My Top 10 Underrated Records: Nicholas Simonsen Of caution:thieves

Nicholas Simonsen, the singer of Melbourne’s caution:thieves and the newly appointed Mixdown editor, loves music more than anything else in his life. That much was obvious to me from the very first time he and I spoke back in late March for an interview here on KYS. His connection with and passion for the records and bands he loves is a very heartwarming thing to see and hear. And I just knew that he’d have a fair few records he felt should’ve been far better received than what reality actually had in store for them. In a turn of personal vindication, I was more than right in that thought.

Simonsen’s first underrated pick is Taking Back Sunday’s 2008 album, ‘New Again‘. As a longtime Taking Back Sunday fan myself, I adore this record and while I don’t place it as high up as ‘Louder Now‘ or their classic debut, ‘Tell All Your Friends‘, it’s a solid record but sadly one that many skim over. And the vocalist agrees.

“I think that this album was doomed from the start because ‘Louder Now’ was a hyper-successful record, and so what follows a hyper-successful record is the pressure of doing it again. The band had lost Fred Mascherino and they had brought Matthew Fazzi in on guitar, and they wrote this fucking excellent record. Top to bottom, it’s awesome. It’s groovy, it’s intelligent, and it’s got so many cool parts. It also has one of my favourite album closers of all time, a song called ‘Everything Must Go’. They released it, they came down here and played Soundwave, toured in U.S. and did some European festivals, then they fired Fazzi and their bassist Matt Rubano, and they immediately followed up the record with another record…because ‘New Again’ didn’t do what ‘Louder Now’ did.”

“They don’t even play any songs from that record, they don’t talk about it; it’s like this big black sheep of their discography. It’s not an emo record, it’s a rock record, and I think it’s their best album.”

Agreed, and if you don’t get chills during ‘Everything Must Go‘, there’s something clinically wrong with you.

Now, to say that Simonsen is a massive Glassjaw fan is the understatement of the decade; one of his all-time favourite records is ‘Worship & Tribute‘, one of the very few records close to sheer perfection that you’re likely to ever find. So it doesn’t surprise me when he mentions Glassjaw’s last ever release – 2011’s ‘Coloring Book‘ – as his second pick.

“The reason I think it’s underrated and overlooked is that not enough people know about it. Everyone knows about their two full-lengths, as one was on Roadrunner and the other one was on Warner. So they both got a lot of radio and TV play, but the two EP’s they did a couple years back, both were recorded and released independently. Unless you’re a super passionate fan like me – I even went to the New York ‘Colouring Book’ release show – I don’t think many people know about it. I think that people don’t think of Glassjaw as an active band – which they’re not – but they’ve turned out a dozen songs in the past ten years.”

“This is also a different kind of Glassjaw. It’s really groovy, it’s really sexy, and it’s not spazz; it’s not like the albums. It’s the one release that’s saved onto my phone, as it’s not available on any streaming services. ‘Stations Of The New Cross’ is my favourite song ever, and it’s just an amazingly powerful song. I don’t think that we’ll get a Glassjaw record like it, but I think that’s kinda cool.”

I do too, and I also think that ‘Black Nurse‘ is a modern day classic!

Do you remember Poison The Well’sThe Tropic Rot‘? If not, you damn well should! Yes, it’s not the record with ‘Botchla‘ or ‘Nerdy‘ on it, but to pass off this final record from Cali legends because it’s not the hateful angst of ‘The Opposite of December‘ or ‘Tear from the Red‘ is a disservice and a half!

“The thing is that so many people clung to that Southern California hardcore sound from the first couple records and that was the only Poison The Well they wanted”, states Simonsen. 2000’s hardcore kids killed Poison The Well – you heard it here first!

“Then the band did ‘You Come Before You’, which was their first foray into them being a weirder. If you go into ‘The Tropic Rot’ with an open mind, you’ll hear how brilliant it is and how creepy it is. As it’s a super creepy record, like the vocal performances are just creepy and some of the lyrics are fucking astonishing. Performance wise, it’s an incredible performance and their drummer Chris Hornbrook is unfathomably great on it. They did this album with Steve Evetts and it has this energy that a band would only get from working with Steve Evetts. It sounds so cohesive. It’s more of a weird, post-hardcore rock album, much like Thrice’s ‘Vheissu’, but it holds up so well today.”

