Playing To The Pigeons: Sound Of Thieves

Written by Leo Baldi.

I met Sound Of Thieves walking around in Manchester. I was wandering around when I heard some music that caught my ear. I followed the sound and found this duo playing incredible dream-like music that sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. After a couple songs I decided to buy their album, that they were selling in between songs, and 5 minutes later I was chatting to them like it was the most natural thing in the world.

Q. How long have you guys been playing for and how did you first decide to start a band together?

Phoebe: “We’ve been playing for around 2 years. We formed the band in Cyprus. Jan grew up playing rock music and classical music. I always wanted to write for film and the band happened when we basically got a job in Cyprus and it kind of happened from there.”

Q. How did you guys meet?

Phoebe: “We met working in a bar together. I used to work in this bar when I came back from uni to my hometown and one day Jan was there. But actually, before we started playing we were together for 3 years.”

Q. What was the idea behind the name Sound of Thieves?

 Phoebe: “It’s a name that we came up with randomly. We would use it at gigs because we did not have a proper name and would just go with the flow and then this one came along.”

Jan:  “We talked about it and we liked the sound of it. It clicked in a sense. We were writing and phoebe said what about sound of thieves. We thieve inspirations from so many different influences, in a sense, so the name was just perfect.”

Q. You’ve been travelling around busking and making a living, can you tell me about your routine?

 Jan: “You wake up early in the morning and the first thing we do is we check the weather forecast, 4-5 pages and compare it. Then we get our stuff and drive to Manchester or wherever we are at the time. There is quite a big busking community here so sometimes you have to be there early and it really depends on the day. So it’s not really a routine, every day is pretty unpredictable, the only part that repeats itself is the weather forecast checking.”

Phoebe:  “You can’t overthink and you have to go with the flow everyday.”

Jan: “If you’ve gotta do it you have to be disciplined and still get out and do it. When you’re there it’s fun and it’s really rewarding. Sometimes you get a day when loads of people, almost like a concert on the street, are watching and sometimes you just play to the pigeons. There are days that you meet so many people and some of them are really nice. At the end of the day, whether it’s tough or not, you do get your reward.”

Q. Just how big is your catalogue? How many songs do you have?

Phoebe: “I think we probably have, with the looping stuff, 3 hours of material together with the acoustic songs we usually play. I guess there is a core of 15 songs that we really really like to play all the time, including covers.”

Jan: “The main songs that we have in our setlist are the ones that really stood the test of time.”

Phoebe: “Fly Away is one of the songs that we cannot go through a show without playing.”

Q. What is your favourite cover that you play?

Phoebe: “I personally like Govinda Jaya [a traditional chant], just because there’s so many layers to it.”

Jan: “I like some funky stuff as well, I like when we play our funky version of Kimbra’s Settle Down, cause I can let loose on the bass.”

Q. I know you guys are working on an album, is it just you doing all the work or do you have producers?

Jan: “It’s just us making it. We are expanding our horizons, but we are also thinking of asking other musicians to come an play something on the album, but it is homemade. 100% British beef [laughs]. But we don’t  have a name for it yet, we’re still in the stage of writing it and it would be like shooting in the dark to guess a name for it before we have it all done.”

Q. What is your dream collaboration?

 Phoebe: “Personally I like Grimes, she seems so cool. She produces and masters all her stuff. I remember she played last year in Manchester and I was so sad ‘cause it was my birthday but we hadn’t got back from Cyprus yet!”

Q. What are your biggest musical influences?

 Phoebe: “There’s so many! recently we’ve been listening to this band called The Hicks. The way they master their songs is so good! I also like this girl called Oland…I like Kimbra….and I don’t know when talking about influences and master I like artists who have their own sound.”

Jan: “What attracts me to a musician is their attitude to music. growing up I would listen to rap, metal, electronic…all genres and I think I’m attracted to artists who have a musicality that shines through, regardless of the kind of music they play.”

Q. What are the favourite tracks you’ve written?

Phoebe: “What do you think Jan?… I really like “I Did You Wrong”.

Jan: “On some days it’s one song on some days another song. It’s also rare for us to listen to our songs from the other side so I go off the enjoyment that I get from performing them and that depends on the day. We played Did You Wrong last night and it was really cool…we played it through proper massive speakers last night and sometimes when you busk with your little speaker you forget how huge the sound can be. I really like City too. I think City really stood the test of time.”

Q. If you could be a cocktail what would you be?

Jan [instantly]: “Caipirinha! One of the best gigs we’ve ever played was at a wedding where they had Caipirinha and another cocktail which was…I don’t remember what it was [the alcohol was probably effective]. We were there for hours drinking and I think we only played for 15 minutes.”

Phoebe: “No no no! Jan was drinking I wasn’t drinking because I was driving!”

Q. What is the cheesiest song that you like?

 Phoebe: “Ehmmm oh my god…”
Jan: “Wait, what cocktail would you be?”
Phoebe: “A Bloody Mary…or Pina Colada (sings)…but yeah the cheesiest song that we were last obsessed with was that “all around the world pretty girls” song [sings with a heavy Britney Spears nasal tone]. It was so ridiculous when it came out and we really played it a lot.
Jan: you realize you just killed our street cred, right?”

Sound Of Thieves are a busking force to be reckoned with. Phoebe and Jan are street musicians that will make your head turn and at least want to buy their CD in the space of one looped harmony and a crisp bassline. Jan plays bass while Phoebe sings and builds beats and loops with her vocal loop machine. They travel around and play everywhere and anywhere (they played all around Cyprus for two years before coming back to the UK) and I got in touch with them to discuss their career and their in-the-works upcoming album.

Listen to Fly Away below:

Credit: Sound Of Thieves





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