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LIAR THIEF BANDIT's Mike Jacobson: “There’s something magical about the 70’s classic rock sound. So many bands and artists have been inspired by it and I can definitely see why, there are just so many great songs and albums from that era..."

Interview with Mike Jacobson from Liar Thief Bandit
by Leanne Evans at 16 May 2021, 10:02 AM

Here at Metal Temple, we love the Scandinavian music scene. We mostly associate it with its wondrously brilliant black and death metal, and anything enticingly dark and morose, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the northern hemisphere only offers the magnificently melancholic. LIAR THIEF BANDIT, a trio of talented rockers, is here to deliver something a little more retro, but just as soul-nourishing, turning the troubles of everyday life into something upbeat. The talented threesome, Mike Jacobson, Niklas Dahre and William Grube, combine an endearing musical blend of 70’s rock, with the feelgood era of garage rock vibes, and have recently emitted pure rays of sunshine in their third album release, “Deadlights”. Think somewhere in-between Thin Lizzy and The Hellacopters and that’s close to the delicious sound of these down-to-earth creators of sonic sunshine. Here, staff writer and interviewer, Leanne Evans, had the chance to speak with Mike Jacobson, vocalist and guitarist for LIAR THIEF BANDIT, and speak about the band’s music journey and how far they’ve come, inspiration behind the latest release and what their plans are for the not-too-distant future.

Hey Mike! Thanks for speaking with Metal Temple, how have you all been?

Hey! Thanks for having me! We’ve been great, lots of work with the release but it’s fun!

The world has been a strange place over the last 12 months or so; how have you all coped and have there been any particular coping strategies that you’ve adopted?

We’ve had to cancel touring and festival plans last year but other than that we’ve tried our best to make the most of the situation. We had booked the studio for June last year but since our May tour got cancelled, we pushed the studio session forward and recorded the album earlier instead. We knew that we needed to find a new way to release it so we put work into that as well. Except for the lack of shows, I think we managed to do everything we wanted this past year and we’re very happy with the result.

Musically, and creatively, would you say that 2020 enhanced or hindered?

Definitely enhanced. We came home from being on our seventh European tour together with this line-up in early 2020 and while the creativity already was flowing, we put our minds and bodies even more into it when we realized that we wouldn’t be able to focus on live shows for quite some time. We’ve actually continued writing songs beyond the upcoming album, no reason to stop now.

Now, one very special aspect of this year so far has been the release of Liar Thief Bandit’s third studio album “Deadlights”. Do you feel that the latest album is a relatable record to how people may have felt over this time?

Yes, I believe so. Although it wasn’t our intention, I think there are a lot of themes throughout the album which can be interpreted as takes on the current situation, lyrically. The overall sound of the album has an uplifting and upbeat feel to it, something we think is very much needed right now.

Incidentally, was the album written pre-pandemic or during? A lot of bands have used the pandemic as an opportunity to produce “pandemic projects”; was “Deadlights” one of them?

The album was written pre-pandemic but a lot of the pre-production, preparations and of course the actual recording were all done during. As I mentioned before we kept writing songs in the absence of live shows, we basically never stopped. Deadlights is a product very much inspired by dealing with hardships in life, personal and band-wise, from a time when things were “normal”.

Just to dig a little deeper about the roots of Liar Thief Bandit, how did you come to name the band after some of the less-than-desirable members of society, when you guys are clearly a lovely bunch!

That’s an interesting question! We never thought of it that way, we just needed a name, I guess. It is taken from a lyric in Gluecifer’s “Take It”, where a line in the chorus goes “I’m like a liar, like a thief and a bandit”. We also thought it’d be quite fitting to have a three-word name with three personalities in it. Something that attracts attention.

You guys have a wonderful nostalgia about your sound and have deliberately melded 70’s classic rock with 90’s garage rock, creating the sunniest of sonics. What is it in particular about these eras that inspires you so much?

