Surrounded By Thieves are punk rockers at their best. The four piece band delivers fast, energetic, melodic and politically motivated tunes. In May this year SBT are going to open up for Bad Religion, Bouncing Souls, Lagwagon and Turbonegro on the Punk Rock Bowling festival in Vegas, their hometown. That they are not only doing a good job playing music, but also answering questions in an original way, proves the interview below. Read more about what they would do if they had the power over the US for a week, their life advice for kids and what to expect on their new album and check them out on Facebook or even better, live!
Could you please introduce yourself? Who’s in the band, what is he doing and why.
Brandon – Well you say it’s easy… try being me and describe all of us without hurting the feelers of the rest of the guys. I’ll give it a shot anyway.
I’m Brandon – Lead Vocals/Guitar – I pretty much front the band and work the crowd and generally the spokesperson. I’m probably the rational person in the band too but always a couple jokes ahead of the rest. I seem to be the guy who fixes everybody’s shit when they break it too. Andy – Guitar/Vocals – He’s our unelected leader, the machine behind the scenes. He just always seems to get things done when we need it. He’s responsible for all the bad-ass artwork that surrounds our band, albums, show posters, etc. Rich – Drums and crazy face maker. He’s like our Jekyl/Hyde. Super laid back in person then Beast on stage! It’s crazy watching this guy go. Cody – Bass and Purveyor of the good vibes. We have dubbed him “Barcode.” There is never a sullen moment around Cody. The man just enjoys life and music and seeing him on stage is evidence of that.
Why the band name “Surrounded By Thieves”?
Brandon – We STOLE it! (Get it? Surrounded by Thieves…) Never mind, I wasn’t even in the band when we adopted the name.
Andy – It’s a bit by chance and a bit of making a statement. I was writing down tons of names ‘cause we needed SOMETHING. I saw an album by High on Fire called Surrounded by Thieves. Wrote it down not really thinking much about it. We chose it. Actually love this name. It says so much about what we believe in and what we fight for. Only problem is we get associated with an album title from another band. But hey any press is good press.
Brandon – See! We stole it!
So the band name says so much about what you believe in and what you fight for… could you explain that a little further? You like stealing or you fight against it or what does it mean?
Andy – Well politicians, big corporations, churches and some religion, parts of the government. All thieves. We live in a world where the rich get rich cause most of the time they steal from us. So we are really Surrounded By Thieves. Our songs have these themes in them for sure. “I’m the One.” It’s about stealing our money back. “Red White FU.” It’s about us questioning authority and being just as AMERICAN as the next guy who goes with the flow and hangs his flag on his doorstep. And no we don’t like stealing. Well I don’t anyway.
I’ve read that you’re working on your third album now. How’s that going and what can you tell us about your previous ones?
Andy – The first album, Prophecies of Greed, was kind of a rush. We found a studio that was gonna hook us up and give us a great deal in L.A. So we just went down to record once we had about 5 songs done. We ended up forming a great relationship with Matt Wiggers, “Wiggy” who recorded, mixed and mastered the whole album at The Nook Studio in Studio City, CA. Then we went back every time we had more songs written.
Brandon – And a different lead singer… I had only been in the band for about a month and a half when I started laying down vocals for this one. This album is truly punk rock and it’s SO F’ing good (biased anyone?). Seriously, I wrote the lyrics for “I’m the One” 7 hours, including the road trip, before it was recorded! That’s rad.
Someone’s proud, haha…
Andy – Anyway, but I think it turned out really good. The EP was kind of the same way. Had an opportunity to record an EP that we couldn’t pass up.
Brandon – Yes! With John Brown, who runs Camel Hump Studios here in Vegas. Awesome guy and he did an incredible job. He too, recorded mixed and mastered the whole EP “Punk Rock Fight Songs.” And he did it on a moment’s notice while we were mostly hung over from a show the night before.
