Jim Wilcox spent years drumming in the Mesa, Arizona-based punk band Authority Zero. After moving to Colorado a few years ago, he wanted to start playing again, so he posted a message on Facebook expressing this desire. That’s how he met Mike Waterhouse, singer from Denver punk outfit Boldtype, and the two met at a Denver bar to talk music.
“Mike and I started writing songs, just the two of us, for a little bit,” Wilcox says. “When we got the initial band together, the whole sound kind of just took its own turn.”
That’s how Record Thieves came about, and after a few lineup fluctuations, the five-piece band is just about to drop its debut, Wasting Time — eleven tracks of melodious punk rock that recalls Millencolin and, in particular, Face to Face.
Waterhouse isn’t exactly enamored of the Face to Face comparison.
“I’m definitely a big Face to Face fan,” Waterhouse admits. “I thought I grew out of kind of sounding like that. I hope I still don’t. I definitely draw my influence from them and a lot of that older ’90s punk. That’s just one of those bands I grew up with.”
Wilcox finds the comparison deft.
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“When I first heard Mike’s voice when he was in Boldtype, I though it sounded very much like [Trever Keith] from Face to Face, which I thought was a great thing,” Wilcox adds. “There’s a lot to be said about the singer or just the band Face to Face in general. They didn’t get a lot of recognition. They did in the scene, but there weren’t a lot of bands that sounded like them.”
Wherever they fall on their style, Wilcox says he intended at first for the band to take a more classic rock-and-roll approach to its sound — somewhere along the lines of Hot Water Music — and eschew the skate punk origins of their previous bands. What they ended up with, for better or worse, is a sonic pallet that merges a strong vein of melodic hardcore with healthy dashes of pop punk. It recalls a particular era of punk music.
The band is currently made up of Wilcox, Waterhouse, Chad Gilbert on bass and Allen White and Fred Bear on guitars. Bear and Gilbert are members of punk band Allout Helter. Waterhouse jokes that he found White playing vagabond music on the 16th Street Mall, but Wilcox is quick to say that's incorrect, and describes White as a "diamond in the rough" and one of the best guitarists he's ever had the pleasure of working with. In its current iteration, Wilcox and White come up with most of the Record Thieves songs, and the remaining members add their touches for a collaborative effort.
Waterhouse says the songs on Wasting Time range in subject matter from relationships to politics.
“We aren’t too political,” he says. “We do have some songs that touch on that. But we’re still getting started. Everything is kind of new. We are still kind of finding ourselves.”
The first single off the record, “Sacrifice,” is a pep talk of sorts that Waterhouse wrote for himself.
“Maybe I wrote it for me subconsciously as a TED Talk for myself,” Waterhouse says. “No one can judge you for the things that you're doing. You gotta do what you gotta do sometimes.”
Wilcox has a slightly different take.
“I’ve always thought that ‘Sacrifice’ was just about how a lot of people tend to judge you, maybe how you are on a certain day,” he says. “People don’t really know what you are going through at that moment of time. You just kind of have to brush that shit off.”
The band, like most other bands, hasn’t gotten to play a live show as of late because of COVID-19, and it’s never played with its current lineup. Live music is slowly coming back, but the raucous, up-close-and-personal nature of a punk-rock show seems like a tricky stunt to pull off in the age of a highly contagious respiratory virus.
When will we be afforded the opportunity to mosh again? Wilcox says it comes down to politics. Some countries were able to get the virus contained quickly and are now somewhat back to business as usual. The United States, of course, couldn’t get its proverbial shit together.
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“Therefore, the trickle-down effect,” Wilcox says. “Some of us who play music for a living are completely screwed right now.”
He adds that he has friends in punk bands in California who are playing drive-in shows right now. The band is talking about possibly live-streaming a show, but the members want it to be something special, so a significant amount of thought will go into it. It’s a start, but it’s not the same as a good old-fashioned punk show. In the meantime, they want to see where they can take their sound. The first record almost seems like just a trial run of sorts.
“In the punk world it sucks, because punk-rock shows are so physical,” he says. “There is so much energy in a punk rock show. I think when people feel safe again, they will remember the times they were able to mosh and jump off stages and be crazy again. It will happen.”