There’s something magical about the 70’s classic rock sound. So many bands and artists have been inspired by it and I can definitely see why, there are just so many great songs and albums from that era. When the garage rock revival hit the music scene in the late 90’s, that magic was back with a punk attitude, great song writing and lots of homages within the sound. This is what got me in my most formable years as a youngster and inspired me to pick up the guitar myself. By digging deeper into these 90’s bands’ influences, I realized that a lot of the music I loved was defined in the 70’s. When I write songs, I tend to blend what inspires me from both eras. The way I see it, we’re part of the third movement. We’re the next generation.

So, going into more detail about “Deadlights”, of which I had the privilege of reviewing for Metal Temple and rated as a very solid 9/10, how would you summarise the thematic of the album and where did you draw the inspiration from?

First of all, we really appreciated that review! Not only because of the very generous grading, we were very happy about the in-depth thoughts about different aspects of the album. Musically, the creation of this album has been very much affected by our live-aesthetics and it has intense action written all over it. Inspired by the energy from live shows we’ve done all over Europe up until making the album, we really wanted to capture that feeling on tape. Lyrically, I draw inspiration from my personal life and my self-experienced hardships turned into something positive. I like to deliver messages of hope and a positive mental attitude.

When I listened to “Deadlights” it felt like a natural extension of the band’s previous releases, very organic, as if it was meant to continue telling a story, how do you feel about your latest record? Do you feel there’s been growth in your sound, as if the narrative has matured a little more?

I think you are on to something there. There is definitely a distinct mood throughout our catalogue and I think the song-writing has progressed in many ways over time, still keeping the true essence of what inspired us to start making music together in the first place. This also go for the lyrics. Everything we do is affected by our most natural habitat; being on tour, playing live, connecting with the audience. As we got the opportunity to do this more and more in between album two and three, I believe we’ve grown stronger within ourselves as musicians and within the band as a unit. There is a different kind of collective confidence within the group that has made its marks on the new songs.

And after producing your third album, how do you feel you’ve developed as a band and has it created another fork in the road on Liar Thief Bandit’s journey to move forward and keep growing?

We definitely felt that we needed to make something different this time around. A new way to release our music, a different kind of artwork, something that could reconcile with where we are now. So, I suppose our fork in the road appeared last summer/early autumn when we realised that we needed to find and decide all those things. Because now we were at a point where we had all this experience from being in a band, all these new songs that felt like our most honest work to date and we wanted it to be presented in a way and with an altitude of “new beginnings”. We put our whole operation into a higher gear with this one and it needed to show.

There are so, SO many highlights for me! I particularly love “Good Enough” for all the energy it brings, and “Right from Wrong” for the lyrical authenticity. Both tracks are also noticeably the most garage rock feeling pieces from the album and you’ve previously stated that fellow Swedes, The Hellacopters, are a huge inspiration for you guys; do you see a moment of being able to collaborate with them? Has that ever been something on the cards for you?

Well, The Hellacopters was the reason I picked up an electric guitar in first place and years later when I started this band, I was highly influenced by them in many ways. I still am and the band is still very much affected by the great music they created but I’d like to think that we’ve progressed into other territories musically as well. Since the other two members are highly involved in putting the finishing touches of the songs together, a lot of the material shapes up to be slightly different from how I planned it and that is for the better. We don’t see ourselves more influenced by The Hellacopters than any of our other favourite bands particularly, but I guess you can hear quite clearly where they’ve affected us in some songs more than others. A collab? Let me put it this way – if we ever have the chance to open up for them or even sharing the same stage at a festival, it would be a dream come true and a definite highlight in our career.

Going back to the new album, which tracks personality resonate most with you? Are there any that have a particular special connection?

