Oxygen Thief Interview - January 2013

by Jodie Humphries

Oxygen Thief

There are many musicians that I have been proud of over the course of Live-Music-Scene, but none as much as Oxygen Thief, when I heard that he had joined the ranks at XtraMile with the likes of Frank Turner, Jim Lockey, Jamie Lenman and Ben Marwood. Not only has Live-Music-Scene got a long history with Mr Barry Dolan, but I have personally been able to call him a friend for many years having first met him back in 2001. Now as 2014 hits us square in the face, Barry enlightens us on Oxygen Thief, following the release of the full band album ‘Accidents Do Not Happen, They Are Caused’.

Catching up with Barry and talking about his signing with XtraMile, he says; “It’s great. It’s one of those things that is a benchmark for people when they talk about being in a band, when you’re asked if you’re signed to anyone. I’ve released music through a record label for the last four years through Broken Tail which is run by Ben Marwood. The split I did with him and Jim Lockey was on Broken Tail and so was my acoustic album. It’s cool; I can kind of go, ‘these are the guys in charge of stuff now’.” Knowing how hard Barry has worked over the years, it has seemed like a long time coming from an observers point of view, asking Barry how he felt, he says; “It’s always something that I hoped would come along, but I’ve never taken it for granted in anyway; I’ve not been sat there watching the clock thinking it should be happening. I wanted to prove that I could work hard and do all the stuff that needed to be done and not just rely on who I was friends with. When Jim got signed by XtraMile, I thought it was pretty cool, then Ben got signed, I did hope they would want to complete the set. We did a big tour in 2009 and released a split CD. Most of the times that Ben has gone on tour, I’ve been out with him. It’s kind of really nice to have that story.”

In what must have been a stroke of luck, Barry had decided to take a year off work to focus on his music when the XtraMile deal was struck. “I don’t know whether that is something that XtraMile considered to know that I was serious. I suppose it all helps really. When I started talking to them, I was saying to them; ‘anything you need me to do; a tour or whatever, I can do it’. It’s good; my signing got announced the day I finished work for the year, so I was excited, then over-excited, then I went to the pub,” he laughs.

Talking about the experience of Oxygen Thief full band, Barry says; “Neil (Elliott – bass) and Ben (Whyntie – drums) came to me and asked if I wanted to do it and I said no. I’ve had a couple of jams with drummers over the years and got to the point where we’ve put together a set, and then they’ve gone ‘nah, I don’t want to’, which is frustrating. That’s why it took the guys a bit of persuading to get me to do it. They rerecorded a couple of songs and sent them to me and said ‘it sounds good doesn’t it’; then basically we did little bits at a time. I recorded vocals at home for those demos and then we listened to it and they sent it to XtraMile who said that it sounded cool and to let them know if we did it properly. So we had a jam, then recorded it. Then Left Side Brain suggested we play a gig. So it’s all been little steps towards it. Because it hasn’t been me organising all these people and saying about doing everything, it’s made it all exciting to do.”

For someone who is constantly out on the road on his own touring, playing with a band at first must have been quite strange. “It’s really funny with all the stuff when you get to a venue and scope it out to see what the PA is like. Here in Swindon it’s a proper PA, but we’ve played basement rooms where it’s all cobbled together. You get somewhere, and there’s always that little part of your brain that goes ‘is this going to be alright? Or is this going to break into bits?’ It’s quite funny to have two other people saying that and not just having it in your head. You keep each other company – and sane. There’s always stories about bands winding each other up, but I think we’ve done enough over the years that we want to have fun playing rather than staying up ridiculously late – although we have had times of playing drinking games!”

When it came to stepping up on stage for the first time as a three-piece, I ask Barry if he was nervous. “Yeah, sort of excited too. We’d rehearsed loads and Ben and Neil are just amazing musicians; they can both play anything better than I can. My songs are all quite awkward in terms of time signatures and structure and stuff, they aren’t very experimental, but they have loads of bits in them. Because I don’t really understand music very technically, I’ve made the effort to never really learn anything. I think I do stuff that if you were planning it methodically, you might not, so I had to play something and they had to think for a second to go ‘oh, it does, this, this and this’. Once they know the technical reasons I’ve done stuff, even if I don’t know why I’ve done it, they just snap onto it really quickly. They are just amazing; they know what they are doing and it’s mainly me making all the mistakes. It’s mainly just getting used to playing at the same time as other people and knowing that when I’m talking between songs, they are there. So the first few gigs, I hardly chatted on stage, I was just like ‘hi, here’s the song’ and that was it – it might have gone the other way since; I might have waffled on for ages. It got to the point where I knew it was annoying Neil – in a fun way – it was slightly winding him up that I was talking until I ended up at a dead end.”

Oxygen Thief

So how has the reaction been to Oxygen Thief full band? “People seem to enjoy it,” Barry explains. “It’s mostly been people who have seen me play on my own before, so they know the songs already; they kind of know what it has been and what it will be as well. I don’t know which will turn out to be the side project; both are Oxygen Thief. A couple of people have said they prefer the band; a couple of people have said they prefer the acoustic, but most people say they like both. I don’t know if people are just being polite to me and they think I’ve been an idiot for the last five years. It seems that most people accept the fact that the music has come from me being acoustic and that it will carry on in that way. The gigs I was doing with Jonah were acoustic ones and seen by people who hadn’t seen me before and they were intrigued by the idea of me full band. Before people would ask me if I played with a full band and when I said no they always looked a bit confused. Whereas now I can say that I do occasionally – or regularly now. I’m looking forward to the time when someone sees the band first and then sees it acoustic and comes up and goes ‘why the hell are you doing this?’”

Describing the full band release, ‘Accidents Do Not Happen, They Are Caused’, Barry says; “Seven tracks of riffy, melodic noise, reworked and twisted slightly from the original acoustic version. It’s heavy, brickish, slightly awkward, catchy, shouty rock.” But will we get an acoustic release? “I’ve talked to XtraMile about doing an acoustic EP, so I’ve started working on that. They know I want to do full band and acoustic and that I want to tour as both, so I do need a new acoustic release if I’m going to do a tour. They seem pretty down with the idea that it is two things at the same time. It might be a confusing to some people maybe, cos it doesn’t really happen. You do have Jim Lockey and Frank Turner, but they do both with acoustic guitars, I don’t think there’s anyone who plays acoustic and metal.”

So what does 2014 hold for Oxygen Thief? “The beginning of the year I’m doing some shows with Chris TT and his band; some will be with the band and some won’t be because of their commitments and stuff. Beyond that I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. I’m going to try and find some people to tour with; I’m going to go through the XtraMile roaster and email them all and go ‘are you touring this year? Can I go on tour with you?’ and see which of them say yes and which of them tell me where to go.”

See Oxygen Thief on tour with Chris T-T & The Hoodrats:

- 9/01 - Exeter Cavern (band)

- 10/01 - Falmouth Uni (solo)

-11/01 - Brighton Bermuda (band)

- 12/01 - Oxford Truck (solo, in store)

- 14/01 - Manchester Gulliver's (solo)

- 16/01 - Southampton Joiners (band)

- 17/01 - Bristol Thekla (band)

- 19/01 - London Lexington (band)

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