Thievery Corporation’s Rob Garza Holds Forth on His New Solo Project
As one half of the exalted DC electronic duo Thievery Corporation, the inimitable Rob Garza has been touring for an astonishing twenty-three years straight. So when the COVID virus officially became a pandemic last spring, shutting down Thievery’s 2020 touring plans, you might think he would welcome the break – and ultimately, he did.
He spent the time well, in fact, conceiving a new solo project, the pithily named GARZA – and then gathering a fascinating collection of collaborators that would sprinkle his new songs with just the right amount of artful magic. The concept was simple enough: to revisit the ’80s new wave sounds and ideals he worshipped as a kid, and filter them through his more than two decades of making music with Thievery, as well as the thirty-plus years of technological advancement since those early synth-pop days.
The end result is Daydream Accelerator, an album that brilliantly shows off his wide-ranging musical purview, whilst also charmingly tapping a vein of nostalgia, for a time when music was genuinely changing the world (for the record, it isn’t anymore – though it has proven its continued urgency in our lives during these last nineteen months of on and off lockdowns.) And as a natural cultural impresario, Garza chose his accomplices well, and they responded with immediately memorable performances. To wit, Enemy Planes’ anxiously sensual vocals on ‘Summer is Ours’, Thievery’s own Racquel Jones going full rudie on ‘Talkin”, and Natalia Clavier’s ethereal, almost gossamer whisper on the dreamy ‘Ocean Morning Echoes.’
Just as he was hitting the road again with Thievery (there will be GARZA live dates this winter), we slowed him down long enough to chat about it all.
What were you doing during quarantine?
I was taking a lot of time to create and write music, spending time with my son, and enjoying not being on the road. It was the first time in the past twenty-three years that I haven’t been touring, which gave me a lot of time to be creative. Having this unexpected amount of time to be at home definitely set the stage for the creation of DayDream Accelerator.
So it actually helped you to create?
Definitely. It was a welcome change of pace to not be traveling so much. In fact, it’s been kind of jarring getting back on the road and readjusting to the push and pull of touring after a year and a half of respite. With that being said, connecting with the fans again after all this time is such an incredible rush, and we’re so thankful to see everyone that’s coming out to support.
What was different about the process of making the GARZA record from making a Thievery Corporation record?
The process was different in the sense of working in some new genres and pursuing a type of pop sound that I grew up with – which is sort of this ’80s new wave aesthetic mixed with hints of the ’90s, as well as more modern synth sounds. It’s also been an opportunity to work with new artists and really open up the creative process, through a variety of songwriters and their songwriting styles.
Can you elaborate on the collaborations on Daydream Accelerator?
Sure, there was up and comer Enemy Planes from Minneapolis, who I’ve been touring with since back before the pandemic. He is a great songwriter and has an exceptional voice that can be heard on the lead single ‘Summer Is Ours’, the ethereal ‘Way Out’, and my reimagining of his track ‘We Want Blood.’ Another one of the singers on the album is Emeline, who I worked with on the first EP, lending her vocal stylings to a couple of tracks. Skipping across the pond to Ireland, we get vocalist Stee Downes on ‘Letting Go’ – I’ve been spinning him at my DJ sets and vibing on his tracks for years now. Fare, who I worked with on the first EP, lends his emotive vocals on the album for the dreamy and soul searching track ‘Swim To Shore.’ Racquel Jones, who does a killer “rude gal” performance on ‘Talkin’, and Natalia Clavier on ‘Ocean Morning Echoes’ are both from the Thievery camp. Calica, another up and comer based out of LA, joined for the vibey ‘Can’t Kill Me’, which also features tech house wizards Walker & Royce.
There is a lot of genre hopping – classic soul on ‘Future Comes Too Late,’ dancehall on ‘Talkin’, Hi-NRG on ‘Swim to Shore’…what inspired such a diversity of ideas?
That’s sort of the main theme that runs throughout Daydream Accelerator. It’s a collection of disparate ideas and threads that at times may seem to drift but ultimately coalesce through the lens and filter of my production aesthetic. The whole idea is to embrace these varying styles – at the end of the day that’s how most of us are as people, we are shaped by a myriad of factors, and from where I sit the more diversity there is in anything, the more beauty there is to behold. With Thievery I always love being able to bounce around different genres; the challenge is to put this type of listening into a cohesive sonic work that blends it all together.
Which tracks do you feel best captured the spirit of what you were trying to get across with this record?
I love ‘Letting Go’, ‘Summer Is Ours’, ‘Can’t Kill Me’ and ‘Talkin’ at the moment, although that can tend to shift as with any body of work. I love these tracks primarily because of the energy they exude; although they are very different respectively, they share a common thread in my mind in terms of the pop type of sensibility that I gravitate towards without being too “mainstream.” I think they capture the spirit of something that inspired me in my younger days, that I have only now been able to realize in my own way these many years later.
What will the live performances be like?
The live performances will feature a few different singers, and a four or five piece band that will be a cross between electronic and analog players, with a very new wave type feel. We’ll start doing dates later in the fall/winter.