Like Thieves: And Out Come the Wolves
Words: Brendan Crabb
Latest release: The Wolves at Winter’s Edge EP
Band site: www.facebook.com/LikeThievesOfficial
Following his departure from mega-selling Brisbane hard rockers The Butterfly Effect in 2012 after a 12-year stint, vocalist Clint Boge has swiftly responded by joining new outfits Like Thieves and The Given Things. The former recently released their debut EP The Wolves at Winter’s Edge and are about to embark on a brief tour. Loud had a lengthy chat with the singer about his latest endeavours, playing solo sets in pubs (and refusing to play one Aussie classic while doing so), as well as thoughts on his former act’s end-of-an-era DVD, Effected.
Q: So, what’s the latest in the world of Clint Boge?
A: Just doing some writing and stuff like that, doing some solo gigs around the place. Doing some dirty covers gigs to pay the bills, so that’s always fun. But actually man, I’m looking at it in a positive light, I’m actually getting my chops up guitar-wise and songwriting-wise. ‘Cause playing a lot of covers, you get to see how all these hit songs were put together. And man, if you look at it in the right way, it’s a good thing. I throw in a few originals and mainly play some covers and stuff. It pays the bills; that’s all I do it for really.
Q: What covers are you fond of performing then?
A: I try to steer away from all of the standard pub fare. I play stuff like Radiohead, try to do more obscure Stone Temple Pilots stuff, there’s some Alice in Chains and shit like that. It doesn’t always go over; you get your yobbos up the front going, “Play ‘Khe Sanh’”. I refuse to play that song. There’s three or four that I just don’t play, no matter how much people ask me for it. One of them is ‘Khe Sanh’ and another one of them is ‘Summer of ‘69’. I just refuse to sing those, I won’t do it. But they have caught me a few times off-guard, and I’ll slip in the odd ‘Blister in the Sun’ maybe once in a blue moon, if I’m feeling sporty. But yeah, I only play songs that I really like; I do ‘Crazy Little Thing’ by Queen and all that sort of shit, dude. Lots of fun with that stuff, and I get to pay the bills, keep my wife happy (laughs), and keep the family fed.
Q: Aside from that you also front Like Thieves and The Given Things, so it must be somewhat of a balancing act.
A: Yeah man, that’s exactly right. Honestly, doing covers for me is keeping me in music, and keeping money rolling in to pay for these original endeavours. That’s basically what I used to do to pay for the Butters’ first EP. I remember I used to lug bags of flour at one of the flour mills here in Brisbane, and I saved up $1100 to pay for the first EP. So I’ve pretty much been doing the same thing. We’ve got the Thieves up and running, The Given Things is going well. I’m in a good spot. I don’t know why I’ve done it again, why I’ve gone back into two bands (laughs). But honestly man, it’s like having two wives or two girlfriends living in the same house. It sounds like a good thing, and most people on the outside would go, ‘Wow, how lucky are you?’ But it’s hard to juggle.
Q: What do you believe the primary differences between the two bands are?
A: Well, Given Things has got more of a like, I guess you’d call it a pub rock, southern rock sort of style. That’s the main musical difference. Thieves is more, I’d guess you’d call it prog, for want of a better classification. Like Thieves is definitely very close to my heart, because it’s sort of the way I really wanted Butters to go. More back into a (2003 debut) Begins Here style, and sort of splitting it down the middle with what Dead Letter Circus, Karnivool and Cog were doing, and everyone else. I just wanted to keep it pure, in terms of what the Butters were doing, so in regards to Thieves, I’ve sort of recaptured that I guess. I think it shows, man. The songs are, to me they sound like, they’re just fearless. They just do what they do; we’re not trying to fucking win ARIAs here and make number ones and all that sort of shit. We’re not mathematically mapping out part A to link to part B, it’s just organic, and it’s real, for me anyway, songwriting-wise. It’s natural. The songs just fell out of us. They were mainly written, the songs were pretty much all done by the time I got to the band. I had lots to work on, which was good, and I think that shows in the songs definitely. Yeah man, I’m loving life. I’m in a good spot.
Q: Do you think there’s a market among rock fans which really enjoy that early The Butterfly Effect sound, and wish there was more music in that vein available?
