boring and look after yourself. Eat well, drink well and exercise. That was kind of what I thought anyway. It gave me encouragement for what I was already doing, because I do look after myself pretty well. I am the boring one on tour, but that’s cool.”
You’re going back on the road to play some smaller places this month – what was the appeal of deliberately going back to small venues?
“It’s fun for both parties, really. It’s fun for us because it’s close and intimate and you can feed off the audience, and it’s the same for them too. It’s nice going back to where it started before we got to places like Brixton. So many bands can’t be arsed doing those sorts of things again, but it’s fun for us.”