Andy – We wrote songs that were a little harder for this album on purpose, well, except for “Wartime” which is actually written by the original 7 Seconds. By this time we had a ton of songs written that were pretty technical, well technical to us. We didn’t want to do an EP with two different sounding songs on it. So we wrote some pretty hard ones for that real quick. As far as the 3rd album goes we are still hashing out some of the music. With the members in the band now we are really hitting on some new territory with our song writing. Trying to stick to our sound but push ourselves a little bit at the same time. We are very happy with our new songs and are not straying too far from what the first album sounds like.
Brandon – We’re about 85% done writing the new album and Rich just laid drums for 5 or so songs. We’re already very proud of the music we’ve written for this one. We’ve gotten a little more dynamic in our sound without losing any edge and definitely not getting all emo. We continue to write about things that affect us and other people. Like politics, life, war profiteering, government, religion, drugs…. Holy shit, we need a happy song!
Yes please, write a fun song! How come that you haven’t done any? It just didn’t come to mind? I have to say I love that part in “Riot”: “…just one fucking Pepsi” and how it then continues with the chorus. Makes me want to see SBT live.
Andy – Done and Done. We are gonna write one for the new album. I think you’re right – we might be getting a little too serious here. The PEPSI part was so damn funny. We love that part as well.
You guys are from Nevada. So how’s the music scene (esp. regarding punk rock) over there? Just wondering because Nevada doesn’t seem to particularly well-known for punk rock…
Andy – 7 seconds, Cobra Skulls are both NV bands. We have a few who have made a name for themselves. In regards to Las Vegas punk rock, the scene here is amazing! There are tons of GREAT bands. Guilty By Association, Battle Born, Happy Campers, IDFI, Holding Onto Sound, The Seriousley’s, The Tinglerz, The Quitters, Shotguns N Gasoline, The Dirty Panties and on and on. The scene here is all about each other. We stick together, share gear, set up shows together. It’s very, very close knit. One problem is getting people who are not in bands to come out to shows. It’s a hard sell since there are so many good bands playing every weekend.
Brandon – Don’t forget we live a couple miles, sorry, kilometers, from the strip, the entertainment capitol of the world.
Yeah, we have a similar thing going on here with local bands. Just like you say, they help each other out and play gigs together and it’s hard to get other people to the shows that are not part of or related to the bands. Tough question, but what do you think, can be done to ‘break the circle’?
Andy – Well I think to break the circle we need to play more out of town shows and get more interest in SBT. We need to put on the best shows we can so people when deciding what to do for the night they decide “SBT is the shit and we wanna see ‘em again”. I think that’s about all we can do.
What are you doing when not playing SBT songs?
Brandon – Actually we’re a strange grouping of people. Rich is in real estate/property management. He’s always jet setting for his company or spending tme with his wife. Andy is every bit a graphic artist, creating posters and art for the U.F.C. With his new child he spends a lot of time at home lately his wife and lil boy. Cody is the man about town. I’ve never been anywhere with him where he didn’t know at least one person. When he’s not playing in SBT, you can probably find him at the local tavern meeting more people. Me, I’m married and spend a lot of time at home with my beautiful wife and our dogs… and kitty when I’m not working.
Andy – …Well Filthy Rich is counting his money. I’m making posters and art for the UFC. Brandon is…….. Nobody knows what he does. Cody is always husslin’. We all have families and squeeze in time for writing songs on our own making sure the fam is good to go and working our tails off.
Brandon – I do stuff.
Is it sometimes difficult to combine family life with the band stuff? Are you families sometimes frustrated that you guys are on the road again? With family and day-time jobs it must be hard to focus on music – so is it just a hobby or are you aiming for more…?
Andy – That’s a hard one. For me personally I guess it’s more of a hobby. But it’s a serious hobby. I put more time into this band than anything else I do after work and family. Even more than family sometimes. I want this to go further for sure. I mean who wouldn’t. I have a ton of fun sounding good and putting good shows on. I love travelling and getting our name out there. My wife is very supportive of me doing the band stuff. I just had a baby so that may change but for now she is very cool with it.