A: Oh man, I got bailed up so many times at gigs by punters, saying, ‘are we going to get a glimpse of what it used to be like?’ and yadda, yadda, yadda. A lot of people saying they loved (2006’s) Imago and (2008’s) Final Conversation of Kings, but really preferred the sound that we went for on Begins Here. Which I do too, that’s the band I wanted to be in, that’s the band I started to be in. So yeah, the best feedback I got was from those groups of people that were calling for that. So when Thieves came around I was like, ‘yes, this is exactly what I wanted to do’. I tried to capture it in (Thousand) Needles (in Red), but it didn’t cross over, it didn’t capture the people, it didn’t get traction. We missed the mark, you know what I mean? Now I listen back to it and go, ‘yeah, I can totally hear how we missed it’. The hearts were in the right place, it was the right premise, but it was the wrong sound, if you will. That’s not to cast disparaging remarks on anyone in the band, it was just wasn’t quite right.
But that’s cool, you learn from your mistakes, you get up, you move on. When I was talking to Oden (Johansson), the guitarist, because we sort of talked about doing a project together, ‘cause I’ve known him since I was in my early 20s I suppose. I just said one night in passing, ‘hey man, if you ever need a singer for Thieves…’ ‘Cause I really loved his stuff and he’d shown me some demos. He said, ‘yeah, cool’ and went to the other guys, told them and they said, ‘yeah, let’s do it’, ‘cause their singer was sort of on the way out. I was quite fortunate to have that happen. I’m loving it; it’s great.
Q: Do you feel like it captures a similar type of chemistry to that of Begins Here as well?
A: Absolutely, definitely. Before things started to sour, I guess you’d say (laughs). The attitudes in this band are really good; everyone gets along great. I think there’s a very high level of respect for each other’s musicianship, and opinions on how songs should be crafted. I think that shows through in the songs; it really is a group effort, man. It’s a massive group push; we’re all pushing in the right direction, and together, which is fantastic. It’s nice to not have to bang my head against a brick wall when we’re writing in the rehearsal space. So that’s always good… There’s none of this sort of, let’s take three or four weeks to see if a part’s not going to fit, you know what I mean? It’s just a lot more streamlined; it’s smoother. We may still be in a honeymoon period, but I think from the early indications this band could do very good things.
Q: Are you already working towards another release?
A: Yeah, yeah. We’ve been talking about it actually, and this is the sort of plan that we’ve been going over. We’re gonna do another EP early next year. At the end of February we’re going to record again, and have it all in the can, locked away and ready for release in April. And then what we’re going to do is, we’re looking at an international release later on next year. We’re going to repackage the first two EPs together and release it internationally as an album. Which makes a lot of sense, and then we don’t have to spend oodles of dollars putting together another album. I think it’s a good idea, and I think to get that credibility in the international marketplace you need an album.
So we’ll do that and see how we go. Hopefully, if we can get some interest overseas from an overseas label, that would help us. We’re also planning to do a lot of touring overseas next year; we’ve already got China, we’re doing seven festivals in China next year. We’ve been put forward for Canadian Music Week; we’ve been put forward for some festivals through Europe. So already, straight off the bat we’re looking at big picture stuff. We’re not trying to tour ourselves silly in Australia; we’re going to do it I think a lot smarter. And that comes from all of the experience that I had with Butters, sort of consolidated into what we can do now. We can look at how to strategically try and get the band out there.
Q: Will this next EP essentially be a continuation of your debut?
A: Yeah, absolutely. The evolution of the band is happening organically, we’re writing what we write. We’ve got six songs demoed at the moment, and there’s about another five or six to be demoed, so we’ll have about ten to choose from. We’re looking at doing probably a five or six-track EP, and I think that probably, ten, 11 songs is probably plenty to choose from. We really want to make sure we get that uniform sound, and make sure we try and build on our fan base with this next release, but certainly not alienate anyone that we’ve picked up so far. That sounds like the recipe for every band, doesn’t it? (laughs) When you’re recording and releasing. It sounds easy enough, but it’s actually quite tricky (laughs).
