Thieves and Villains frontman Sergio Otaegui answered some questions for us while on tour just days before the band's new album hit stores.
First, can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do in the band?
Hey, my name is Sergio Otaegui and I sing, play guitar, and write songs in Thieves and Villains.
Your new album, South America, comes out Tuesday. Tell us about it.
Well, we started writing it last summer, and after some time spent finding the direction we had it all good to go for tracking in March. We recorded the album at Big Blue Meenie Studios in Jersey City, NJ with an awesome, very experienced producer/engineer named Tim Gilles (Taking Back Sunday, Thursday). The studio was beautiful, and we tracked the entire thing, from drums to vocals, onto analog tape. It's a really dynamic record with a bunch of twists and turns to it. I think that it has something for anyone that is open minded.
Why South America? Are you some kind of communists?
Haha no, not quite! The reason for the title is that when writing the record we imagined that we were in the most serene, secluded place where we'd be the only four people to ever hear this music and thus we should write an album that's a lot of fun to play and makes us excited for every section without worrying about how others feel. Since my father is from Peru and I've spent time there, that place for me was South America. But the reality is that this could only be a mental escape. We were stuck in the same cold, paranoid, corrupt country that every other citizen is... an America truly gone "south." So the title represents a physical and a mental state. How your mind is free to take you on a journey even when your body isn't, and how, due to this ability of imagination, the one place you loathe the most can also be the place you treasure. It's really a statement on how your mind is capable of anything.
Where did the cover art come from?
We had been looking for and brainstorming about imagery that would be a good visual representation of our place to escape to, our "South America." After a few months of chasing our tail, Double J from the new media/graphic design department at Victory emailed us this photgraph and we instantly loved it. We thought that it really summed up the carefree escape vibe of what we envisioned and agreed to it right away. It was taken by an Australian photographer at a little waterhole spot in his home country, and he barely charged us anything to use it.
The album marks a change in sound from that of your previous album, Movement. Was that a conscious effort?
The music for this album all came together really organically, but we absolutely had it in mind that we wanted to grow and find our sound on this one. Our first record was written so soon after starting and under very rushed circumstances. We had just finished up about eight months - our first eight months as a band - of straight unsigned touring, took a month to put it together, recorded it immediately, and put it on shelves a month later. Under those circumstances, we didn't get a chance to stretch out and really discover what our sound was. But when Chris P (guitar/piano/vocals) and me switched up our lineup in 2009 to add two really good friends to the mix, we finally felt comfortable in exploring what we really wanted to do. I've always written more creative, engaging music in my past, and this album was a return to the kind of musical risks we all grew up taking. The band just had to find the right lineup to do so, and now it feels like a family.
How is it being part of the Victory Records roster?
We absolutely love it. They signed us so quickly after starting that they've really been with us our whole career. Any problems our band has had or missteps we've taken have been the product of our growing pains or lack of experience, not theirs. The staff there is made up of a lot of great, hardworking people who are so so supportive of this new record. They all stuck with us as we found ourselves and are really happy that it's finally come together on this album. Sign a good contract, read up on music law/branding/marketing, have an intelligent business plan for your own career, and no label will have problems with you. A lot of people only see one side of the story with Victory, but what they don't see is how little many of these bands have actually invested in their own career. Working with any independent record label is a partnership. They're not going to wipe your bum for you like a major. You need to be passionately invested in your career, and you need to really steer the ship with your label's help. Everyone at Victory has always bent over backwards for us, and we've never received a single late check from them or anything less than real love and care. I can't speak for everyone, but this is just my honest personal experience.
You recently shot a music video for "Virginia Woolf". What can we expect from that?
We stretched out and shot the video with a director named GLJoe, who has done cool work with The Cool Kids, Kid Sister, Flosstradamus, Twista, Neon Indian, etc. He's gotten a lot of great write-ups in major music publications and is one of Justin Timberlake's favorite new directors, so we figured it'd be cool to work with him. We shot our parts back in May and they've been adding animation and other scenes since. It should be all finished and out very, very soon. We're excited to see the finished product.
You're currently on tour with I Call Fives. How is that going?
Really great! They're an awesome bunch of guys that are also from back East, so we get along great. They just had an EP come out in May, and this is our first time getting back out since recording, so it's been fun. Our styles are different, but it all meshes well in the live scenerio and makes for a varied show.
What else do you have planned for the rest of the year?
We're just going to be touring straight on for the rest of the year while doing as much press and cool side things as possible to raise awareness for the new album. We're just about to finish this tour and start doing CD release shows and in-stores. Upcoming tours will be announced shortly.
Do you have any closing remarks?
Please check out our new album, South America. It's up streaming on our official site now and it'll be out August 3rd. We just hope that some people out there enjoy it as much as we do. Thank you to everyone for the support and big thanks to ap.net for speaking with me...means a lot!
It's always interesting to hear from a band satisfied with the treatment they get from Victory. We always hear from disenchanted bands (Thursday, Hawthorne Heights, Bayside, TBS, etc), but never from the label itself. I think it creates a one-sided echo chamber effect [not to say the grievances aren't legitimate]. At any rate, I didn't give Movement too much airtime, but I'm interested to see how this sounds. Maybe I can wear my old T&V t-shirt now and have an album to wholeheartedly recommend when people ask about it.