Interview Thief: ‘You Can Catch People Off Guard’

Aussie PJ Wolf provides self-therapy by wrapping up darkness in the shiniest, slickest synth pop imaginable.

The colourful, shape-filled explosions that tend to run alongside Sydney producer PJ Wolf wouldn’t pick him out as a guy magnetically attracted to darkness, but it’s the truth. Before Thief, he was going by his actual name, responsible for dark, brooding pop that leaves zero breathing. On the surface Thief is the opposite. It’s sky-reaching bleeps, hairs-on-end gleeful pop. Everything’s shamelessly fun on the outside. Lurk within and there’s the blackened heart. Sounds pretty morbid, but it’s a clever juxtaposition that makes Thief’s music so exciting.

He admits writing terrifying lyrics alongside happy-go-lucky instrumentation isn’t something “I set out to do,” but there’s a use to it, he says. “You can catch people off guard. [Although] I tend to be more drawn to lyrically dark stuff which can be a problem when you’re trying to write sing-alongable pop music.”

On 2013 EP ‘Closer’, PJ set the stall. He rinsed out any aching trauma from his other projects and started afresh. Thief officially began over a year ago, whereas before it was “a break from the much darker stuff” he was working on. Since the he’s seen the project “solidify.” He cites “a particular flavour” that’s seeped through all the production between himself and Matt Redlich to date. ‘Closer’’s since gained a re-release in the winter months, all the more affirming its complex balancing act between toe-tapping pop and lyrics like “I’m too tired of watching you fuck me over.” The guy’s got stories to tell, but he’s expressing frustrations by wrapping each and everyone one up in glitzy surroundings.

If there’s a certain “flavour” to all his recordings so far, it’s a nostalgia-nodding form of synth pop helping to tie up loose ends. PJ mentions the movies he watched as a kid when explaining the process. “The way you’re absorbing stuff in this really intense way seems to get lodged forever in your subconscious somehow,” the Sydney musician says. A couple of years back he was studying filmmaking at university, so “cinema has always been something I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from.”

Nostalgia, then, isn’t something he’s latching onto for the sake of it. If anything, his music gives in to an “an emotional connection to a younger version of yourself when everything was a little more magical.” Fair enough. If that’s the basis behind Thief’s motivations, it’s served him well up to now. Instead of living up to his name and stealing sounds of old, he re-interprets the joys of his early years and matches them up with grim realities of the present day. It’s a melting pot that could be the finger pointing forwards for excitable synth pop.

Taken from the new, free DIY Weekly, available to read online or to download on iPad now.

Tags: Thief, Features

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