Words by Jackson Balling. Photo by Lily Chau.
Answering “Yes” to a question such as “You wanna go interview a band?” can lead you down one of many countless roads, especially when it’s at Big Heavy World and you have the experience of a whopping hour and fifteen minutes. The road I found myself on led me several steps out of an office and into a room filled with good vibes and utter goofiness. There I found members of the funk rock group Gang of Thieves, sitting on either the rugged couch or the floor, laughing it up with our photographer Lily.
I sat down next to their dreadlocked bassist Tobin Salas, who was getting snug with a pizza box that had a half-eaten pizza in it and a comical drawing on it. I only caught a brief glimpse of the latter before striking up a conversation. Suddenly I was included in a bubble of friendship and absurdity that four out of the band’s five members (singer Michael Reit was sick with yellow fever) exhibited by communicating with each other and others. The moment I introduced myself and asked the first question was when I noticed how committed the group of goofballs were when it came to their music, something I had never truly seen a local band accomplish before.
“So, what are you guys up to?”
Great first question, I know. Drummer Deven Massarone was the first to respond. He explained the upcoming benefit for Funkwagon vocalist Aaron Burroughs, who had recently lost his apartment and possessions in a fire, and I could hear the sincerity and friendship in his voice. Guitarists Nick Wood and Len Sokol also chimed in with their support before bouncing from conversation to conversation. Deven continued to talk one-on-one with me about the band’s upcoming tour that will kick off here at the beginning of March and continuing around the south and west of the country, including a performance at South by Southwest on March 15th, before eventually coming home to Burlington.
Personally I had never heard of the band before, let alone more than a few local bands in this area, so everything that was being told to me was completely new information. I was blown away by what had been communicated with such a nonchalant tone, as if it was just another day in the life of the Gang. Maybe Devin and Tobin could recognize this, because they carried on the conversation by discussing their upcoming record release, the end result of a very successful Kickstarter fundraiser that started last April. Having asked only for seven thousand dollars to go out to Berkeley, California and record with Grammy award winning producer and engineer Michael Rosen, they received over eleven thousand and quickly headed out to record during the early spring of last year.
With my jaw still stuck to the floor, Nick, Tobin, and Deven fell back into their previously seen goofy selves as they waited to play the title track of their upcoming record Thunderfunk live on our Rocket Shop Radio Hour. Their music fell out of the conversation, taken over by topics such as trippy music festivals and Liberty Chocolates. We all bounced around and enjoyed each other’s company, despite having all been relatively new acquaintances.
As their time on air quickly approached I made sure they had said everything they wanted to say. Deven and Tobin pondered at the question before asking each other if they wanted to reveal their upcoming “special show”. I was intrigued, and prodded for any more information.
“We have an awesome hometown record release show is at ArtsRiot on April 20th. We’re all really excited for that.” Devin said, actively giving an example of that excitement with widened eyes and a big grin.
With that reveal the band made their way into the studio to talk on air about their record, eventually getting around to their upcoming release show after a solid twenty minutes of their hilarious antics. With the announcement came their new song and it blew away in a gust of rockin’ funk and raw energy, despite only hearing a quick thirty second snippet.
After meeting the band, talking music with them, and later hearing their music, I’m at a loss for words. This is exactly what I hoped to experience here at Big Heavy World and I got to be a part of it within my first two hours. If you haven’t given Gang of Thieves a chance or haven’t heard of them before, much like my disappointing past self, definitely give them a listen and look out for Thunderfunk. Maybe you’ll be blown away too and run into me at their upcoming record release show.