The first one that comes to mind is the opening title track “Deadlights”. I wrote the intro and verse riffs when I was 17 and it stuck with me through thick and thin until I finally found the perfect place for it. I really wanted to start the album with something of an epos, with our measures. Two intros, a highly melodic chorus and a long instrumental part where the guitar continues to tell the story building it up into a massive ending. It could easily have been the last song on the album, but I really felt that this is the way we need to start the whole thing off, along with uplifting lyrics that set the tone for the listener. “Catch and Release” is also a big one for me, a song about finding the most beautiful thing in life in the most unexpecting way and cherishing it. It’s one of the most “poppy” songs we’ve done, and I think that the lyrics demand it. This one needs to sound as easy and effective as I felt in those moments that inspired the song. The melodramatic “Forever the Optimist” is also an important one, we’ve never started off a song with only vocals and guitar like that before. It sets the mood quite fittingly and serves the story of the song well, a piece about realizing who you are, what you can do and how to make the most of it. One of the most “naked” songs I’ve ever written.

To me, the latest release, and in fact, any of Liar Thief Bandit’s catalogue, is perfect easy listening for picking your face up (a Brit term for cheering you up). How important is it to you to produce records that turn frowns upside down?

I’m very glad to hear that you feel that way! To me, it’s very important. Not because I expect the listener to feel the same way but simply because I find it very satisfying delivering that kind of message. It’s a lot more fun to sing to an audience about positive things and how to view the glass as half full than to set a depressing mood. That’s what I do best anyways and enjoy doing.

And can you tell me what you have planned for the future of the band? Is there anything on the cards by way of new material, or am I getting too ahead of myself and too excited!

There is new material written and there are lots of plans for the future regardless of which state the world is in, I can tell you that much. We are planning ahead to give people something fresh whenever we can play live again, the journey doesn’t end here – it has only begun!

You guys were playing all across Europe pre-pandemic and actually played in the UK in January 2020 (I’m gutted that I hadn’t discovered you then!), do you think you’ll be back to live gigs again at the earliest opportunity?

Yes, we’ve always seen ourselves as a live band first and foremost. Doing our best to live up to that reputation, we’ve managed to tour extensively between albums and our last tour was indeed our first trip to the UK as a band in early 2020. When it’s safe to travel and meet people again, we’ll be one of the first acts you’ll see on the tour posters. Believe me!

If so, where are you considering performing?

We’d love to come back to Britain as soon as possible, other key countries for us are Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy where we’ve had wonderful experiences. Just before the pandemic hit, we had plans to go to Spain as well where we’ve been getting a lot of attraction. That will definitely also be on the top of the list when everything opens up

What would the real-life festival or live performance dream be for Liar Thief Bandit?

Domestically, I’d have to say Sweden Rock Festival. I’ve always loved that festival, the setup, the people, the atmosphere. To perform in front of that crowd would be a milestone for sure. Internationally, there are so many things I’d like to do. A European/UK tour in support of a band that influenced us (like The Hellacopters for instance), opening up a stadium sized show, going on an extensive tour of the US, Australia, Japan… I have a hard time dreaming about being the biggest band on any bill, I find much more satisfaction in striving for something a little more reachable. Also, I’m not so sure I want to be in the biggest of bands with everything that comes with it – the uncontrollable fame, amongst other things. But to be able to express yourself in front of a huge crowd with material you wrote yourself is the ultimate driving force and always will be.

To round things off nicely, the signature “Leanne question” I ask in my interviews, indulge me and tell me who your fantasy celebrity metal tea party guests would be! You need to choose someone to cook, someone to chat with, someone to entertain you and someone to party with…

I’m gonna go with celebrities whether or not they are still alive. Dave Grohl would do the cooking; his barbeques are reportedly supposed to be amazing. I’d love to chat with Phil Lynott, such an interesting individual. Dolly Parton would entertain me, because she’s simply the queen of everything and Lemmy is the one I’d party with – no explanation needed there, I guess! How’s that for a tea party, huh?

Thank you soo much for your time, it’s been an absolute pleasure and we at Metal Temple are looking forward to the next part of Liar Thief Bandit’s journey… hopefully, a gig in the UK will be on the cards soon and I can come and share your musical sunshine in person!

Thanks for having us! That sounds terrific, we can’t wait for that to happen!



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Edited 25 September 2021
 

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