We’re premiering a brand new album from Jared Grabb Among Thieves. The new full-length, also titled Among Thieves, will be officially released on June 5th via So Say We All Records and Thinker Thought Records. It is the fifth album under Jared Grabb’s name and the first under the Jared Grabb Among Thieves full-band moniker. The album mines the history of the band’s hometown of Peoria, Illinois, embodying local figures of the past in order to speak on the circumstances of the present.
We love that idea so much and Jared was kind enough to breakdown the album for us song by song. So listen to Among Thieves in full below, pre-order your copy today, and keep checking back for more updates from Jared Grabb Among Thieves.
1. “Through the Dark”
“Through the Dark” was originally a completely different song about a struggling mother waking to face the day. As the album shaped up, however, it became clear that the album’s concept was historically based. I loved the chorus, so we re-worked the song to tell the story of the first Europeans to settle in Illinois while looking at the arrogance of the white man and the religious zealot. This song was written to be a set and album opener with the first verse sung staring down the audience. The inspirations for our songs are usually pretty far from the final product, but I can say that this song was written with the dark Americana band 16 Horsepower in mind.
2. “Absent Parties”
Most of my albums kick in with the loudest song of the album as the second track. We knew we wanted to rock and stay in the same key as “Through the Dark.” Brett Conlin’s lead guitar playing makes this song for me. It has a great twang to it. It was a lot of fun overdubbing accordion and baritone guitar on this one. Lyrically, “Absent Parties” tells the story of the French and Native American villages being destroyed by American soldiers during the War of 1812.
3. “We Drink Whiskey”
“We Drink Whiskey” was written to tell the story of how our home of Peoria, Illinois became the “Whiskey Capital” back in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. It seemed like a good idea to put it in the format of a drinking anthem. We pulled influence from Irish drinking songs along with the song “Daughters Spelled Wrong” by the noise/hardcore act Daughters.
4. “Free Men”
We had to dial this one back a touch. We all wanted to play so much while rocking this out, but in the end, finding ways to play less served the song as a whole. Lyrically, “Free Men” discusses the underground railroad and the abolitionist movement in Illinois before the Civil War. As Peoria did a lot of trade with south along the Illinois River, the majority of the city was in opposition to the abolitionist cause. There were a few abolitionists who stood up for what was right.
5. “The Potter’s Son”
Peoria is the home of a German bakery that is over 150 years old. It was founded during the Civil War by immigrants who had escaped the revolutions of the People’s Spring in Europe. The sub-text of this song is definitely sympathetic to the plight of the immigrant. We rip through this one, and it’s pretty reminiscent of the mid-2000s punk band that drummer Thomas Satterfield and I recorded and toured in, Scouts Honor. The Thermals were an influence on this album, and this song might be a good illustration of that influence.
Lydia Moss Bradley was the first female head of a national bank in the United States. She also founded Bradley University, helped build Peoria’s largest hospital, and created the first park district in Illinois. Sufjan Stevens mentions her in his song “Prairie Fire That Wanders About.” I was curious about what drove her to achieve what she did. She lost all five of her children in their youth. The more that I researched, the more this loss seemed to be at the center of her actions. Brett Conlin shines on lead guitar in this one again.
7. “Only My Eyes Can See”
I’m very proud of the rhythm section work of Chris Anderson and Thomas Satterfield. We wanted the drum dynamics to be reversed for this song, with the choruses lacking in cymbals while the verses rang out. The chord shapes call back to the Illinois-based band Hum, who are now seen by many as early pioneers of emo. This is our first single for the album.
8. “Weight of Water”
Most of the songs of this album started with me bringing in a bare bones arrangement to the band, but “Weight of Water” came out of live jams in our practice space. It’s dark and it hits hard. Lyrically, the song tells the story of a riverboat accident in 1918 that killed more than eighty people.
9. “Lump of Coal”
This was one of the last songs written for the album. Like “Weight of Water,” the instrumental content came out of live jamming rather than writing as an individual. I personally hear our love of Creedance Clearwater Revival here along with the influence of local punks like Planes Mistaken for Stars. As with many of the songs on this album, the views of the narrator do not reflect my own. I just try to make the narrator’s flaws visible so that the listener can make their own conclusions. This song takes place as the first World War is winding down and the temperance and women’s suffrage movements are gaining momentum. In a town where vaudeville, whiskey, and prostitution were becoming big business, there was resistance to the social reformers.
10. “Among Thieves”
Edward N. Woodruff was a corrupt mayor who held office in Peoria for 24 years during the first half of the twentieth century. He would do his backroom dealings aboard a houseboat he dubbed “The Bum Boat.” While he held office, bootlegging, gambling, and prostitution thrived. It can also be said that he was a man of the people. He eventually lost power when the wealthy conservatives on the bluffs pushed him out with a reform candidate in 1945. The original lyrics to this song spoke out against modern naysayers and in support of the in-town counter-culture that is pushing for a more livable, equitable, and eco-friendly city. In the words of Thomas Satterfield after I brought this one to the band, “Oh. You wrote a pop song.”
Like many of the figures discussed on this album, comedian Richard Pryor is seen as both a local hero and a disgrace. Some locals see him as a poor representation of our city due to his issues with substance abuse and violence. Many others, including myself, choose to see him as an inspiration who found success despite extreme difficulties in his Peoria-based childhood. Most of the images used in the lyrics to this song are pulled straight from Pryor’s own writings. I wanted to have the final song be a direct look at racial and class discrimination in our hometown while also looking forward with hope and determination to face difficult challenges in the present and future. Peoria, Illinois still gets ranked in the top cities in the U.S. for economic and racial disparity. Pryor’s story was the perfect way to address these issues. Musically, this song calls back to Weezer’s “Only In Dreams” or indie rock bands like Sebadoh and Joe Christmas.