(In case you’re wondering, don’t expect any Thrice in this list as Simonsen thinks that that band’s releases are never overlooked by their fans – himself and his extended Thrice vinyl collection included – and I’m inclined to agree with him).

Getting back to Matt Fazzi of Taking Back Sunday, the caution:thieves frontman brings up a band and a release that I actually wasn’t aware of; Happy Body Slow Brain’s Dream Of Water‘, the band that Fazzi formed after being let go by TBS. And I am very glad that my ignorance has now been rectified about this band.

“It’s an undeniably good record”, claims Simonsen of ‘Dreams Of Water‘. “It’s got all of the pop sensibilities of ‘New Again’, but Fazzi is singing instead, and it’s got more groove, more odd-time rhythms, and more riffs as well. A friend of mine told me about this record for years and I just never gave it a chance. I listened to the single from the record, ‘Never Loved’, and before the first chorus was ever done, I could have paused it right then and there and say I was fucking hooked. And honestly, I’ve listened to that record nearly every single day since then. I sweat it so much! I just do not understand how they’re not a bigger band!”

Just as an FYI, this band is still active today now but under another moniker, Rare Futures.

Another mention that I also wasn’t familiar with was Artifex Pereo and their 2014 record, ‘Time And Place‘.

“I’m not really sure how to describe Artifex Pereo, as they’re a really unique band. They worked with Kris Crummett, whose famous for working with Dance Gavin Dance, Emarosa and all these other Rise Records bands. They did this record with Crummett – and it’s not a typical Crummett mix either – but it was also their first ever release with Tooth & Nail Records. They’ve toured with bands like I, The Mighty and Emery but they’ve just never blown up the way that they should. They released an album last year called ‘Passengers’, which was my favourite album of 2016, but ‘Time And Place’ is the one before it, and it’s a fucking killer record!”

Well, see if you agree on that claim below…

Finch’s 2002 debut, ‘What It Is To Burn‘, is a personal favourite nostalgia record of mine, and I know I’m not alone in that thought. However, it’s a debut record that greatly overshadowed its successor -‘Say Hello To Sunshine‘ – in terms of popularity and appreciation.

“This is one of my desert island albums. This is the same thing with Poison The Well; the curse of the previous record. Finch released ‘What It Is To Burn’ and everyone went “Oh, this is a really cool pop-punk, Drive-Thru Records band“, and the band then had that expectation on them. The band then went and did this darker, spazzier, creepier record that wasn’t ‘What It Is To Burn Part II’ and all the pop-punk kids shat their pants and jumped ship.”

“While I do love ‘What It Is To Burn’, the depth and the abstract nature of ‘Say Hello To Sunshine’ just blows me away. I think that Nate Barcalow has an amazing and unique voice, and I love hearing him sing. The album takes you on this huge journey and the album opens up with ‘Insomniatic Meat’ and it ends with this brilliant song called ‘Dreams of Psilocybin’. I think if more people had given it a chance, Finch would’ve stuck around for way longer.”

Me too, Nicholas, me too.

Moving on, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Sianvar’s debut, 2016’s ‘Stay Lost‘. My main reason being that it’s a supergroup of Dance Gavin Dance’s Will Swan, A Lot Like Birds‘ drummer Joseph Arringtonand bassist Michael FranzinoHail The Sun’s vocalist Donovan Melero, and Solas’s Sergio Medina on guitar (all good bands, of course). However, instead of coming together and creating something different and interesting from their other, more well-known bands, the five-piece made a record that merely sounds like all four of their respective bands, but not as good. ‘Stay Lost‘ isn’t a bad record, but for me, it’s not a good one. And this puts me at odds with Simonsen’s next pick.

