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Robber Band

Interview: Ben MacIntyre


Published March 3, 2004 at 5:00 a.m.

Rising from the ashes of local funk-punk legends DysFunkShun, rocker gals Zola Turn and countrified Red Headed Strangers, Stealing From Thieves aims to put good ol' rock 'n' roll back on the map in Burlington. Guitarist/vocalists Richard Bailey and Ben MacIntyre, bassist Julia Austin and drummer Ornan McLean have created an alternative sound that shifts from soft ballad to raging rocker in the blink of an eye.

With influences ranging from The Clash, The Kinks and Rush to classic country, the band jumbles genres and fuses them into a whole. Bailey, the punk kid, throws off sharp, buzzsaw licks while popsters MacIntyre and Austin tie together sweet melodic lines. Throughout, prog-rock junkie McLean attacks his kit with a manic energy. Together, their individual approaches create the mosaic that is Stealing From Thieves.

Last week, Seven Days conversed with Macintyre in his Burlington apartment about the band, the Vermont music scene and how performing always comes down to the money.

SEVEN DAYS: How did you all come together?

BEN MACINTYRE: The drummer, Ornan, was a huge part of that. He was friends with us all, we had all talked about doing stuff, he and Richard had played in a band before, he was friends with Julia, so he was the motivating force. He talked to all of us individually and thought we were pretty much on the same page.

SD: How did the idea for Stealing From Thieves come about?

BM: Everyone was in between projects at the time. We all had bands that had broken up, and we all had the same idea about getting together and making a rock band. We also all wanted it to be truly collaborative, instead of having one person write the songs with a band backing them up. There are three principal songwriters, Richard, Julia and me.

SD: You all come from fairly different backgrounds as musicians. How did individual tastes play into creating the band?

BM: The idea was to take everybody's songs and arrange and perform them in a way that made a cohesive thing. We'd tone down certain aspects if something was "too punk" or "too pop," round it out a bit.

SD: Have you had problems maintaining a distinct sound, with three songwriters?

BM: It felt like that could have been a problem at first, but I think that the process by which we arrange the songs and learn the songs maintains cohesion.

SD: When did you begin seriously playing?

BM: We started practicing in January 2003. We really wanted to make sure that it was going to work and that we had the right sound before we performed live, so we didn't play out until August.

SD: How do you feel about performing in Burlington?

BM: We feel good about it. We've had good responses and it's been really fun, but playing in Burlington is tough as far as, well, getting paid. It can be disheartening to play a club gig where the whole band feels like it went great and there was a good crowd response, and we walk away with 40 bucks. It just feels a little insulting.

SD: How do clubs mistreat bands?

BM: Nobody would come to a club if it wasn't for the bands. We are the bread and butter for clubs, the reason they sell drinks and make money. Often clubs just take the bands for granted.

SD: How do you usually get paid for shows?

BM: Sometimes we get part of the ticket money from the door, sometimes there is a guarantee, sometimes they'll tell us one thing and do another. Not everyone does this, but the clubs that do make it very unpredictable for us.

SD: What are your plans for the future?

BM: Well, sometime soon we want to get together and record a demo. We want to start branching out, playing other places, but for that you really need a demo and press kit. You have to really start going after things. We don't want to be a touring band where we go out for two months or a month or whatever, but the occasional quality gig in New York or Boston would be great.

SD: If you could co-bill with any band from history, who would it be?

BM: The Clash would be right up there. The Cars, The Kinks, maybe Blondie.

SD: Beatles or Stones?

BM: Stones.

SD: Bud or Pabst?

BM: Bud. Everyone has their standards, you know.