Acoustic guitar? Check. Banjo? Check. Female violinist? Check. It would be all too easy to categorise We Thieves as part of new folk revival that has seen Mumford and Sons, Laura Marling and Bombay Bicycle Club make their mark on mainstream music. However, this 7 track demo is far from ordinary. A penchant for unusual rhythms and carefully chosen instrumentation makes We Thieves a refreshing, if understated, revelation.
In trying to come up with music to compare these songs to, my mind wandered through artists as diverse as Cold War Kids and Iron & Wine. Whilst there are clear elements of the British folk tradition, a certain experimentalism from We Thieves points to influences from across the pond. When deciding what linked songwriters such as Elliott Smith and Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes to We Thieves, it was obvious that uniqueness was common to all. There are certainly musical parallels, but the fact that directly comparing this demo to other music was tricky makes it worth several listens, if not a permanent place in a record collection.
The opening three songs are part of The Wait EP, with a lilting feel throughout. The title track ‘The Wait’ is a waltzing ballad, the melody counterbalanced by the sweet sound of the violin. Soaring lead vocals carry this song, like how Zach Condon’s voice anchors Beirut. The lyrics are humble, and I couldn’t help but feel as if I was being personally serenaded by someone who sings, “I can’t give you the moon, maybe he can. But if you just need a lover, I’m your man.”
Next track ‘Trouble’ opens with a swooning violin reminiscent of country music, combined with a languid, rolling drum pattern. ‘The House You Built’ is somewhat sorrowful – the kind of song you could imagine swaying to for the last dance of the night.
The other four songs, simply labelled We Thieves, have less of the waltz about them. ‘Any Day Now’ and ‘High Road’ are both sweet, simple songs with Bon Iver-style layered vocals. ‘Pictures Take 1’ is altogether different; an arpeggiated banjo combined with rollicking percussion. A syncopated piano bass line is used part way through the song, but later reintroduced too suddenly. This is a shame, as the interplay of rhythms is interesting. The song also cuts out too abruptly with the beat of a drum.
Final song ‘Silver And Gold’ again uses catchy syncopated rhythms, this time a plucked acoustic guitar with percussion. The progression to different parts of the song doesn’t always feel natural, but left me wanting more. These final two songs were the most diverse and, whilst perhaps not complete as musical pieces, bode well for the creative progression of We Thieves. I personally look forward to hearing more from this unique, low-fi band.