I spoke with Brandon Stoner, guitarist/vocalist of Thieves & Lovers. The band is a rock, alternative, acoustic blend that started out in LA, and has since moved to the Pittsburgh area. Made up of two non-native Pittsburghers, Thieves & Lovers have come to call our scene home (for now) and look forward to continuing to grow musically. They describe themselves as “blending melody and driving guitars.”
Currently a two-piece, the band consists of Stoner on guitar and vocals and Justin on drums and percussion.
Tell me a little bit about the band and how Thieves & Lovers came to be?
Currently we are a two piece, and looking for a new bass player.
I was living in LA for 10 years and started this as a project for class while going to recording arts school. At that time we were just making noise and then recording it. I decided I wanted to do it live. From there I moved to Baltimore and then to Pittsburgh around October ’16.
I’m originally from the Maryland/Baltimore area in central PA. I felt like I had hit a wall out in LA and decided to come back home, where I met a wonderful lady and we moved to Pittsburgh together.
Pittsburgh has an awesome scene and bands and so I see this as greener pastures. The music scene here is really rad. It’s a really cool town, I mean, pizza and beer are the hallmarks.
Speaking of pizza places, what are some of your favorites in town?
I really ought to know more, but I’m outside of the city proper. I had some really good pizza at a place called Mineo’s in Squirrel Hill. I also really like this more chain type place called Marcos, it’s within stumbling distance from my place.
You also mentioned beer, do you have any favorite local brewers?
I’ve probably had a lot of them, but I don’t remember their names. Three Rivers, if that exists, it’s really good. I drank it, it’s good.
What upcoming shows do you have on the horizon?
We’re playing a place called Club Radioactive outside of the city proper on August 8, 2017.
On August 16, 2017 we are playing Cattivo.
We’re excited to play Black Forge on September 29, 2017.
Pittsburgh is different from other cities I’ve placed. Most of the venues are run by two main companies that do promotions. Most of the other cities I’ve been active in the venues don’t have a promoter. You just pay the venue, but there’s nothing and no one else involved.
That being said, I really enjoy the DIY venues here in Pittsburgh. Places like Black Forge and Cattivo. I’ve also heard of The Mr. Roboto Project. We’re always looking for new venues to play in.
We lost our bass player recently so it’s hard to know what our set is going to be. We’ve been playing acoustic guitar with drums because the acoustic guitar has a really full sound. We’re in an interim space right now and it can be difficult to find venues willing to let us play that way.
We really enjoy that kind of backyard/basement feel. There’s a real cool venue I saw recently that does like DIY house shows in Oakland.
In Baltimore there are only 2, maybe 4 venues. You either play Soundstage or Rams Head, which are nice, and they bring in good shows, but they’re right next to each other. In 2005-2006 when I was first getting in to playing there were more venues. The city just kind of shrunk.
Pittsburgh is growing, even in the short time I’ve been here.
If you were to give an “Elevator Speech” about your band, what would it be?
Um, I’d have to say “it is a lollipop for your soul,” which I know that means nothing, but I’d have to marinate more on that.
You keep asking for some critical thinking, musicians need to do more of that
Since you’ve played and experienced different music scenes in LA and in Baltimore, what do you like about the Pittsburgh music scene? What don’t you like?
I really enjoy that the DIY feeling is very alive here. You don’t need to have a giant band where you sell like a million tickets to play a good venue. Everyone can come, too, your family, your friends, and you can do what you want (as a band) if you want to make it happen.
I don’t like the traffic or tunnels or the weather. But I’ve nothing negative to say about the music scene.
What sort of demos/EPs do you have available?
Right now there are 3 EPs, though we’ve only mass released 2 so far.
In late March we released a new single from our upcoming EP, which is still in progress… budget delays (isn’t that the life?). But our next recording is going to be different. Heavier and softer. That’s really all I can say right now.
How long have you been playing music and been involved in the scene?
I’ve been in since I was 16. From around 2004-2007 I was touring with bands and then I moved to Cali.
Justin, our drummer, he’s been playing since he was a kid out in Cinci.
Oh wow, so Baltimore/LA/Pittsburgh and Cinci combined. How did you guys end up working together, was it like a Craigslist thing?
Oh it was totally a Craigslist thing. I placed an ad and Justin responded. We talked on the phone, you know, the “are you a weirdo?” talk. I was playing a show a couple days later so I invited him to see it, hear us, and then we got together after that and we’ve been jamming since.
Usually Craigslist things go alright, but when they go bad, they’re REALLY bad.
He wasn’t a weirdo.
Now for the EPs, are they the same or different members since this has been an ongoing project?
The 1st EP was a totally different band. This whole thing started out as a project for school. Then some people suggested it should be played live and it just grew from there. The second Self Titled EP is just me, and the 3rd when it is released will be this band.
There was no bad blood in the changes, it’s just how life was taking me at the time.
What would you say your musical process is?
It’s definitely music first. I rarely have lyrics, in fact, I have a whole giant notebook with unused lyrics. Music is tricky, so it usually goes music, then lyrics, then showing it to other people.
When we are creating, we just get in a room and make noise. In one of my previous bands we had this rule where before practice we would just play. We would find bits and pieces that we liked and create songs from there.
I really like the spontaneity (of jamming together).
What is some advice you wish you had had or would give to someone just starting out?
Oh, so many things. You either want it, or you don’t. Don’t have any delusions about “making it,” but if you do want to make it, you’ve really got to go for it. You might lose friends, girlfriends, band mates, etc. It happens.
Also, know how to market yourself. There are a lot of great bands and great musicians with no audiences because they don’t market themselves.
Even though you’re newer to the scene here in Pittsburgh, do you have any favorite local bands or locals you think people should be checking out?
We’ve played with so many cool bands. That’s another thing I really love about Pittsburgh, people are accepting of whatever music you play. There’s a lot of mismatches on lineups, but people seem to really appreciate talent for what it is and not just only within a certain genre.
Pittsburgh is definitely one of my favorite scenes I’ve been a part of.
Do you have any favorite businesses/artists in the area?
So I live outside of the city proper, but Westmoreland County, where I live, puts on concerts and festivals. I think it’s really sweet that it’s a community thing, because it’s the community supporting and being supported.