Police and Thieves, along with contemporaries Night Birds and Deep Sleep, produce punk that is simultaneously nostalgic, yet distinctly their own. The Washington, DC band carries the figurative musical torch for the city's scene by having demonstrated a continuous commitment to DIY ethics and socio-political discontent. Punknews.org staff interviewer Andrew Clark, a fellow DC-ite, spoke with vocalist Carlos Izurieta about the band's 2011 release and living in the District.
Thank you for doing this interview with the site, and if I may ask to begin with, is your name referencing the Clashâs song "Police and Thieves?"
We were originally going to be called the Law, since we had our first show coming up and couldnât agree on a name that was the one we disliked the least. Our friend Tad, who did the artwork for the demo, suggested we call ourselves Police & Thieves, after the Junior Murvin song, so actually the first few demos we made for our first show have the Law name on them.
I recently met you guys at the Youngblood Records showcase in Baltimore. In my opinion, you stood out musically from the majority of other bands, drawing more from the "Dischord" sound of Washington, DC than New York youth crew. Do you feel like living in DC has had that effect on the music you produce?
Yeah of course, its music we all grew up listening to starting with minor threat, embrace rites of spring to dag nasty, ignition, marginal man and of course Fugazi were all huge influences on our sound. I think all of our songs have the discordant sound and weird chord progressions that we got from the previously mentioned bands. Also lyrically these bands were a huge influence on us as well. If we can continue discussing the DC scene, is there anything, in your opinion, that makes the cityâs art distinct from elsewhere in the US or even globally? Well I think itâs amazing that most of our museums and galleries are free or have a minimum entrance fee. Sometimes you can take that for granted and not take advantage of things that are in your own backyard. If you are referring to music as part of the art scene, I think it is a vibrant one. I think itâs plausible to be in DC and there will be 4-5 shows going on at the same time with different types of music. Itâs great to be able to have that sort of variety. I think that the fact that DC is so transient makes it very unique in that you get people from all over the country and the world. The other day I was talking to my friend Timmy who is in this garage rock band called ice cream, he told me they just got a keyboard player from France in the band. I thought that was pretty cool and itâs just one example of how diverse a city DC is.
What is your favorite spot to hang out at in the city? I am a relatively recent transplant to the city; moved here for graduate school and fell in love with the area.
I am torn between the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery of Art, two free amazing places to check out art. The National Portrait Gallery has this really amazing sun room/atrium type of structure that connects both sides of the museum to each other. Itâs really beautiful and has to be seen to really be appreciated. The National Gallery of Art has this great auditorium that screens movies and has discussions on weekends. A few months ago I saw Instrument there and Jem Cohen along with members of Fugazi were there to do a Q&A about the movie.
Back to "serious" questions now. I listened to the new album, Fracturing, as well as your earlier stuff, and noticed you cover a variety of social and personal issues in your lyrics. One song in particular really struck me: "Suburban Decay." Were you talking a specific suburban community when you wrote the song?
I was making a general statement about growing up and doing the things adults are supposed to do, after we finish college, like move to the suburbs, get married and start a family. Itâs things weâre supposed to have done by the time we reach a certain age. Sometimes people can look down on you if you choose a different path. Thatâs where our freewill comes into play, as we can choose to live our lives the way others think we should or we can live the life that makes us happy.
Continuing on this topic, after living here in DC for two years now there is a palpable tension between those who grew up in the area and those who are moving in as neighborhoods become gentrified. As DC natives, how do you feel gentrification is affecting the city and its music scene?
I grew up in the suburbs of VA, but have lived in DC for the last few years, so I canât really speak on how gentrification has necessarily affected the scene. I think there are still some affordable living situations in DC that are prompting growth in the punk/hc and indie scene. You have houses like wasted dream and a few others that afford bands the chance to practice and have all ages shows.
As an individual who pursued a degree in peace and conflict resolution studies, something professors showed art to be a means of conflict resolution. Would you consider Police & Thieves as a band that has the intention of illuminating social problems and trying to offer solutions?
I donât think we offer solutions but I think we can offer ways to look at social problems differently. Maybe showing other sides of problems that others havenât seen. I think itâs tough to give specific solutions to problems that have been going on for decades. The best thing for us as a band is to make people question, to make people think about problems within their community and in their own lives. Maybe something in one of our lyrics can change one aspect of someoneâs life positively, and thatâs what we can hope for.
It seems that the older people get the greater amount of responsibilities they accrue, such as working full-time, relationships with partners, etc. As guys who seem to be older than other participants in the DIY scene, how do you balance your personal passions and obligations to others?
Itâs a tough balance as some of us are married and have kids, full time jobs and or school. Itâs tough for us to get out and tour as much as we would like to. But last summer we were afforded the opportunity to play the Screaming for Change festival in Vermont and then The React Records Showcase at Gilman St in San Francisco. Both of these trips were only 3-4 days as that is the most we can get out these days. But we still try and make time for the band to write new songs and to play an out of town weekend or locally every few months.
Before you go, is there anything you would like to share with our readers that was not covered above?
Andrew thank you to you and Punknews for having us, as Punknews is a great source for underground music, I usually scroll through it every few days.
Also we just released a 7 song, 12" EP on Youngblood Records, called Fracturing. I think it is our best work to date and I am really proud of it. With our hectic schedules it took awhile to write and record but it was finally released in December. Finally, I just want to say there are so many really good punk and hardcore bands out now and so many great labels like, Youngblood, React, Amendment, Photobooth, Back to Back, Grave Mistake and Six Feet Under check them out!