That’s why I always tell young bands that ask for my advice on anything. I say, ‘Don’t stop writing, just keep writing through’. Don’t write five songs for an EP, or ten songs just for an album, keep writing and writing, because I think in regards to… You know when bands release their second album, it’s that tricky second release, and they either get poo-pooed, or they go, ‘yeah, sweet’. I’ve always said that if you write 20 or 30 songs, you’ll have more to choose from when you go to do your second album. Then you can say, ‘well, actually, we wrote these songs in the first batch’. That was off an interview I read with Slash. They were copping some shit about 'November Rain'. He said, ‘Man, 'November Rain' was written at the end of Appetite for Destruction”. But it sounded totally different of course, Axl (Rose) got his hands on it and turned into a big, epic orchestra thing. So I always found that very interesting, and I thought it made sense to me. Guys like Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and all those dudes, they write 40 songs for an album, and it’s whatever gets ditched. So it definitely makes sense.
Q: Shifting topics, but I’m compelled to ask – have you caught The Butterfly Effect’s new line-up on their current tour?
A: No, no, man. You know what? (Pauses) No (laughs). I heard the song once and I still remember when that song was written, and I didn’t like it then. I sort of knocked it back, and they went and got another singer, or singer/songwriter to put some vocals down on it, and they gave it to me. I didn’t like it then; I really didn’t like it after that dude put his thing on it. So when I heard it I had a bit of a chuckle, ‘cause I’ve got the original here, and it sounds pretty much the same. I remember saying, ‘Dude, I’m not singing that’, and Benny (Hall, drums) and Kurt (Goedhart, guitars) loved it, thought it was great. I said, ‘Well, we’re definitely moving in very different directions’.
But yeah, I don’t have a feeling for them at all (laughs). It’s just, it was what it was; it’s like any kind of relationship. Like, ‘Yep, cool, you’re over there doing your thing, I’m over here doing mine’. I’ll keep the blinkers on and keep going my way. Look man, I’m a lot happier out of that band, that’s for sure. When you hear a few things here and there, the universe just keeps gently showing me that I made the right decision. Someone asked me the other day, ‘What do you think of The Butterfly Effect’s new song?’ I said, ‘I don’t. I don’t think about it’ (laughs). I’m really happy to be moving on with Thieves, that’s for sure. It’s great, and also The Given Things as well. So there’s plenty on the plate, it’s crazy.
Q: I’m assuming you’ve watched the Effected DVD, though?
A: I watched it man, and to be honest I thought it was pretty fucking poor form to put that bit at the start. That was like with Kurt saying that we never got on; I just thought that set a really bad tone for the DVD, and that was added after… A few people might have got in someone’s ear for that and said, ‘Hey, you might want to spice it up a bit’. So I just thought that set a really bad tone, I thought it was pretty poor form. And it was news to me; I didn’t know that we never got on. I thought we actually did get on at the start, up until a point. But it’s one of those things you know, the further away I get from it I realise that I actually should have walked away after Begins Here. Because that was, I felt it then; I knew that shit was coming undone. But as you do, you just sort of go, ‘Well, we’re on to a good thing, you should stick to it, hang tough and all that’. Put your personal issues aside and whatever, whatever. It’s never until after the race is run that people start coming out of the woodwork and saying, ‘Oh yeah, I went to a party once, and he was getting drunk and you should have heard what he said about you’. You just sort of go, ‘Well, I’m glad I didn’t hear about that at the time’.
I think that’s helped me out with Thieves, because we have a band meeting once every couple of weeks to a month. I just walk in and go, ‘All right, business hat time, big boy hat time, let’s go’. I’ll say, ‘Hey man, let’s address this point, that was really crap when that happened’, and blah, blah, blah. You know what I mean? You just air the shit as it’s happening, instead of letting it build and fester, get ugly and dark and all the rest of it. So for that man, I’m really glad that I had those experiences. I think that’s the most positive way to look at it. I’ve learned a lot up until this point, and it’s helped me to understand how to start building this band to be a way better unit.
Q: What struck me about the DVD was there was little emphasis on how bands like The Butterfly Effect really laid a foundation for this burgeoning, forward-thinking style of hard rock within Australia. Now we’re seeing Dead Letter Circus explode and bands like Twelve Foot Ninja really starting to get noticed. That seemed to be skimmed over during the documentary. Were you disappointed by that?