What’s your personal favorite band and why?
Andy – Social Distortion. Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell was the album that did it for me. It just, kind of, spoke to me. I loved the lyrics the 4 chord guitars and the driving beat of the songs. To this day I can listen to that album or most of Social D’s albums and just love it over and over again.
Brandon – I’d have to go with Face to Face – “Face to Face.” It was like a light switch for me. The songs were about where I was in my life and I could finally relate on a personal level. See, I was a child of hip hop, but once I was introduced to Punk, game on! From there it was Social D, Bouncing Souls, AFI, Screeching Weasel and the list goes on. And punk shows are so much better than hip hop shows! Hallelujah, I’ve been saved. Ok…Outkast was pretty good.
Andy – Well if we can name a bunch of bands I’m gonna name some too. Actually what Brandon said. I think that’s why we get along so well. I love those bands too.
Bouncing Souls just played in Australia, together with The Descendents and Bodyjar– it was a great show! Social D is good, they were in Australia in 2010 if I remember correctly. I have to say though that Mike Ness is getting old…
Andy – HAHAHAHA YA totally agree. Mike is up there. They are my favorite band and when they come through town I am always saying that I am not gonna go cause Mike’s getting old and he’s the original band member. But I go anyways and when I hear that first chord of the first song all that bullshit goes away and I fucking love it. But all punkers get old.
(The next question was asked before the election was over) Who will win the US election?
Brandon – Doesn’t really matter too much. Until people realize that having only 2 choices really is no choice at all, we will be stuck in status quo forever. Until banks remove their hands from the pockets of the politicians and their campaigns. Nothing will change. People always say their vote doesn’t count… and they’re right. That’s because they keep voting for the same thing over and over. If we start putting our vote elsewhere we can get the wrecking ball swinging and start knocking down barriers.
Andy – Obama- He already won. That shit bag “Rob-me” [sic] can burn in hell. And Brandon is full of shit.
Do you guys know any Aussie punk bands?
Andy – The Living End, The Vines, Frenzal Rhomb, and Bodyjar are only ones I know of.
Brandon – I don’t! Give us some names to check out!
Oh there are heaps of newer/ smaller bands that are worth checking out. To name a few: Chainsaw Hookers, 51 Percent, KANG, Luca Brasi, Rockethead, Local Resident Failure, Anchors, The Decline, Batfoot!, Ebolagoldfish, Stolen Youth, Nerdlinger, Bodyjar …
Next one, do you prefer Pepsi or Coke?
Andy – PBR
What’s that? A beer brand that Aussies don’t know??
Andy – Pabst Blue Ribbon. It’s what I usually drink at shows since I am cheap. At home I’ll drink way better beer than that.
Brandon – Beer and whiskey.
What’s your favorite SBT song and why?
Andy – I like too many of them. Wow hard choice. “Never Forget” cause its softer and I get to sing it. But I do love “Strength” on the new EP.
Brandon – They’re all kinda like my kids. Some are adopted and some I helped conceive. But to pick favorites would be wrong. Ok… I like “Monster,” “Look Away,” “System,” “Still the Same”… but they’re all gonna be on the new album. HA!
Ok, we get it… when can we expect the new album? Do you have a name for it already or does that happen last?
Andy- No name yet. Although I’d like something that kinda of makes people question authority or gets a rise out of people. Like the Prophecies of greed cover. We’ll see. Maybe we will make a funny cover this time with a funny name. But the songs on this album will be better than Prophecies I feel. Now that Brandon is writing a lot more and brining in guitar parts it’s gonna be really good.
So Andy, you have become become a father not long ago. Congrats. What would you advise your kid if it’s trying hard to become like you?
Andy – Never kick a fresh turd on a hot day. And get rich and you can do anything you want. Those are the 2 things I’d tell him.
Brandon – That’s your advice? Poor kid…
Wise words.What would you do if your kids would totally get into boy bands or Trance or something else that’s weird?
