Sometimes you just want to try something new.
Get away from everything you know, everything that’s safe, and see what comes out of it—see who you become when you’re left to be your most outrageous, risky, creative self.
That’s what Future Thieves does whenever the alternative rock band comes together to make music. They challenge themselves – not to compete with other artists or records, but to see exactly how far they can take their talent.
On their new single, “Dark Spin”, the group takes on a totally new theme and sound. You can feel the band’s excitement, hear their energy.
It’s a tune that sticks with you. One that you hum along to, but one that has you thinking “Oh, wait a minute,” hours later when the mysterious yet meaningful lyrics pop back into your head.
It’s a tune you’ll have to revisit.
I spoke to lead singer Elliott Collett about the single, and he said, “I just want it to hit them as a feel-good, drive down the road [song]. Think about the problems that you might have, think about it positively, fix them, but still play the song a million times over and over again.”
And you will. “Dark Spin” is about the downward spiral we’ve all experienced at one point or another. It’s for when you don’t know whether things will get better or worse, you just know nothing will ever be same. At least, that’s how I felt listening to the song. The great thing about Dark Spin is that it’s going to mean something a little different to everyone who hears it.
So take a listen and find out what it means to you. Then, hear what Elliott had to say about his songwriting and the making of “Dark Spin”.
When did you start writing music?
Elliott: I started playing guitar when I was 12, and I guess I was kind of writing musical stuff when I was 12. But as far as lyrics go, probably not till I was 15 or 16, when my actual brain started to develop.
Was there a singular song or artist that inspired you to get into it, or were you always captivated by the whole thing?
This guy that I was friends with [on MySpace] had a Ryan Adams song on there. That’s the first time I’d ever heard any sort of alternative music I guess, which is kind of the first time I ever was sparked to write any music of my own.
What does your songwriting process look like?
It’s different from song to song. Someone once said it’s either the length of the song or two years. Sometimes it’s surprisingly quicker. But sometimes it just doesn’t work forever.
The way we write our songs is, as a band we all start out together and come up with the music, and I kind of just hum along the whole time that we’re writing. I just kind of get familiar. Then sometimes the lyrics will come right then and there whenever we’re playing, and sometimes I’ve got to take it home and take it back to my acoustic guitar to get super realistic, super in your face. Because if you can make a song work on an acoustic guitar then you can make it work with a full band way easier.
Do you guys carve time out of your schedule to write together, or does it just happen when you’re in rehearsals?
Sometimes we’ll mess around during rehearsals, but we always plan out trips. This past record, we did it all in a cabin out in the woods in the middle of Tennessee.
We set aside the time and say, “We’re going to write for five or six days,” sometimes a couple weeks. Depends on how much time we have. It’s always, “Let’s go write.”
But there’s other times where someone’ll send me an idea that they have, and I’ll try to put some lyrics on it. It’s spontaneous. It’s whatever feels right.
You guys are based in Nashville. How do you think that affects your sound and your process?
It definitely keeps your chops up, because everybody’s doing it, and everybody’s super good. But we try to make it a little different. We try to keep our chops up and play well, but at the same time, you can’t forget to just be super creative. Because we’re not interested in making anything that’s already been done.
I’m not saying that you get that a lot in Nashville, but there is sort of a niche, the type of music that’s going on. It’s not just country – I don’t mean just country music. I mean just everybody kind of being in the same boat. We have to keep it super out there, push the limits. That’s the only way we ever really feel truly satisfied with what we’ve been doing.
Getting recorded music out to audiences used to be a lot harder. Now with things like YouTube and SoundCloud you can get music out there almost instantly. How do you think that’s affected the songwriting process?
Lately we’ve been thinking, after this record comes out, what if we just start releasing one song at a time? I feel like that’s just the way people listen to music now.
Not everybody does that, I don’t exactly do that, but I just noticed my friends, my girlfriend, her friends, they hear a song and it’s just like, “You’ve got to hear this song!” It’s never, “You’ve got to hear this whole record.”
Which is okay, it’s differing, it’s not exactly the way it was when I was 18 years old or younger, discovering music, but I think it’s cool. It kind of gives each song a chance to live on its own and have its own kind of little world.
Dark Spin takes on such a different sound from what we’ve heard from you guys before. Who are the musical influences behind that new sound?
We’ve listened to a ton of stuff lately. We listen to whatever is good. We listen to a lot of Borns lately, so that kind of influenced it a little bit, but also a lot of Jim James kind of new stuff, and My Morning Jacket’s new stuff.
