Summer Thieves are a reggae band hailing from Dunedin, and having opened for artists including Macklemore, Six60 and David Dallas, they are on the rise. Their debut album Wanted was just released, so I caught up with two members of the band, Jake Barton and Angus Cleland, with some questions for them about music, performing live, and their new album. Here’s what they had to say:


We would love to know more about the origins of Summer Thieves. When did the band start and when did the four of you meet?

Angus: The four of us all went to Kings High School in Dunedin, spread out over four years. That’s the short story of how we initially met each other, I guess… I have actually known Johnny since primary school, and Bartos and I are second generation St. Clair Beach hooligans.

Jake: Summer Thieves was formed for a major assignment during my University Post Grad in 2012. The four of us all met at Kings High School in Dunedin. Johnny and I have been playing together for about 13 years and have always been in bands together.


Can you describe the experience of your very first live performance as a band?

Angus: I ended up officially in the band later on, and my first proper gig with the Thieves was opening for Six60 and David Dallas in Dunedin. Fair to say I had jumped in the deep end with that one, haha. We played a sold out show at the stadium during the university’s orientation week which is always big in Dunedin. The Warriors were also in town for a game and were hanging backstage for the gig. There was a basketball hoop out back; shooting some hoops with Manu Vatuvei was a pretty crack-up experience.

Jake: Just playing in your standard cover band at a bar in Dunedin called Ratbags… The name summed us up pretty well.


What is it like performing nowadays?

Angus: Our performance and sound has really evolved over the years, but it’s still the same goal when we play a show. We just want everyone to have a good time.

Jake: It’s always been fun but now that our following is growing and our shows are selling out it definitely rises to a new level of fun.


For how long have you been passionate about making music?

Angus: I’ve always loved music and was lucky enough to get my first set of drums when I was 11 and haven’t looked back… Started trying to teach myself keys and produce music on computers while in my last year of school.

Jake: I got my first guitar around 7 years old. At 13 I started to take it seriously and began performing at competitions, like Golden Guitars, and playing gigs at the local bogan joint called The Empire.


Could you give us an example of an artist or band that influences your music?

Angus: We all have a bunch of influences, I guess that contributes to our sound. Lately I’ve been listening to lots of Soulection, Steve Lacy, Kintaro, Anderson Paak, Knxwledge, Outkast, S.O.S. Band, Scientist, krs…

Jake: I’m hugely inspired by Bradley Nowell (R.I.P.), frontman of Sublime, and his writing style.


Your debut album, Warped, was released on the 28th of July. Can you describe the process of putting the album together?

Angus: Over 3 years of mahi went in to wrapping up our debut album. We had recording sessions with Tiki at the Albany Street Studios in Dunedin in both 2014 and 15, and also vocal sessions in his own studio up north. We smashed out recording the tracks in days, however it took years to finish up these same tracks. It’s pretty amazing to see it all come together and to be able to release it properly through UMusic NZ. It was awesome working with Tiki in the studio and seeing how he operates, and also going back and forth with him finessing these tracks until they sound the way they do now.

Jake: The basis to most of the songs were written by Johnny & I well before entering the studio. Then the boys started adding their flavours and really warping the tracks into something we all buzz on.


What is the songwriting process like for the band?

Angus: There’s no like strict formula for how we write songs for the band. All the songs on this album were written in different ways. Recently though, it’s been pretty common that someone will come to the group with an initial idea and then we will jam it and shape the song together.

Jake: It’s kind of a layering thing. A vocal idea and chord progression is the start and then the others add to that and bounce ideas back and forth with each other.


What are each of your favourite tracks on Warped?

Angus: Hard question… La De Da, Grey Skies, No Shadow and Losing You are a few.

Jake: My favourite track is Green Queen. It just has powerful lyrics and is close to my heart.


What effect do you want your performances to have on people?

Angus: Music is the number one escape for me, so I hope that people can come to our shows and feel free, have a good time with good people, hopefully hear some good music hahaha, forget about everything else and just enjoy themselves.

Jake: Some kind of emotion. Whether it be happy or sad, as long as it’s effecting them in someway. I want people to be able to relate to the stories too.


Finally, what is one piece of advice you would like to share with our readers?

Angus: Drink more water.

Jake: Very cliché, but follow your dreams and do what makes you happy. If you want it enough you can do something with it.


You can keep up with Summer Thieves on Facebook here.


TIERNEY REARDON is a librarian-in-training studying at the Open Polytechnic; published in ReDraft, Rookie Magazine and Flash Frontier. She may never achieve her dream of being a hipster, but has adopted and renamed several of the neighbours’ cats. Check out some more of her work:

Maya Payne is on the Path to Stardom

The Happy Camper’s Guide to Being a Fangirl (or Fanboy)

In Review: Haim – Something To Tell You

In Review: My Sister Rosa