Relaxing, upbeat, and raw—these three qualities come to mind when listening to any Future Thieves song. The alternative rock quartet from Nashville, Tennessee features lead guitarist Austin McCool, drummer Gianni Gibson, bassist Nick Goss, and lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Elliot Collett. This is a band that is obsessed with playing music with the utmost excitement, whether performing live for an audience or tracking in the studio.
As Goss mentions in the band’s Facebook bio, “We're always excited to play. Even if we're rehearsing down in our studio, even if it's the third time we're doing a tune, we've got that energy because we know how important it is that we're doing what we do. I don't think we'll ever lose that.”
That excitement shows in the band’s latest release, Live at Blue Rock. The live album was recorded at Blue Rock Artist Ranch in Wimberley, Texas, with the intention of conveying the energy of the band’s music. Capturing the essence of a band performing in front of an audience, the listener is brought into all the different nuances that separate a live album from a typical studio album that’s been mixed and mastered for weeks.
In the opening track, “Dark in the Day,” a repetitive chord progression performed on guitar with a small amount of distortion gives it a clear, crisp sound. Vocalist Collett soon joins by adding his raspy, southern voice to the track, adding the upbeat vibe, even as he shouts the words, “the dark in the day.” Accompanied by McCool’s punchy drumming, the music is nowhere near as mellow as the song’s title suggests. A little after the track reaches its halfway point, McCool begins a powerful solo full of bends and shredding.
Taking the popular title track from their previous album, Horizon Line, Future Thieves bring a new element to the fan favorite. The biggest difference from their previous album is the prominence of the guitar this time around. Instead of being lost in the mix, the guitar riffs allow the listener to pick up the nuance of every note. As a much softer song than “Dark in the Day,” “Horizon Line” particularly benefits.
Instead of taking a backseat to the vocals, the guitar melodies of McCool and Collett add energy to a mellow track. From the first second of the song, the raw sound of the guitar helps the band perform the track the way they intend it to: live. Taking away the elements of the mixing and mastering process, the vibrato of Collett’s voice is much more prominent, allowing him to express more emotion when he croons, “Oh, if you stay awake you'll find your horizon line.”
“Hesitate” allows Gibson’s drumming to shine. From the beginning of the song, Gibson puts his all into his drumming, a quality that can’t be picked up from a studio album. The warmth of his drum tone carries over from the chord progression of the introduction through the verse as Collett joins McCool on guitar. While the duo make a prominent effect on the energy of the song, Gibson’s punchy drumming pushes through here to make the song more powerful than the studio version on Horizon Line. Indeed, only two seconds into the song, Gibson’s live drumming has already added an edge to the song by being more present in the mix. On Live at Blue Rock, Gibson’s drumming is much clearer, making it easier to pick up.
This is a band that is obsessed with playing music with the utmost excitement, whether performing live for an audience or tracking in the studio.
The Live at Blue Rock version of “Hesitate” also boasts more powerful vocals. Collett goes out of his way to add projection and emotion to his voice—far more than in the toned-down version on Horizon Line—especially during the verses, where he belts out, “Call me again, I'll be leavin' town! Girl, I'll be leavin' town.”
No track sums up the need for Future Thieves to release this live album better than “Soon.” The visceral energy is present here for every instrument. The track begins with an accented guitar riff from McCool that contrasts the muddy studio version on Horizon Line. This live version makes the accents in his strumming pattern even more prominent. Within the first 15 seconds of the track, Gibson performs a short drum roll that ends much louder than it begins, which the studio version of “Soon” does not convey. This increase in volume adds to the excitement of the track and creates a stronger build-up to the initial verse.
When Collett’s voice joins the track, his raspy voice holds much more conviction. A little past a minute into the song, he shouts, “We ain’t givin’ in,” holding out the last note of the line for much longer than on the studio version. Taking that kind of liberty allows the band to perform the songs the way they believe they should sound, without anyone in the studio making any changes to their music.
Future Thieves isn’t a band to rely on gimmicks or sleek production to make their music enjoyable. This is even more apparent in Live at Blue Rock. The raw sound of a couple of dudes from Tennessee playing music they love really shines through with this live album.
9,500 out of 10,000 Rawckus Kung Fu Throwing Stars