came across the music of Thieves & Gypsys not long after moving to Santa Fe. Moving here with little to no knowledge of what’s happening here beyond the fact that Beirut originated here, I set out to find some local musicians to be excited about. And while not quite the goldmine that my former home of Brooklyn was, Santa Fe quickly proved to have talent. Amongst other excellent early local finds such as David Berkeley, As in We, and The Room Outside, Thieves & Gypsys stood out as an exciting young band with incredible potential.
On June 28th, the Santa Fe trio once named “Best New Band” by the Santa Fe Reporter (2012) released their first full length album Chasing Giants. Packed with energy and catchy as hell, Chasing Giants highlights the trio’s growth as a band and their development towards defining their own personal sound which builds off of the styles of early 2000s indie rock as well as 60s garage rock and heroes such as Oasis.
I recently met up with singer/guitarist Jared Garcia for an afternoon drink to talk about the past, present and future of Thieves & Gypsys.
The Early Days
Thieves & Gypsys got their start in 2011, originally as a collaboration between Santa Fe natives Jared Garcia and drummer Dave Vigil.
As Garcia tells it, “We’d sit in his room and just play from 9 to 5 every day. I gotta be thankful for that. I’m thankful for him because I wouldn’t be the musician I am if it wasn’t for him.”
Then a bit later in the year, they added bassist Aaron Jones, and began playing shows. A catchy throwback to 60s garage rock, they instantly caught the ears of a lot of people around Santa Fe.
The Supportive Scene
As a young band they opted to embrace the guidance and advice of their peers, rather than let an egos run wild. Humble and thankful, when asked about those who offered early support and guidance to he and Thieves & Gypsys, Garcia was quick to divulge about many of the folks who he looks at as part of the Thieves & Gypsys extended family (including his own family, who even helped them get early shows).
“I could not be here if it wasn’t for Haven (Willis) in As In We. When we first started, I met him randomly from friends. He never heard us, never knew anything about us. He was a cool dude. He asked me to go to one of his shows. I said “I’m starting a new band. Maybe we can open for you sometime” and he instantly helped me out and got me booked.”
Likewise, Justin Lindsey and the late Andrew Davey from The Strange were also early supporters of Garcia and Thieves & Gypsys. Garcia shares, “They actually got us one of our first shows in town, and always helped out if we needed someone to open a bill, and always asked us if we needed shows. They introduced us to everyone in the scene. They always had something to say, compliments, notes, things. It was cool. Those guys, I’ll always be thankful for them and what they’ve done for us.”
Additionally, Garcia credits Frankie Medina for being “honest and real.” Medina helped the band record their first songs, and the advice given to them during those sessions continued to stick with them through the recording of Chasing Giants.
More recently, Will Dyar (who produced Chasing Giants) has left a strong impression. “Will’s always been around with good advice. I could always go to him and ask about things. Everything that guy’s touched. Everything I’ve seen him play in, or work on has been so cool. I’m just privileged that he thinks the same of us.”
More specifically, Garcia remembered a moment that really stuck out in the development his vocals. “About 3 years ago, Ash Reiter played with us and she straight up said your music is really cool and I loved playing with you guys, but you know what you probably need on your vocals—a little Slap Back delay.” While some artists may have taken the constructive criticism the wrong way, Garcia utilized it. “I never thought about that. I always just thought singing dry was the way you things. Now that’s all I use.”
The Sound of Chasing Giants
Characterized by a reverb drenched garage rock sound, Thieves & Gypsys debut record is an amalgamation of influences, as well as Garcia’s conscious effort to overcome the sonic limitations of a trio and make them sound like something bigger.
