It’s been three years since Ordinary Riches but Company of Thieves has seen a lot since their debut album came out – several national tours, dates at Lollapalooza, and logging many miles on the road. While the band kept themselves busy, they were furiously writing their new album. Now their follow-up Running From a Gamble is ready to break onto the scene next week. We spoke with singer Genevieve Schatz and guitarist Marc Walloch about Running From a Gamble, starting in Chicago, and hanging out with Hall & Oates.
Heave: You’re on tour with the Whigs right now right?
Genevieve Schatz: Hell yeah!
Heave: How’s it going so far?
Genevieve: It’s good. You know, we’ve been fans of the Whigs since we were teenagers and it’s incredible to be able to see them from the side of the stage every night and now I’ve gotten to know them as people and they’re extremely well-meaning and down to earth and really, really funny guys. Everybody’s getting along and we get to see them have a rock show every night, that’s really exciting to us.
Heave: Since this is your first tour before Running From a Gamble comes out, are you playing a lot of tracks from the album or are you leaving it as a surprise to fans?
Marc Walloch: We’re playing mostly new songs but I think there are songs that we’ve also played on past tours other than “Death of Communication” which is our new single, we just started playing that. But we are trying to save a few songs because you know, we live in the age of YouTube and it kind of gives away the whole album months before it actually comes out and I love kind of giving people something that’s just really brand-new and fresh right off the bat. When you get a new record from a band and you haven’t heard all of those songs live it’s always nice to hear something new, like you haven’t heard it all yet. We’re trying to keep that going.
Genevieve: Our audio/visual part of the show right now is nowhere near where it’s going to be when we start really performing the album in its entirety. So you know, there’s a lot of room for growth from here.
Heave: How was the process in making this album different from Ordinary Riches?
Marc: I guess it was different this time in a sense we had a more of a band collaboration to develop the songs. Everyone had a part in developing them and bringing them to life and an equal investment and we all felt very united because of that.
Genevieve: Also they’re just different songs. It’s a completely different album. We have new ways of sharing the songs sonically and so we got to explore a lot more with sound and tone and you know, ways in which we were to record. Maybe not just standing in front of the microphone while I’m singing, maybe huddled in a ball or in the back of the room in a goofy position. I don’t know, Marc spent hours getting different kinds of tone. And it seems like it was more focused than last time.
Heave: You guys played Lollapalooza last year and from what I’ve just seen from your live show in person or in videos you play out a lot. Do you feel like you thrive in a bigger live setting or do you still feel like you bring the same energy to a smaller show as well, where there’s like 75 people.
Genevieve: Every show.
Marc: Yeah you get something totally different. Like tonight we’re playing a very small bar and we’re very excited because it’s going to be a very packed and tight rock show, which is very fun, and you get something way different out of something like Lollapalooza in front of 6, maybe 7000 people. They’re both great and they just have a different effect on you and you kind of just cater to the crowd’s different ways. It’s fun either way, I don’t know if I necessarily have a preference. I like what I’ve experienced every time.
Genevieve: Each space has it’s own energy and each space is unique and the people who come are genuine and they come and connect with us. If there’s thousands of them or if there’s a handful of them it’s all very special.
Heave: Since I’m from Chicago and you guys are from Chicago, I wanted to ask what are some of your favorite things about starting out in the Midwest scene in general?
Genevieve: I think it’s such a great area to start out in because you know, it’s the heart of the country and when you’re first trying to get out there and expose yourself to lots of people you can sort of spiral out from Chicago to Indianapolis and Madison and Iowa City and St. Louis, all these great hubs that are in the Midwest and you can just start to spiral out, spider web out and create a good, hearty base. As opposed to having to go all the way across the country…
Marc: For touring.
Genevieve: Yeah to start touring if you’re on a coast or something. Also, Marc and I like to talk about that there’s this hunger that we find in the Midwest. We don’t know if it’s the changing of the seasons or what it is but there’s just really dedicated work ethic and so I think starting there is great because there’s this sense of feeling like you’re in the middle of everything and you want to take a look around.
Marc: We started out at a time where there was a great singer songwriter community at a coffee shop called Uncommon Ground on Clark Street, right by the Metro actually. That was really great for us to start there in Chicago because there was a huge sense of community where people shared songs that they wrote that week and every Monday and we all talked about them and played songs together. It was just a great way of developing your craft in songwriting and trying to find yourself. That was probably the most helpful in getting the band started.
Heave: Did you feel singer songwriters’ circles like that helped you become better songwriters or better musicians?
Genevieve: I think it was more like a very gentle support net for us to feel comfortable trying out our songs in front of this group of people who were so open-minded and so welcoming to us and we could just play our songs for them and get their feedback and get their support and then kind of built up the confidence to try to start a full band, electric line-up and go from there.
Heave: Speaking of your line-up, I kind of noticed on the two songs I heard from Running From a Gamble that there are a lot of small, interesting differences from the stuff on your last album. Like I noticed more keys, more flourishes and stuff. Did the new members of your band kind of add to your songwriting process and your musicianship?
Marc: I don’t think so. I think the reason why things sound differently is because we’ve had years of growth, you know what I mean? We’ve been touring and it’s just been…you learn a lot on the road, you learn a lot about new music and you just grow up as a songwriter, you try out new things on the road. There’s definitely a lot of influence from the other members of the band that were great but the songs have always started with Genevieve and myself where we’re just kind of in a room with an acoustic guitar and trying to flush it out, where you can focus and hear everything and arrange the songs and get the melodies and chord changes right before getting the bass and drums and trying to work it out that way. I think that change is, like I said, we’re young and we’re growing at a fast right and the next record’s probably going to sound way different as well just because of what we’re going to learn in the next few years.
Heave: I saw on your tour dates that you’re playing with Hall & Oates this summer at the Ravinia. I know before you guys did…I’m totally blanking on the name.
Genevieve: Live From Daryl’s House.
Heave: Yeah, Live From Daryl’ls House. Is that how you got together with them and that’s how you’re opening up for them?
Genevieve: Yeah totally!
Marc: We hit it off really well with the whole crew, Daryl and everyone.
Genevieve: His whole band is so great and we got along so well that day and I think they probably just remembered us and when they decided to come through Chicago they thought it would be cool to have us open. We feel so lucky and so excited and it’s going to be a big show outdoors where people can picnic. It’s going to be a really great summer evening.
Running From a Gamble comes out May 17 on Wind-up Records. Take a listen to “Modern Waste” below.