One of my most significant memories of childhood is my father’s persistent chorus that I needed to be more aware of my surroundings. Awareness isn’t an innate quality, he’d remind me: it’s learned over a near-constant realization—and self-reflection—that the world doesn’t stop for us.
It’s that inward-facing deliberation that fuels the resounding, reflective, remarkable new record from the Quincy, Massachusetts, band Art Thieves. Russian Rats—out Sept. 14 via State Line Records—is an album that radiates the frustration, fury, and fucked-up nature of the world around us, with a keen awareness that maybe we aren’t as perfect as we wish we were.
On behalf of New Noise, I have the pleasure of sharing an early stream of a lovely record that resonates with just as much awareness as it does aggravation. Art Thieves’ latest succeeds in digging deeper, beyond the constant catchy hooks that fly as quickly as the thoughtful invectives.
I love Russian Rats! It just feels classic: angry, uplifting, and funny in equal doses. It’s so damn catchy. I know the horrendous world we live in played a big role in the record’s creation. What did you want to do with this record musically?
Thank you for enjoying it. These songs came together quickly. I had made a lot of home demos around the time of the 2016 election and seemed to be sending them at a rapid-fire pace to the rest of the band for feedback. We wanted to make a real record that felt very different from start to finish—just when you think you know where it’s going, it will take a turn. It felt important to us while we were writing it and seemed to have a sense of urgency from the start that we wanted to capture. [Engineer] Benny Grotto at Mad Oak really brought that out.
The album’s opener asks, “What if artists ran the world?” and so, I’d like to ask: what do you think would happen if artists—instead of assholes—ran the world?
Probably nothing good. Everyone turns to shit once people start kissing their ass. Watch how much our next record sucks if this one does well. We’re a fickle people, but there are people running for office who seem to be bringing their whole selves to the table. I don’t want to mention names, because I don’t want to advocate for them specifically, but I’d trust representation from a transgender woman who is in a metal band over a pro-life haircut in a suit any day of the week. It seems like she’s being her true self, where the asshole in the suit is perpetually on the brink of a predictably hypocritical scandal.
If Don Fredo Corleone in the White House can teach us anything, it’s that his refusal to speak like or behave like a politician resonated with people. I think we as a society are ready for a new generation of authentic people who are elected because they want to help others. Then, we should boot them all out after one term and start over.
Russian Rats certainly feels like a record for our times—it’s difficult to drown out the insane noise on any given day. What did you want to talk about with this record?
This was the only time I’ve ever been involved with a record where all the band members talked about and agreed on every single word we recorded. The record comes out swinging with a lot of outwardly-directed vitriol, calling everything and everyone out for insincerity, along with hypocritical behavior and derivative ideas. About halfway through, the facade starts to crack, and the blame starts turning inward. The record ends with a full-scale attack on ourselves for the same behavior. To the extent where we use the same lyrics in two of the songs on the record as proof of our own derivative nonsense.
On a personal note—and an example of life imitating art—I began writing the record having a mostly anarchistic political outlook and have since evolved a bit. That personal journey has been very much like the theme of the record in that I started off thinking, “They’re all full of shit,” and ended up looking in the mirror and [seeing] a poo emoji where my face used to be.
How do you stay sane in today’s climate? Make music and scream about the news for a living?
We all have wives who we love very much and nine kids among [the band members]. While no one in Art Thieves is sane—not just saying that; we are a potpourri of mental illness—it is important that we act as if everything is OK to provide some semblance of normalcy while they grow up in this absolute fucking shitshow.