A: Yeah, oh man, there were many, many things that I would have changed about that DVD. But obviously, I didn’t feel that I had a voice… I didn’t feel like I had a voice in the band when I was in it. So being post me leaving, I felt even more diminished in that fact. And I invested in the DVD myself, and I felt like I had no say in it. So yeah, there was that fact, and to elaborate on that point that you made, Kurt never felt like we were that instrumental in the scene. For some reason he just didn’t like the band, or me, or whatever and that spilled over to his disdain for me, or the band, or whatever. I can remember saying to him one day, ‘I want to be in The Butterfly Effect. Which band do you want to be in? Who do you want to be? Which band do you want to be in? ‘Cause it’s clear to me that you don’t like this band for whatever reason’… I don’t know if the guys ever understood that we were like one of the first, if not the first one of the group to hit it to a level to start pushing it. I suppose people’s perception is whatever it is; it’s your reality, wherever you’re at. But I’ve had people say to me, ‘man, you guys were the reason my band got into it’. So I don’t know, maybe they thought it was too ego to buy into that. I think if you take it in the right way, it’s, of course, we were. That’s where we were at.
But look, man, to get back to the point, I would have a lot of things differently (laughs) in the DVD. And it was a little bit disappointing; I watched some of it and there was some other… There were a few points where the guys made certain comments about me, or certain things that happened, that I just thought like, ‘Fuck, man, where’s the context? Where’s the rest of the story?’ I think there was one point where Benny like was saying about my throat operation. He was going like, ‘He said he’d fucking do it next year’ or whatever. I was like, dude, I had a massive schedule, I couldn’t have got to it next year. Not only that, they missed the part where I said the ENT guy who did the surgery said there’s a 50 per cent chance it’s going to work, and you’ll get five to ten per cent of your vocal capacity back. And I just thought, I don’t have $3500 and two months to sit out to maybe get five per cent of my vocal capacity back. I’m like, ‘Fuck you man; that’s a massive undertaking to take’… I had Needles; I was doing my solo stuff and other bits and pieces. I’m like, where’s the rest of the story? Heaps of shit got left out; it was very disappointing, to say that much.
But that’s what happens when the direction and the editing and all that’s left to certain people, you know? But that’s the way it goes; I look back on it now, I took the high road. I choose not to… When I walked in to do that interview, Benny grabbed me aside and said like, ‘Oh man, remember there was good shit’. And I said, ‘Mate, I’m only here to talk about the good stuff’. I’m not there to bash people or say this was shit, or that was shit. Like, if it was actually shit, but I’m not putting somebody down because of it, that’s fine. But then when I saw the edit come back and I was looking at it, I just thought, ‘okay’ (laughs). That’s cool, I just sort of, whatever, let it go, took the high road and that’s cool.
But I’ve seen some very uninformed people commenting on Facebook and all that sort of shit. That’s totally fine dude, if you want to believe that, that’s cool. People saying, ‘Fuck Clint, man, he left, the new singer’s fucking awesome, the band’s better than ever’. I’m like, ‘Whatever, dude. That’s great, good on ya’. But yeah, you’ve got to take all of that shit in stride. Of course it’s going to happen. People are just stoked that the band’s around and they can go and hear those songs that they listen to. And I say, ‘Good on ya’s, have a good life, see you later’ (laughs). That’s where I’m at, man.
Q: Interesting. Any famous last words?
A: It wasn’t me (laughs). I didn’t do it. No, Thieves are here, so keep watching us, ‘cause it’s going to get better. The songs coming for the next release are just getting better; getting bigger, more grandiose and anthemic, I feel anyway. So we’re looking good, and I’m really excited about Thieves. It’s everything that I wanted Butters to be, but wasn’t (laughs).
Brendan is Loud's contributing editor and also writes for Blunt and themusic.com.au.
You can catch Like Thieves on the following dates-
15/11- The Great Northern Hotel, Newcastle NSW - Tickets available at the venue
16/11- Annandale Hotel, Sydney NSW - Tickets available from Oztix
22/11- The Tempo, Brisbane QLD- Tickets available from Oztix
28/11- Enigma Bar, Adelaide SA- Tickets available from Moshtix
30/11- The Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC- Tickets available here