Andy – I would support him in whatever he wants to do. Life’s too short to not do what you want. I may not like it that’s for sure and I sure as hell wouldn’t let him listen to it in the car with me, but whatever. I was thinking of making guitars and other musical instruments off limits to him. That way when I am away he’ll sneak it and become the best musician ever. You know how that goes. Your parents tell you to stay away from that guy or that kid is a bad influence. And what do we do, we do it anyway.
Ever been to Australia? Would it be realistic for you to play here one day?
Brandon – I want to go so bad! Me and the Mrs. dream of making it there someday. To tour Australia would be absolutely amazing! The love for punk rock in Australia is immense and I truly feel we could bring something to you that would be very well received.
Andy– Never been. I hear the airplane tickets to Autralia are super expensive. SO ya if someone paid those we would totally play there. How could you say no?
It is ridiculously expensive. Also doing a tour here is not so easy due to the big distances between cities. That’s why international bands normally come in groups i.e. play shows together or they come for festivals and do sideshows. And that sucks, because smaller, good bands from overseas just can afford coming here. And when the big bands come, the tickets are quite expensive and/ or they all play at the same time.
Please share a funny/embarrassing/weird (tour) story with us!
Andy – Right now what comes to mind is our trip to New Mexico and getting stuck in a snow storm.
Brandon – It was a freak storm!
Andy – Brandon was driving his SUV with a damn corvette engine in it with a big trailer full of gear. All of us piled in this truck. Mind you this thing is built for speed not snow. First we get stuck on the damn highway for about 2 hrs at a standstill and the snow kept falling. The temperature suddenly dropped to 15 degrees F(-9C). Next we finally get moving and almost hit a semi truck ‘cause we lock up brakes and slide to a stop.
Brandon – We were barely moving…Everything was under control.
Andy – After this fiasco we are all a little uneasy and the truck gets a little sideways. We all gasp trying not to BELT OUT “HOLY FUCK WE ARE GONNA DIE!” Brandon being the great driver he is manages to get the truck and trailer in the right direction and we are all safe.
Brandon – Thank you Andy
Andy – I look at Brandon and say “Whatever speed you feel comfortable driving at in the snow… minus 10mph from that! Slow and steady stays alive.” Best time of our lives.
Brandon – The next 240 miles were at about 10mph on hard packed ice. It was “Keen.”
That wouldn’t happen in Australia… What do you think about Spotify and things like streaming songs or albums? Is that destroying the music business like some people claim?
Andy – This is hard for me to answer, because on one hand I sit in front of a computer all day and constantly find new bands and like Spotify a lot. I do go buy the albums most of the time if I love it and for that Spotify is great. But I do listen to some stuff over and over again and don’t pay for it. I have heard that artists do not see a lot of money for this. I don’t exactly know how it works so I can’t really tell you if it’s hurting the music industry or not. I guess I need to start researching this stuff. I think it’s good for bands to get more exposure as well.
One ongoing discussion regarding punk rock is the discrepancy between its ideology (often anti-capitalistic, left-wing oriented, fuck the government-kind-of-mentality) and the fact that bands ‘sell out’ because they become big and sell their CDs, merch etc. For instance, I’m thinking of a German punk band called Slime that split up several times because they became too successful and therefore too commercial, which contradicted their ideals. Or another band like Anti-Flag: They like preaching against Capitalism but benefit from their popularity and are of course selling CDs and merch… What’s your opinion about that? Do you care? Do you sometimes have such discussions?
Andy – I think if you make it big, so what. As long as you stick to your roots and don’t change. Green Day “sold out” but their biggest hit was American Idiot. They used their power to at least try and make people think. But if you make it big and do whatever a record company tells you to do as in wear these clothes play your songs like this then I think that’s lame. But you know I am so back and forth with this as well. Some days, I say fuck ‘em all, they all suck for selling out, and other days I say the above. It’s a hard thing to answer. Some bands you love sign to a major label like Alkaline Trio and the album is not what you are used to and it pisses you off. But I also think about the artist and they don’t always want to play the same shit over and over and want to grow. I can’t blame them for that. One last thing about that… Anti Flag is awesome but they preach way too much on stage. Isn’t that what your songs are for guys?