“When Thieves & Gypsys started it was all very clean and straight forward, maybe like garage rock/punk, and then I don’t know what happened. I wanted to do different stuff. There are bands in town that influenced what I was trying to do. But a lot of the bands in town had a lot more members. We also had just three, so I had to figure out a way. I started to get into this idea that the songs would start a little cleaner and as the song progresses, the echoes get a little bit deeper, the reverbs get a little bit wetter, and then all of a sudden at the end of the song it’s one big noise. I kind of started constructing that about three years ago and it’s because I thought that’d be kind of cool, as if the song was a growing wave of something and it crashes down in the end.”
Recorded at Kabby Sound Studios, Thieves & Gypsys entrusted Will Dyar to produce and Matthew “Kabby” Kabakoff to
record and mix Chasing Giants. “It was a team effort. Will has a great ear, and so does Kabby. I knew what I was aiming for, and I’d get it into that realm, and then they’d twist it into something else.”
As for what Garcia and his bandmates were aiming for, “the stuff that influenced a lot of the drum sounds and the bass tones was on Band of Skulls first record, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey. There’s something about them as a 3 piece and how long of a tone the female bass player was getting and the way the drums sound.”
As for the heavy use of echoes and reverb, Garcia credits stuff like Arcade Fire and Oasis. “I was trying to create more sound than there actually was. I was trying to make this really splashy sound, kind of like you’re jumping into a pool or something.”
Listening to an earlier version of “Watercolors” vs the version on Chasing Giants you can hear what Garcia’s talking about. While at the core it’s the same song, the new version takes on a new life.
UMS Showcase in Denver
At the end of July, Thieves & Gypsys joined a crew of other Santa Fe locals (including Cloacas and Storming the Beaches with Logos in Hand) and headed up to Denver to play the Underground Music Festival. The experience was an extremely positive one for Garcia.
“I loved Denver so much. All the Colorado bands were so cool. I had so much fun. We might’ve played smaller venues and at weird times, but the people that saw us loved us and we had a fun time. It wasn’t like SXSW. I’ve played SXSW, and it was oversaturated, and doesn’t feel right. It feels like a jungle. When you go to SXSW it’s kind of got that chain restaurant feel, but when you go to UMS you get a home cooked meal. Everyone’s just having fun. It’s not about who you now and who you meet.”
The Live Evolution of Thieves & Gypsys
For many bands, their identity really begins to take shape with live performances. Regularly playing shows can transform a band. Thieves & Gypsys is no different.
“Each show is kinda different. Not extremely different, but the vibe is different,” Says Garcia. “We did a stint where we played more shows in June than we’ve ever really played as a band in a month. It was amazing to see where it went from show 1 to show 4, to show 5, to show 6 and so on. It gets better each time. That’s why I can’t wait to go on tour, because we leave in September. It’s gonna be fun.”
“I remember when we got back from tour and everyone saw us, and they had this perception of who we were before we played with Adam (current drummer Adam Cook). And then when we got back from tour. Everyone was saying that is so different.”
It’s not easy to pinpoint what changes with the repeated performances, but anyone who’s ever seen a band play on the first and last day of a tour can tell you there’s a difference.
Garcia personally credits it to loosening up. “You get looser. You kind of stop caring. You just go up there and you let things out. I learned to not be so reserved. If I wanna throw some stuff around I just do it.”
The road is also where many of the songs on Chasing Giants really took shape. “On tour we wrote a lot of the songs that you hear on the album. I didn’t have any lyrics to them. It’s the honest truth. We were on the road, and every night I’d be creating new lyrics.”
Thieves & Gypsys will once again hit the road in September, heading to Arizona first and then making stops in LA, San Jose, Oakland, Ashland, Portland, Seattle, Boise, Logan (UT), and a couple shows in Colorado.
If you’re in New Mexico, you won’t have to wait until September to see Thieves & Gypsys. They’ll be playing at Ghost in Santa Fe this Wednesday (9/19) as well as in Albuquerque at Sister on Thursday (9/20). Both shows will be with Chicago’s Red Francis.
You can purchase Chasing Giants on cd or digitally at thievesgypsys.bandcamp.com/album/chasing-giants