The Thievery Corporation Mines the World for Quality Sounds

The Thievery Corporation with Rob Garza, right.EXPAND
The Thievery Corporation with Rob Garza, right.
Jen Maler

Since 1995, Washington D.C. electronic music duo the Thievery Corporation has been blending music from all over the world with dub, trip-hop and even jazz to create a unique sound that is both rootsy and based in authenticity.

Rob Garza and Eric Hilton see the globe as a ball of inspiration to be plucked and harvested. No language, no world music is off-limits but is to be utilized respectably. Such is the case with the group’s eighth studio album, The Temple of I&I, which was released in February. The album was recorded in Jamaica, so naturally a reggae vibe runs through it.

“We’re inspired by so many different kinds of music from all corners of the globe that, when we sit down to write a record, we have no idea where we want to go,” says Garza. “The difference with this record is we actually recorded it in Jamaica, so I think the Jamaican influence and vibe definitely inspired us. This record has more of a reggae and dub feel to it.”

The Thievery Corporation just returned from a European tour that, typically, saw the band received enthusiastically. The group has operated independently for two decades and thrived without big budget backing. In fact, that complete control has only helped them retain their original vision.

“I think when we started, we were just doing music as a hobby and by accident,” Garza says. “It’s grown to be this huge production in terms of the live music, and we’ve become more evolved as producers and songwriters.”

The duo has composed music featuring lyrics in a number of different languages in the past, including Spanish, French, Hindi and Romanian. Garza says that he loves working with Brazilian music and the Portuguese language.

“We’re big fans of Brazilian music, so working with an artist like Seu Jorge was great for us,” Garza says. “We love working in Portuguese. There’s a big love affair with Brazilian music in general. There are so many languages we haven’t done. I guess we could throw a dart at the globe and pick a language.”

For those same reasons the Thievery Corporation has worked with many different vocalists over the years, which causes logistic and organizational issues when it’s time to tour.

“A lot of the time, the material sort of dictates who’s gonna be coming along with us,” Garza says. “That, and visa issues. We have people from all over the globe, and it seems like right now it’s a little bit more difficult with visas and immigration.”

That is the world we’re currently living in. Garza and Hilton have been shy coming forward with a political opinion and, under the current administration, that voice is perhaps more important than ever. Garza is quick to encourage people to speak up when they see injustice.

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“You see the headlines and people are talking about, this could be the beginning of World War III and all this sort of thing,” Garza says. “If you’re going to make yourself heard, I think now is the time. Especially as an artist. For me, I’m not so much into escapism, especially right now. We were always inspired by a lot of punk bands, hip-hop, and speakers as well. So we’ve always loved the fact that we’re independent and we can talk about what’s happening in the world. That we’re not signed to a major label that wants to hear a song about ‘taking you higher baby’ or something like that.”

Yeah, there’s a lot of that sort of stuff going around, though as Garza points out, there’s always been both crap music and great music, depending on where you look. For 20 years, the Thievery Corporation has remained firmly on the positive side, and they’re bringing an arsenal of quality electronic music to Colorado.

“I think Colorado’s probably the state that we play in the most,” Garza says. “We always seem to wind up back in Colorado, so we have a great love affair. Our drummer lives out there now, Jeff Franca, and it’s a place we always love coming back to. It’s a beautiful state, and we have a great fanbase there.”

The set will pull heavily from The Temple of I&I, and then, after a few more tour dates, the guys will be working on new music. Where will they record it? What language will it be in? They don’t even know yet, but it’s going to be fascinating.

The Thievery Corporation plays at 9 p.m. on Friday, April 21 at the Fillmore Auditorium; 1510 North Clarkson Street; 303-837-0360.

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