Brandon – Seriously, I gotta agree with the Anti-Flag statement. I love their music, but good lord, they preach so much they sound cliché and uninformed and as if they say these things only to get a rise. I digress. I feel that if a band becomes successful then good for them. Isn’t that the point? Only a true masochist would work as hard as necessary to make it the music industry to want to remain broke and living in squalor. It would be a dream come true to be able to play to arenas and stadiums, but I’ll draw the line at millionaires selling 30$ and 40$ t-shirts at shows. That’s just greed. I say fuck that.
Enough seriousness, back to normal: If somebody smashes your guitar at a show, what would you do?
Brandon – Chances are it would probably be me in the first place… But I’d probably be mildly bummed. I don’t buy expensive gear though. I buy good equipment and make it better by upgrading and stuff. So if something like that were to happen, I wouldn’t lose too much financially. It would suck though.
Andy – I’d definitely punch ‘em in the face.
What was the worst concert you have ever been to and why was it bad?
Andy – Worst? Hmmmmmmm. Well I saw Everclear about 10 years ago. I used to love this band. Sparkle and Fade is still one of my favorite albums. They toured with Social D back in the day as well. So anyway, I was stoked to see ‘em but by then they had another guy on drums. Well not exactly drums I guess he was more of a percussionist or something, hitting cymbals and a snare drum for every song. They also brought in another guitarist and keyboards. I was like UHHHH WTF IS THIS? The songs were too over played. They brought fans on stage during the show to and it was just dumb as hell. I was so pissed. I loved that band ‘cause they were a 3 piece that sounded huge. Their songs meant something but not anymore. I had seen them before in San Francisco years before and it was awesome. Oh well bands grow I guess. In this case the wrong direction.
What would you do if you had the power over America for one week?
Andy – I give back to the people who really need it. I’d borrow more money, since the deficit is fucked anyway, and give it to all the poor people. Tax the Rich and end the war. Then party the rest of the week with all the politicians in DC and get them laid.
Brandon – I would assassinate Andy. Just Kidding! I would bring our troops home, close any base that wasn’t on American soil and with the savings from our vast over spending on imperialism I would transfer the funds to education and inspire creativity in industry. I would stop free hospital care for recidivist meth and hardcore drug users and provide mental health counselling instead for these people and treat addiction as a mental health issue instead of a crime. I would make lobbying any member of Congress a felony (this is a biggie!). I would indict the bankers that were involved in defrauding the American people. Now, on day 2 I would…
And finally, do you have any shout outs, messages or recommendations for our readers?
Andy – Well first of all we gotta give a shout out to our Drummer and Bass players Rich Castro on drums. Awesome drummer and cool dude. Cody Leavitt, great bass player and definitely a great asset to the band.
Brandon – We have to recognize our other halves/wives and girlfriends. They put up with us… I’d like to thank everyone in the pit, everyone not afraid to let themselves go at our shows. Shout out to Tocci, and Omahar,for being at damn near every local show regardless of who is playing Huge props to everyone that has bought our albums or shirts and made it possible for us to play in other cities.
Andy – Please check these Vegas bands out! Battle Born, Guilty by Association, Aluminum Falcon, Happy Campers, The Gashers, The People’s Whiskey all awesome Vegas bands. John Brown from Camel Hump studios is a true bad ass in the studio. He is kind of the new Vegas recording guy. As in he’s recording a ton of us right now. Oh ya, and check out Squid Hat records. They are a new Las Vegas label. Cool stuff.
We have 2 albums out that you can get at surroundedbythieves.com.
Like Us!!! Facebook.com/Surroundedbythieves
I guess that’s about all the plugs I have. Thank you Janine for this interview. Keep doing what you’re doing. We appreciate what you do for music and I know the rest of your readers do as well.
- Brandon and Andy… and the rest of SBT!