I think that when we went into this recording process we were coming off the last record, which was Horizon Line, and it’s full guitars and it’s a little louder, a little more electric. I guess we came to a point where we’re like, “I want to write a few songs here that are a little more relaxed, and focus on the melody and the lyrics a little more than just blasting the song.”
We truly wanted to just focus on what the recordings would sound like, versus what it might sound like live. When we did that we went down to this huge studio down in Texas, and it was just full of synthesizers and all these crazy instruments. It felt so right to plug it all in and just kind of see wherever it took us. That’s exactly what happened – we just kind of came out of there with a different sound than we went in there with.
As we’re inching towards that next decade, more and more artists are starting to shift their sound and grow. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a songwriter about taking chances and changing with the times?
I watch a few TV shows. If you watch HBO, any of these shows like Westworld and all this kind of stuff – they’re just so our there, and they’re so just different, that it’s so addicting. I feel the same way whenever I listen to a good song.
I’m not interested in playing anything that’s been played before. I literally just want to make something that someone’s never even thought about, so that when they hear it, it’s literally like a total breath of fresh air.
You’ve mentioned before that “Dark Spin” is inspired by this tragedy that occurred in your home town. Could you tell us more about that?
The video we did was based off of that. There was a girl that was a prom queen, and her mom was ridden with jealousy. Our video director knows the story real well. He brought the story to us and I thought, that kind of ties into “Dark Spin”.
And “Dark Spin”, what it really is, is a metaphor for what has this person been through ever since the last time you saw them.
It is part of that moment in time that people have that they never really talk about. It’s one of those hidden messages songs; it’s not exactly right up in your face.
It’s interesting you say that, because the video helps to finish that story visually, and turns the song into another story that you wouldn’t get just listening to it. When you’re writing a song, are you ever thinking about a potential video or another external element of it?
I’m definitely seeing stuff in my head. There are songs on the record – like there’s a song called “Same Thing”, that’s just kind of sad, and it’s about this guy who has died and he’s sort of floating above where he can see his partner, girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever it may be, below them.
When I was writing that song, I had this visual of exactly what was going on. Some songs are like that. Some songs are totally surface music kind of songs. That’s one in particular that we haven’t made the video for, but if we had to I already have it worked out. That happens often.
Dark Spin has this really nice balance between being synth pop, which is traditionally found in happy, feel-good music, but also having a sad, heavy story. How did you manage to find that balance when writing the song?
I always try to keep a message within a lighter-hearted kind of song, because it’s hard to take both at once. Because it’s a bunch of sad, minor-y guitar chords, and a big bunch of sad lyrics. The whole thing is just like a wave of depression that no one really wants to have to listen to.
If you can somehow throw a message, even a darker message, within happier music, a happier setting, then I think it just eases people into it a little. It’s just like anything in life – you don’t want to come out and start yelling about some sort of problem. If you really want the problem fixed you kind of just have to go about it in a little more of a light-hearted way.
How do you know when a song is finished?
I don’t think you ever really do. We would literally work on a song for 10 years if we could, but there’s always a point where you’ve kind of done everything you can do to it. Then lyrically it’s a bit easier because you can say, “That’s the message, those are the right words. If I was listening to this I would understand what was going on, and even if I didn’t I would try to puzzle piece it together.”
As far as the music goes, we’ll tinker on something for forever, and eventually our producer Alex, who also plays keyboards for us, he’ll be like, “Okay, that’s enough.”
As far as lyrics go, you kind of know when it’s done. You know when you’ve ran out of ideas and you’ve kind of got your point across, and sometimes it never gets finished. Those are the songs you never hear.
Do you guys place more of an emphasis on lyrics or sound, or do you think they’re both important in different ways?
I write all the lyrics, so I obviously go in a little more heavy on the lyrics than the other guys. They love it when I come up with something cool. But we focus heavily on the music. We’re all just kind of music nerds. We get in a studio or get somewhere and it’s just nonstop trying stuff out. But it’s all equally important. I think you have to have a good lyric and a good message if you want anything to work like that.
Your new album comes out in September. What do you want listeners to know about it?
That the last song is just as good as the first one, and to just play the hell out of it, the whole thing. They all tie in. There’s something for everybody.
What’s next for you guys? Will you be on a tour with the album? What else can we see?
We plan on going on tour late August through late September, so for about a month long I’m going to try to jump out west and wrap all the way back around to Chicago and New York, and everywhere close in the Midwest, and just try to spread the thing live.
That’s where you have the most fun.