“Sianvar is a post-hardcore supergroup. It’s essentially Anthony Green fronting The Mars Volta, and that’s exactly what ‘Stay Lost’ sounds like. It’s killer; it’s raw, its got great groove, and every musician is a phenomenal player. I was so stoked for it, and it I think it went under everyone’s radars due to it being a side-project. I don’t believe that there’s too much of a good thing. I think that Will Swan is just a really prolific songwriter and the production is more organic and raw than a Hail The Sun or Dance Gavin Dance record. I think it shreds!”

The first time I heard Bad Rabbits was when I randomly clicked on their music video for their 2017 single, ‘O r i g i n a l‘. And before the halfway mark hit, I was fuckin’ hooked! Turns out, the Boston funk/rock/R&B band also have their delicious hooks deep inside the caution:thieves frontman as well.

“I think that both of this band’s albums, ‘American Love’ and ‘American Nightmare’, are just so underrated. I just don’t understand how their not the biggest band on the planet right now They just write such good hooks and they write just straight bangers; there’s no other way to put it. ‘American Love’ is this really funky, sexy record but then ‘American Nightmare’ is way deeper and has way more heart to it. So I actually think they’re both really overlooked.”

The two best examples of what this band can do are ‘Fall In Love‘ and ‘O r i g i n a l‘. Do yourself a favour and check ’em both out below.

Next on the list is It Prevails – no, not I Prevail – and that now defunct band’s 2009 record, ‘Capture & Embrace‘. That’s actually a record that I haven’t heard since from the initial time it was released. A real blast from the past, to be sure. Yet it’s a record that’s a very big deal for Simonsen and his own band.

“I will say that right now my band, caution:thieves, would not exist without this band. ‘Defences Down’ is one of my favourite tracks and this album’s title track is just a beautiful song. I attributed a lot of my band’s style to It Prevails. I learnt a lot about writing dynamic just by listening to this band and I certainly learnt a lot about vocals writing by listening to Ian’s vocals.”

“They released four albums and they just never got the credit they deserved for being a phenomenal melodic hardcore band with one of the best vocalists in that realm. Their first album, ‘The Inspiration’, came out on Rise Records and then they did ‘Capture & Embrace’, and they did it with my friend, Ryan Furlott then Beau Burchell from Saosin mixed it. It’s a wonderful record, basically. It was released independently and fell under the radar sadly. The performance aspects of it are great and the lyrics are exceedingly relatable, which is really great for people to latch. It’s also one of my favourite mixes for this genre. It’s just got a really warm tone to it, and it’s not too punchy or abrasive.”

As someone who really digs caution:thieves – hence this feature – I cannot unhear that It Prevails influence now.

All righty then – the last one. Once again, I’m at loss with the long disbanded Lower Definition when the singer mentions their 2008 full-length, ‘The Greatest Of All Lost Arts‘.

“Lower Definition released just one full-length record, and it’s basically perfect from start to finish”, asserts Nicholas.

“Their drummer went on to join Of Mice & Men [Valentino Arteaga AKA Tino], and it’s another Kris Crummett record too. This was released around the heydeys of “that” post-hardcore scene and I just don’t think that it got much steam behind them. It came out on Ferret and I just don’t think that that label wasn’t the right one for the band. They’d be perfect for a Rise Records contract back then.”

“If you took Deftones and Glassjaw and then threw in some Dance Gavin Dance songwriting and a singer with an exceedingly unique voice, that’s this album. It’s so good! How I found this album was that Jonny Craig does a guest feature on a song called ‘Pueblo Cicada’ and it’s Craig’s best guest spot, back when his voice was still awesome. If I didn’t love his voice I would not have found this record. There just one of those bands that I wish I could have seen live. I still cross my fingers and hope they come back for another album…”.

Fingers crossed indeed.

Header PC: Dylan North. 

caution:thieves EP release shows for their solid ‘Songs From The Great Divide’ EP kick off this week in Melbourne. Check out the four dates below and the event page here for more info. 

June 23rd – Wrangler Studios w/ Spectral Fires and Fever Speak

June 24th – Ding Dong Lounge w/ Fever Speak

June 30th – Hideaway Bar, Sydney

July 1st – Hamilton Station, Newcastle

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