Indie rockers Company of Thieves is making their third appearance in Chicago Friday since reuniting in May. The band, fronted by Chicago area natives Genevieve Schatz and Marc Walloch, along with Chris Faller on drums/bass formed in 2007 but broke up in 2013 to the dismay of many loyal fans. During its initial run, the band seemed on the fast track to mainstream success. Company of Thieves’ debut album “Ordinary Riches” came out at number 5 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Chart and “Oscar Wilde” — the most successful song on that record, won the 2007 New York Songwriters Circle Contest, it was also featured as an iTunes Discovery selection and the album overall was also as well as in their Indie Spotlight: Rock/Alternative – Download for the album and another track from it, “Pressure.” In 2009, Schatz and Walloch appeared on Daryl Hall’s show “Live from Daryl’s House” and performed on “Last Call with Carson Daly.” After playing Lollapalooza in 2010, they followed up “Ordinary Riches” with “Running from a Gamble” in 2011. But perhaps unbeknownst to them at the time, the first single from that album, “Death of Communication,” would foreshadow things to come.
Original drummer Mike Ortiz left shortly after the album was released and lineup changes abounded. Faller joined the band shortly after and played drums during lives shows (and then would play bass on the bands 2012 tour). Between 2011 and 2013 the band had a revolving door of supporting cast members for shows, with Schatz, Walloch and Faller being the anchors. By January 2014, dealing with industry and personal struggles, Schatz announced that the band had no plans to record again, leaving indie music lovers from Chicago and across the country in a lurch. Then in May 2017, the band, all living in Los Angeles now, announced that they were back. They released their first single since reuniting – “Treasure” — two months later and in September would play 11 cities in under four weeks, from Indianapolis to Los Angeles. They released their latest EP, aptly called “Better Together” in February 2018, six long years after their last album. Then and now, Schatz sultry vocals seem influenced by Bjork and the late Deloris O’Riordan and Walloch’s brooding, power-pop guitar conjures up Johnny Marr at times. Along with poignant song writing, it’s a combination for success if there ever was one. And now that they are back, it may not be long before they eclipse the success that they achieved and walked away from during their initial run.
Friday will be their third appearance in Chicago since reuniting and first since “Better Together” was released, playing a free show at the Cubby Bear. Schatz and Walloch recently spoke to The Chicago Ambassador’s Bob Chiarito from Los Angeles about the upcoming show, their thoughts about being reunited and their thoughts about returning home to play.
CA) You guys formed in 2007 and released two albums by 2011. But in 2014 you announced that you had no plans to record any more music. At the time did you think you were done?
WALLOCH) I think I did. We didn’t really have a plan and I felt like we needed to get away to a different situation to learn a lot and grow a lot. To get healthier in every way possible.
CA) What led to you forming again last May?
SCHATZ) We had really been running into each other a lot at different shows in Los Angeles. Every time we saw each other, it was really nice. We talked about life and talked about music because we always had that connection. We decided that we could meet up and spend some time together. We had challenges when we were younger. We apologized for things and pieced together stories and got clarity. We also shared what we had done on the break and realized how much we had grown. So, it just kind of naturally progressed into Marc playing the guitar and me singing and us making songs.
CA) In the time between 2014 and 2017, Genevieve put out a solo EP called “Show Your Colors.” Marc, you worked onother projects like AWOLNATION, Juliette Lewis and the Licks and your solo project Spill. What were the pros and cons of working on your own or perhaps I should say apart from each other rather than totally on your own?
SCHATZ) The pros are huge. It’s important for people to express themselves creatively, artistically, however they need to and whenever they need to. Making music in general is such a gift and a privilege and it’s also a duty. But when we don’t play together, we don’t get to collaborate. It’s pretty simple for me. I like collaborating with Marc. I love the relationship we have with music and his passion. It’s like an adventure every time working with him.
WALLOCH) It’s kind of like when an artist teams up with a great producer for several records. It could be a great collaboration but artistically at some point you want to try out different processes so that you can evolve and grow and get better at what you do. I think working with Genevieve is always wonderful and always extremely powerful because of her passion for music and I like the way that when we come together we share the love for songs and how songs get from point A to point B. But having time off to work alone or work with other people only made me better and I’m just happy to bring those lessons to this scenario because I like our teamwork together.
CA) The new EP is called “Better Together” – for obvious reasons?
SCHATZ) Yeah! [Laughter]
WALLOCH) There’s also a sense of divide right now in our culture so I think it ties into a lot of the themes in our first single “Treasure.”
CA) Just to go back a bit, Genevieve, you said during the break you two would run into each other at shows a lot. Did you also stay in touch or was it just that?
WALLOCH) There was a period where we got complete spacing from each other which was healthy.
SCHATZ) I had one of those “life flashed before your eyes” moments while driving on the highway in LA one night. Our car got clipped by another car and they kept driving. It was scary how easily we could have been in a horrible crash and the first thing I thought about was Marc and how I missed him so much. So, I reached out with that information and told him that I got into a car accident and felt like I should call you.
CA) What prompted the move from Chicago?
WALLOCH) We were living separate lives at that point.
CA) So you weren’t playing together anymore when you moved?
SCHATZ) No, we weren’t. But when we were younger and touring, every time we played LA everyone was really excited and everyone expressed that someday we’d like to live there. Everyone kind of kept it in the back of their mind as a destination for the future.
CA) What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed with the band since the hiatus almost 4 years ago?
WALLOCH) I don’t know. I guess we just are or are trying to be a little more balanced. When we were younger it was literally tunnel vision, 100 percent of our time was spent trying to get the band off the ground and it runs itself into the ground. So, I think we want to nurture all our other needs and bring that health and love to our band and make it more about that.
CA) You’re doing a crowd-sourcing campaign and have gotten a bit original with some of the items on your website – i.e. selling dinner opportunities with you. How’s that going?
WALLOCH) It’s been awesome so far. We’re overwhelmed by the support from our community helping us to keep chugging along.
CA) You’ve played a couple Chicago shows since May – House of Blues with Bailiff and the Aragon Ballroom with Walk the Moon. Is there anything special about playing in Chicago or is being around friends distracting?
SCHATZ) There is a feeling of being at home when you play there. We grew up there. It’s tough to see everyone and so many places you want to go. It’s also very vulnerable. I’m constantly changing and reinventing myself.
WALLOCH) Coming back to Chicago is always extra special. Every corner has so many vivid memories of either our childhood or our band coming up in the early days. It’s always such sweet thoughts.
CA) The new EP just came out. You have a show March 16 at Cubby Bear. You also have an acoustic tour that you’re announcing?
SCHATZ) Yes, we are announcing the first leg of it.
CA) Will you be back in Chicago for that?
WALLOCH) We’ll be back May 11 but we can’t announce the venue until after the Cubby Bear show. We did an acoustic tour back in 2013 and had so much fun changing up the pace from our regular tours. It feels so much more relaxed and like we are hanging out with our friends, singing songs together. It feels like were in someone’s living room. We wanted to get back to that and it’s nice to tour on a much cheaper level. It’s a lot less stress and a lot more fun, singing songs every night together.
Company of Thieves is scheduled to play a free WXRT Free Sample show Friday at 8:30 at the Cubby Bear, 1059 W. Addison Street.