The Urban Dictionary defines an Oxygen Thief as a person so useless that the mere act of them breathing is a waste of oxygen. Whilst it’s clear that the literal definition does not apply to this band, surely it can be no coincidence that OXYGEN THIEVES’ performances have left unsuspecting crowds breathless of late. The boys possess a covalent bond – clearly demonstrated in their live gigs – that contributes enormously to them being well on their way to creating a successful formula. The Wirral four-piece – consisting of brothers Al and Rob Fewtrell, Cal McMorran and Daniel Tilling – sit down with me in a small cafe in New Brighton and I question how the name came about.
“Just a sayin’, isn’t it?” replies Al. “Me and me mate used to call people oxygen thieves… ‘he’s useless’, ‘he’s an oxygen thief’. We decided to call the band that when we had to come up with a name and people genuinely do remember it.”
And it was their early performances in 2012 that were perhaps even more memorable, leaving many excited about their unique blend of turbulent riffs and grungy, heavyweight beats. With a plethora of gigs firmly under their belt from Sound City to FestEVOL, Oxygen Thieves have commanded attention and begun to push their way to the forefront of a wave of promising new talent that has emerged so prominently in recent months.
The group have to this point been building up to release their single Maskara, which will eventually land in February. An audible punch of fuzzy riffs intertwined with extravagant post-punk fusions, Maskara is a febrile mass of dominant basslines that veil a vulnerability within the well-crafted lyrics, which are set around a girl who hides beneath a mask of make-up. With the release of their single in February, I ask Al whether an EP will follow.
“This single is gonna be an introduction, a free download. We’ll probably play London and a few other gigs to coincide with it and then we’ve got a few options. We might do a six-track EP soon and get it out early summer and then to start looking at making an album, basically. The plan is to get a six-track EP out first. We’re ready for it.”
The band are witty, hugely likeable and clearly serious when it comes to their music career. They’ll most likely be lumped under a broad ‘rock’ umbrella; however, there are too many influences within their music for them to be cornered specifically into such a genre.
“There were times we were getting told we sounded like people and a lot of the stuff we hadn’t heard before,” says Dan. “Like a lot of German bands, krautrock and bands like Television. We’re into it all now.”
“When I joined this band in the summer,” interjects Cal, “the amount of music I was exposed to, like krautrock and things like that… once you get into it, it’s really good.”
With an abundance of bands emerging from the peninsula, it seems as though the Wirral is fertile ground for the growth of a new breed of talent and musicians. With many following similar sounds and trends, what makes Oxygen Thieves differ from the other bands?
“We don’t sound like we’re from the Wirral,” replies Al. “That’s not to say we don’t like bands from the Wirral as there’s some really good bands. We like most of them, like The Red Suns and By The Sea.”
“Ours is a heavier, rougher sort of sound,” continues Rob. “It’s more American, Seattle scene, West Coast sounding. We don’t think, ‘we don’t wanna sound like the Wirral’. It’s just us really, we love all the stuff from round here but if you wanna be original, you’ve gotta get away from it. When we started playing, we didn’t make a conscious effort towards it, that’s just what came out.”
The influences of bands such as The Pixies can be heard at notable points within their music. Intense vocals imbued with frenetic melodies ensure that Oxygen Thieves produce an authentic sound. They have grown in confidence and ability throughout 2012 and perhaps this is due to them holding back on releasing material until they are truly happy with the quality of production.
“People say ‘why isn’t anything out?’” responds Al. “But you don’t go out as soon as you’ve got stuff together; it’s got to be right these days. That’s why we’ve been hanging around; now we’ve got like thirty tracks. You’ve got to have everything together; you might have had the tunes but not the live presence. There’s no point in rushing these things.”
“You can’t make a first impression twice,” adds Cal.
Oxygen Thieves are beginning to advance through the ranks, even garnering interest from NME in November a band to look out for, and it’s not hard to see why. When their single Maskara is released in February, the band hope to break away from Liverpool, playing in different cities across the UK, and aim to make a splash on many stages this summer, using the festivals to allow their music to appeal to a wider audience. With their refreshing brand of gritty, grunge rock, it doesn’t seem as though this band of thieves’ oxygen will be running out any time soon.