Best of What's: Next Company of Thieves

Music Features Company of Thieves
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Hometown: Chicago?
Members: Genevieve Schatz (vocals), Marc Walloch (guitar), Chris Faller (drums), Marcin Sulewski (bass)?
Album: Running From a Gamble (out May 17)?
For Fans Of: Grace Potter, Angus & Julia Stone, The Submarines

Company of Thieves had its debut album Ordinary Riches in the can before the group played its first real gig. That may be a backwards and risky approach to launching a career, frontwoman Genevieve Schatz says, but she and co-founder Marc Walloch had their reasons.

“We thought that making an album first would be a cool way for us to get our foot in the door,” she says, “and sort of have this foundation of who we were instead of someone saying, ‘Wow, you’ve really got something. I’m going to pay for you to do this and I’m gonna mold you into what I want you to sound like.’”

Armed with copies of Ordinary Riches, the band would hand it out to anyone who would look their way, as they hit the coffeeshop-and-open-mic-night circuit in Chicago. Their circle widened to include shows across the Midwest, in New York and at South by Southwest. In 2008, after getting approached by Wind-up Records, Company of Thieves signed only after ensuring that they’d be able to maintain the same level of creative freedom they had in their earliest days, when they made Ordinary Riches in a house in their hometown.

And on their first label-backed record, Running From a Gamble, the band members were able to stretch their creative legs even more than they had on their debut. At that time, all of the members were new to recording, and they were constrained by their naïveté. “On the first album, I remember standing very stiffly in front of the microphone, almost kind of scared,” Schatz says.

Not the case in the making of Running From a Gamble. Schatz sounds just as comfortable digging into the soulful, Motown-inspired “Tallulah” on the new album as she did singing breathy, romantic tunes like “New Letters” on Ordinary Riches. But recording “Won’t Go Quietly”—a song about growing up and confronting fears of loneliness that Schatz feels personally connected to after leaving her parents’ house at 17 to make it on her own—took a physical toll on the singer.

“I was just on my knees, almost in tears toward the end of it, just screaming my guts out,” she says. “I felt like I was going to throw up at the end. It just felt so good because that song was a huge release in abolishing all fear of just being myself…kind of.”

Now, Company of Thieves are touring the U.S., promoting their album and, most importantly, taking their album title to heart. Although the expression “running from a gamble” might connote a fear of the unknown, Schatz is quick to explain that she and her bandmates take it to mean the exact opposite: “People risk their entire lives to just do what they love. There are no guarantees, ever. ... It’s not necessarily running away from a gamble. It’s running from a gamble to another gamble—to another gamble. Each step of the way, it’s kind of another question unanswered. What’s around the next bend?”

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