Editors’ Notes Anyone worried that the raw guitar power of 2018 EP What Did You Think When You Made Me This Way? signaled a narrowing of Nothing But Thieves’ sonic vision will be reassured by Moral Panic. The Southend-on-Sea five-piece’s third album emboldens the genre-spanning blueprint they laid out on earlier releases, stretching from the synapse-crackling meld of drum ’n’ bass and heavy rock on opener “Unperson” to “There Was Sun,” a beatific drift towards Balearic dance pop. “When we first started, we were just trying to figure out who we were as writers and musicians,” guitarist Joe Langridge-Brown tells Apple Music. “It’s been quite serendipitous for us that we’ve had this breadth of sound from the beginning. You see bands that get to their third album and they’ve painted themselves into a corner and really struggle to get out of it.” Within the shape-shifting mix of sounds lie lyrics that deal with the rapidly deteriorating state of the world in 2020—delivered, as ever, via frontman Conor Mason’s vocal acrobatics. “The song ‘Moral Panic’ came after Joe lost his mind on Twitter,” says Mason. “Seeing the world crumble, essentially. We felt strongly that that was what we wanted to write about on this record. To be a part of the conversation.” Here Mason, Langridge-Brown, and guitarist and keyboardist Dominic Craik talk us through their journey, track by track.

Unperson
Dominic Craik: “This was the last song we wrote for the album. It was the missing piece of the puzzle. I locked myself in the dressing room and was experimenting with some new glitchy software. It was only a 30-second loop, but it formed the basis of ‘Unperson.’ We were listening to breakbeat stuff, The Prodigy and all that sort of aggressive, hardcore electronic-rock crossover and we thought, ‘What’s our version of doing that?’”

Is Everybody Going Crazy?
Conor Mason: “The three of us have such eclectic music tastes that we create something odd each time. This song was the epitome of our melting pot. When it started, it had this T. Rex influence to it. Then we thought, ‘How do we take it as far away as possible from that?’ So you add this R&B thing into the pre-chorus, which just slips on its head, then do a pop-based chorus. We were very conscious of each section of the song having its own identity—they all have their own world.”
Joe Langridge-Brown: “The boundaries between the genres are probably the most exciting bits. We want to head for the boundary in between these things.”

Moral Panic
JL-B: “This is a song about climate change; it was written at the time Extinction Rebellion was happening. I found the fact that it came from youth really interesting. The term ‘moral panic’ related to a lot of other stuff, but this song in particular was more about that.”
CM: “It sounds to me like a pessimistic Hall & Oates song. If someone said to you, ‘Do you want to hear a pessimistic Hall & Oates song?’ you’re going to say yes.”

Real Love Song
DC: “We were in Malaysia, and in that part of the world the radio’s filled with love songs and ballads. This interviewer was saying to us, ‘You don’t have that many love songs as a band…’ I was like, ‘Well, we have a few…but yeah, you’re right.’ I always thought I’d stay away from writing too many because there are so many of them. I was like, ‘OK, this is real love, away from the Hollywood type of love song…’ But it’s also a song within a song; it’s about the irony of all these songs written about something that isn’t really what it is.’”

Phobia
JL-B: “I’m wondering how people are going to take this song, because it’s about a very flawed individual. It lays it all out on the line. A lot of the time we have such an ideal that we’ve got to live up to that writing songs about someone who’s troubled is quite interesting.”
CM: “At the time we were heavily influenced by hip-hop and R&B and that breathy, intimate vocal was something we’d wanted to try for a while. It felt fitting with the music and the lyric. Reading that verse, it’s so dark—it’s like your inner demons coming out and you’re talking about them. You’re not going to shout at them, you’re going to creep them out.”

This Feels Like the End
DC: “The War on Drugs were an influence here, but with the chorus we leaned on how we sound as a band when we’re just crashing around playing songs like [2017 single] ‘Amsterdam’—Nothing But Thieves in a room.”
JL-B: “I had that chorus in my head for weeks but I didn’t know where it was going, so I was just waiting to get back in the room with the rest of the boys to work on it. We had the middle eight with just a riff underneath it for ages, and I had that idea to have a speech over it. I wrote the speech and we auditioned people in LA to record it. The guy Sandy who did it nailed it.”

Free If We Want It
JL-B: “I’ll be honest, ‘Free If We Want It’ is my favorite Nothing But Thieves song ever. I’m a massive Tom Petty fan, and it’s kind of got that whole driving feel to it. All the sections flow into each other so seamlessly, and we don’t always do that—especially when we’re experimenting with different things. It’s important with a record that’s quite dark lyrically to have a bit of light in there.”
CM: “I put every ounce of myself into that performance.”

Impossible
JL-B: “Dom saved this song. For ages, we tried to write this together, banging our heads against the wall trying to figure out what the song was and where it was meant to go. Dom took it away and worked on completely separate chords from what we were playing for the chorus. We were like, ‘Oh, that’s the song!’ I think we were pretty close to scrapping that one.”

There Was Sun
CM: “This was our last port of call to record; we wanted to get everything else in place before we did this. We’re really proud of how it came out, because we were unsure how it would. We loved the melody and the lyric and we thought, ‘There’s a song in here somewhere, but we just don’t know how to wrap it up.’”
DC: “‘Psychedelic’ was the word of the day when we were recording that song. Not literally— fuck, we can barely function when we’re sober. The demo had this ABBA thing to it, so we took that and it became this sort of Daft Punk-psychedelic-ABBA song.”

Can You Afford to Be an Individual?
DC: “[The transition] from ‘There Was Sun’ into ‘Individual’ is my favorite moment on the record. As soon as we wrote this, we were like, ‘OK, that’s a very good one.’ We’d written the riff on tour in Portland and then we were chopping up Conor’s vocals with this new software.”
CM: “I think that’s where the lyrics actually came from, from chopping up the words. There’s a reason that I hide away in the booth when I’m recording—because I just lose my shit in the recording. That song was where I could just go mad in there.”

Before We Drift Away
CM: “This could be a set ender. We saw Blur in 2015 and they ended on ‘Tender’ and it’s got that similar feel. As soon as we finished it, we were like, ‘Well, that’s the ending of whatever this is...’”
JL-B: “To end an album called Moral Panic, where it’s about being quite damaged by your outside experience, and then it being really reflective with this and the line ‘I don’t want to grow old,’ and that being the last thing you hear, I thought it was very poignant.”

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