An ability to work between genres, or to pull ideas from more than one, speaks to a band’s depth of feeling. It’s less of a balancing act, and more of an ability to channel their creative forces into whatever styles have the strongest inspirational gravity. For Nashville alt. rock quartet, Future Thieves, whose third studio release, the EP Emotional Cost, arrived on November 24th, their expert blend of thoughts, feelings, and sounds is by design.
We spoke with band frontman, primary songwriter and producer, Elliot Collett, about the new EP.
AS: Going into creating this EP, how did you want it to stand out from your last two releases?
EC: It had been a while since we wrote anything, or had that sort of attitude of making a record. This summer, I remember vividly, we were sitting outside, and we were like, ‘you know what? Something we haven’t done in a while is go back to basics, strip everything back, and do something really organic.’ I mean, obviously there are some new songs on the record that sound pretty big and produced, but their origin, and their melodies, come from a very stripped back place. We were playing this organ we have in the studio, and if you listen close, you can hear it on a lot of the songs [on ‘Emotional Cost’]. It’s this small, old, goofy church organ that somehow sounds good, and somehow inspires. It really did paint the color of the entire thing.
AS: Aside from touring, what’s happened in the last year [since the band’s self-titled sophomore album] that may have informed the sound of Emotional Cost?
EC: You know, we’ve been together for five years, so there’s always been this like, tour, get off tour, make a record, tour, tour, tour…so always kind of like 2-to-1 ratio with touring. And this last year, we kind of switched it around and did the opposite. We doubled the writing and halved the touring, which was a lot easier on our bodies. But you know, personally, I got married at the very end of making Emotional Cost. And that kind of puts stuff into perspective a little bit more, you know, when you see it on paper. It gets you feeling a little more free and a little more, ‘hey, what am I doing? Let’s say the stuff that we want to say while we can say it.’
AS: What’s the band’s songwriting process?
EC: We always start with a guitar, or me laying something on a keyboard, or a bass line. Alex [Jarvis, a longtime co-producer who engineered the EP] and I will sometimes sample old records, then loop it and see what it inspires. We did that a couple times with this record. For “I Don’t Think I’m Okay,” the third single, Alex had found this old plastic, piece of crap, children’s drum thing at a flea market. We used that forever when we demoed it, and it absolutely inspired the song.
AS: In my opinion, Future Thieves’ music is experimental without ever being inaccessible, or esoteric — you can always dance to it. Is that a conscious challenge?
EC: It’s not only a conscious challenge, but it’s what I base my entire writing process around. You hit the nail on the head! I mean, I want to be as weird as the next guy, but when it comes time to actually pin down the song and know what the final product sounds like, I want it to be something that my wife and friends will jump into.