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  • Vasili Papathanasopoulos


Cigarettes in Space is out now!

Image: Supplied.

Emerging Kiwi group, Summer Thieves have just dropped their new album, Cigarettes in Space. We caught up with frontman Jake Barton to chat about the release, sharing personal stories with a positive spin, taking on the role of producer and

The new album Cigarettes in Space is out. Such a great album. Sonically it is, at least in my opinion, quite a vibrant body of work that fuses together like this trove of different sounds and genres that unfurls as you listen to the album. There's rock, alternative, pop, all the fun stuff. How did you go about crafting the overall sonic palette that the body of work exists within?

Well we kind of like generally with an album try to base it off, like I usually just have like two key tracks and then try and like make that the whole chemistry of the album and try write around that. Generally doesn't work 'cause you end up, you know, like it's so hard to do that when you keep writing more songs. But for this particular one, we produced it ourselves as well. So it's instantly got that flavour on it. Obviously we write the music, but it's got the, it's got us producing it so as opposed to us using a few different producers, which generally kind of shuffles the sound up a little bit. Lyrically, you know, that's one thing I tried to do to make sure like all the, there's a space theme in the whole album. So even though some songs don't generally sound like that, but when you actually listen to it, like we had a listening party we did at Stardome, it's like these reclining chairs and it was like you're in space for 48 minutes and you really got the whole thing. Even like the songs that you would not actually expect, you're like, 'oh, there's actually still some connections there.' So as you said, it's definitely made to be listened to start to finish.

I love it. You mentioned that you self-produced the album. What do you think are the advantages of taking on that creative role and having full creative control of what the finished product sounds like?

Yeah, it's good. Good for the fact. Like, um, you know, we, you might do a, you know, you might go into a studio session where you're playing heaps of money. You got your producer engineers and then you're just not feeling it. And it's just like, you know, that's, that's just how it is. So we kind of we're sort of sick of having that issue. And then plus we've like, you know, we've sort of just been flies on the wall in the studio for all these years. We sort of did the opposite of other bands. We started with our first album with Tiki Taane at like a top studio with one of the best producers in the country. So we've kind of gone backwards starting at all these big studio big studios and then now our third full record is done in our lounge.

I think that makes it more, I guess this is maybe a bit of a pun, but a bit more homely and a bit more intimate because you guys have gone more inward.

Yeah, for sure. It's definitely one of those, we're proud of all this stuff, but it's pretty cool to cut out all the other people. We still had engineers but that's just, we didn't have to even see them. We just finished the production and we get it how we want it, get it sounding how we want it and just send it to them and to just make it sound a little better [aughs].

I enjoy being able to do work and not having to see anyone so [laughs] I back that fully. As you said, there is theme of space that runs throughout. The body of work does also explore and documents I guess the human existence of life in yout late twenties, early thirties, and that transitionary period of life with a focus on yearning and escapism. Can you unpack the themes and concepts explored across the body work and the importance to you and the band with documenting them within your music?

So there's like say probably maybe like five songs I've written with the band. It's not so much of like personal thing. Whereas there's another like seven or eight songs on there that are, those are the ones that have the real meaning. Like personal songs and stuff like that. Like Pieces and Always Know You, those ones are [about] a friend and family that were like lost, passed away this year and end of last year. So like real deep ones, but then try and make it like a positive thing, you know? Like that's why I don't really like go too in depth with a lot of my music, because it's like real sad stuff, but then I try and make it like not a real sad story. So it's kinda like, I guess in a way Pieces was one of the first ones on the record. My nana had just passed away and it was like kind of the journey of life and death, you know, your spirit going away into the galaxy and the stars and stardust and just becoming a part of the universe. So that was kind of like the concept of the record, like one minute you just feel like you're here and then you're outer space. That was kind of the the vibe that I went from, from that. And that was all from Pieces.

That was really beautiful. That was a very beautiful analogy. If you had to pick three songs from the album to play to someone who had never heard a Summer Thiebes song in their life because they're silly, that would turn them into an instant diehard fan, which three songs would you choose?

From this album, I would say I think Sunshine's cool stripped back. I'm just gonna break it into like three different sort of categories. Sunshine for a stripped back thing, Slow Down for something a bit more of that reggae sort of vibe, indie-reggae. And then I think Highway's quite cool. It's got that sort of chill vibe, sort of just, you know, chill in the background kind of thing. Fighting's also another one that'd be cool because that's got more of that rock. So that sort of covers all those genres actually. I should just name all the tracks [laughs].

Listen to it all top to bottom in sequential order. That's how we love it [laughs]. Now, is there a particular line, lyric or maybe musical motif from the album that you find gets stuck in your head more often than not? Or maybe one that you're most proud of?

