By Zach Schepis
Photo courtesy of Thieves and Gypsys.
Jared Garcia would wake up every morning at 9am sharp, without fail, and drive over to the Duke’s house. The Duke’s real name was David J. Vigil and he was somewhat of a legend in Santa Fe.
Walking into the Duke’s one bedroom hideaway was akin to stepping foot in an old closet-shop for vintage equipment. All manner of guitar and bass amps, recording equipment, and used instruments lined the floors and walls. Elbow-to-elbow is certainly an apt description of the working space in which Garcia began penning some of his first songs.
The moments were generally spontaneous–with Garcia stumbling upon a particular chord change or melody that he liked and then spit-balling words over the top in a kind of free-thought association. The Duke would step behind his kit and move along with the flow until a song started to poke its head through the tandem.
For Garcia, these ongoing morning routines were work just as much as they were creative outpourings. Shortly before meeting the drummer, Garcia decided to drop out of college. His decision doesn’t mean he wasn’t doing well in school–quite the opposite. At the time the young songwriter had a scholarship going strong for him, but felt that he wasn’t being fulfilled in the right ways.
“I thought to myself that if I put enough time into doing what I loved, then maybe I could really make something out of it,” he tells BTR. “That’s why I played from nine-to-five, sometimes nine-to-six, everyday. I still work hard to this day, because that’s what it takes.”
Hailing from a family of talented musicians, Garcia had exactly the kind of support that he needed to carry him forward in his leap of faith. Few songwriters have much in the way of a safety net when they decide to throw caution to the wind, and while some extended family members did cast incredulous doubts, Garcia’s immediate family was completely behind his decision to find work more closely aligned with his heart’s desires.
It didn’t take long for the hard work to begin to pay off either. After months of ceaseless wood-shedding and stream-of-consciousness cultivation, the duo felt they had finally created some songs that were worth showcasing.
Enter bassist Aaron Jones. Well, perhaps enter isn’t quite the right word. The Duke’s room was much too small to accommodate a third musician, so the walls opened up and the trio took their music to any Santa Fe bar or club that would let them mount the stage.
It turned out quite a few, actually, were more than impressed with what the band had to offer; which at the time consisted of a no-holds-barred approach to garage rock with an emphasis on pop leads. Long at last, Thieves and Gypsys were born.
That was years ago. The band that can be heard today sounds leagues different from the three musical nomads first setting out on the road. It’s no secret that thousands of hours of practice will transform damn near anything, but there have been some other major changes to the band’s recipe.
For one, the Duke set his sails and drummer Adam Cook stepped in mid-tour. When you’re playing in a trio, every ounce of input creates drastic waves. Aside from a change in the style of drumming (which now bears the precision of a ticking razor) the songwriting process too underwent a major metamorphosis.
Thieves and Gypsys recorded their EP Break in less than two days before they embarked on tour, but the road showed the trio a different approach to sifting through material.
“I used to write the parts or come up ideas by myself and take them to Dave or the Duke,” says Garcia, “but being on the road lately the process has become much more collaborative. It’s beautiful really; it’s become all one big sound, not just me.”
While traveling through Austin, Texas, the band made a pit-stop at a friend’s house to recoup. The excursion was meant to rekindle energy, but instead resulted in the writing of more than 75 percent of their most recent album, Chasing Giants.
The approach was organic lightning. At first, Garcia would sit down and tinker with a riff that might have come to him during a drive through the country, and before he knew it Cook and Jones would be on their instruments, revolving around the new melody with nimble interpretation. In hardly any time at all a song would come to fruition.
But the growth didn’t stop there. The songs started to take on lives of their own as Thieves and Gypsys slowly but surely knocked old tunes out of the set lists each night to sprinkle in the new compositions.
“I felt like we were improving a lot of the time–you never really knew what you were getting into each night,” reflects Garcia.
“We would be driving eight hours and talking about the songs and what we could add. Then that night we would make adjustments or build on top of it. It was a crazy experience and [being on] the road definitely contributed to it.”
The recent songs are more mature than anything the band has released to date. They’ve come into a genre all their own–which they’ve dubbed “wave pop.”
It’s an amalgamation of a “surf’s up” kowabunga! attitude mixed evenly with some psych, punk, and pop for good measure. The echoes and natural spring reverb are as choppy as the waves each song hearkens, creating the illusion that there are far more than three people behind the musical curtain.
Perhaps soon there will be–Garcia professes his love for organ and hints that he’s been making space in the new compositions for previous pianist Frankie Medina or someone of a similar ilk to join.
“I’ve always loved the sound of a dirty organ,” he says. “If I could re-pick an instrument to learn, that would be it. I’m definitely leaving space for it going forward. It gives the song mojo; like there’s almost a spirit or a ghost involved.”
To hear the rest of our interview with Thieves and Gypsys, tune into this week’s episode of the Discovery Corner.
Or interpret the band for yourself by clicking here.