I like it all, you know, they're all like, there's not really any one particular thing. I really love the deep songs. Like Always Know You and Pieces, the really personal ones that are really telling a story that no one knows the story apart from me, you know? So those ones are probably like the coolest, like Always Know You. It's actually written for my buddy who passed away's daughter, she's like three years old. So it's for her, she'll always know you. It's not like it's his song, but it's actually directed at his daughter. That's probably the deepest one for me. Like if you look at all those lyrics there, pretty special.

Yeah, that's so lovely and such a special sentiment. I know you've got three announced shows coming up. Hopefully an Australian tour on the horizon. What can like audiences expect from these shows and how have you kind of gone about bringing Cigarettes In Space into like a live context?

We've been doing all this acoustic stuff for radio stations and all the media. So we've been learning the songs in a stripped back way. So next week we'll go into full spaceship mode for full rehearsals for the next three weeks. But we will be playing pieces from all the albums and EPs, so it won't be like it'll be dominated by Cigarettes In Space, but we'll be doing a big show as well. We won't be playing for like an hour and 10 minutes. We'll be doing probably like an hour and 45 minutes. Cover a lot of the music. We wanna be playing at least 20 tracks, proper concert.

I would love to see you guys come on stage in a UFO space ship. I think that'd be sick.

Got all these ideas. I'm like, yeah, we'll just come on and soon as we crack it, man, we're gonna be fucking flying around and bloody all sorts of things. Dylan's up there in the UFO. But yeah, how good would it be to have money to do all that stuff.

Yeah, it would be.

Sort it out for us then!

Yeah, I will. I will write Warner a letter - all their budget for the year goes to production. I wanna see spaceships, I wanna see lasers, I want aliens, I want the Milky Way. I want I think the entrance to the venue to be like you're walking through the Milky Way and then arrive in some other galaxy.

Those little stars you put on the roof.

Yeah. Yeah. Oh my gosh, there you go. There's your creative. But in terms of the live shows and performing, how important is that to you not only in terms of showcasing your art, but also making an in-person connection with the audiences who do resonate with your music?

Yeah, totally. That's the coolest part of it. I guess now we're getting to a point where we're actually seeing that proper response, you know, crowd's singing the songs back which is I guess the ultimate goal. But then every time it happens you like, you want more, you know, it's like you're a music performing junkie. Like you just want more [laughs] it's never enough. It is the coolest thing. It is weird. I'm like kind of like a little bit weird with like, I get so my in the zone, like I'm almost like just out there when I'm at shows and like after, you know, some people think I come across as like, I'm just like, 'no bro, I'm just zoned out in my zone.' You know? That's one thing I always, I'm like 'shit', And then I'm like, 'I didn't really get to just like take it in. It's like when you go back to the green room then you're like, 'oh fuck' and then you start like going like 'oh that was sick,' you know what I mean? It's almost like a blur when you're doing it. But I think we, as we're getting older, we're slowly starting to be a bit more like take it in while it's happening, you know? Get out of the fast lane a little bit and just chill out and just enjoy the moment.


Biggest musical influences?

Probably Bradley Nowell from Subime up there. Yeah.

Dream collaboration?

Well it would've been with Bradley, but he is not around so let's go post Malone.

An album that has had the most impact on you?

Sublime Greatest Hits.

If Summer Thieves could create the soundtrack for any existing film, which film would it be?

What movie would suit that stuff? Let's just go Blue Crush.

Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?

Miley Cyrus.

What was the first song you loved to sing?

Father and Son, Cat Stevens.

The first concert you went to?

First concert was Only By The Night tour, Kings of Leon. When they came when that album was out, I was probably about 17.

Best concert you've been to?

I still reckon that probably, I think it's 'cause it was my first one. That's always the one, that's still the one that's just like, yeah, blown me out.

Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a Backstreet Boy?

A Spice Girl.

What would your Spice nickname be?

Whoopi Bartos.

An artist that you would love to see cover one of your songs?


Go-to karaoke song?

Wanted Dead or Alive?, Bon Jovi.

Dream location to play?


Most memorable show you've performed?

Probably the last New Year's show. We played Ribbon and Vines because we played it a few times, built our way up, and then we had a really good main stage slot. 6:30 PM 15,000 people cranking. It was sick.

An artist that you think has had the most influence on the music industry?

I'd say for the New Zealand scene, Katchafire. I'm gonna go Katchafire again for us from when we started

What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?

Stay in it.

What does music mean to you?

It's everything. It's just, yeah, that's all I've got. That's all I know.

The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?

Man, it was like, probably like seven when I got my first guitar and then I always just said, 'I'm gonna be a musician.' No musicians in my family, and then just stuck at it. Stubborn little bastard.

Cigarettes in Space is out now!


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