Thieves of Joy take an unconventional approach to songwriting. Time signatures change in songs with an electric backdrop and acoustic embellishments featuring mandolin and meandering sax lines.
“We kind of got pushback from some folks who said like, ‘You can’t break these kinds of norms and conventions,’” says Dan Socha, who is one-half of the Akron-based band’s songwriting team, along with his partner in life and music, Bethany Joy.
“That’s what I appreciate about this record,” he says. “It was like, we’re just going to make the music we want to make and that’s all that matters.”
Bethany describes the songs on the band’s self-titled EP, released in February, as “progressive, but with old style banjo and mandolin, but not quite world music,” finally settling on “indie rock, I guess.”
The duo started singing together about five years ago and realized immediately their vocal styles harmonized well.
On the EP, they share lead vocals, while Bethany also contributes on piano and Dan plays guitar.
Additional musicians featured on the record are Dan Desantis (bass), Eran Karanouh-Schuler (drums), David Mayfield (mandolin), as well as Justin Tibbs (saxophone) of Akron’s Acid Cats fame.
“We’re really good friends,” says Bethany, who credits Akron’s music scene for its inclusiveness. “You can collaborate with people who make different music. I love the Akron community.”
The resulting sound is an ethereal mix of five songs that perfectly suits a nocturnal listen or kicking back on a rainy afternoon.
Bethany cites influences of Radiohead and A Perfect Circle, a side project of Tool’s Maynard James Keenan. Socha says he’s been inspired by some of the “weirder Beatles albums.”
For a while, this Fab Four appreciation manifested in Dig a Pony, a Beatles tribute band Dan and Bethany played in with friend B.C. Hudson. During that time, Bethany also sang with the Speedbumps, a Kent-based band currently on hiatus following the departure of the lead vocalist.
“I learned a ton about collaborating and songwriting from being in the Speedbumps,” Bethany says. “I definitely learned how to make music that was dynamic from them. It prompted me to want to start my own band and try writing songs with a group of people.”
Bethany laughs when asked about the current band’s name. “Some people don’t like it (saying) that it’s a negative thing.” But after months of trying to come up with a name, she and Dan heard a friend refer to children as “thieves of joy.”
“We said, that’s cool, we’ll call it that!” That it contains her stage name is a bonus. “I liked that it had the word joy in it.” (Bethany uses “Joy” when performing “because my last name is too complicated.”)
The Thieves of Joy recorded the album in 2019 at David Mayfield’s Canton studio, Sweetside Recording Company.
“I learned a lot from making this record,” Bethany says. “We sang those songs two years ago. It was where I was vocally in 2019 and now it’s 2021. I’m really proud of it, but I wish I could re-sing some of that.”
“The goal is to have it out in the world,” Dan says. “There will be some shows with Thieves of Joy, but I don’t know what that’s going to look like or who’s going to be involved. We are going to be playing out in some way.”
While waiting for the end of the pandemic, they are working on new music.
“I recorded another album last year during the quarantine,” Bethany says. “It’s five of my own songs, and Dan is on that album. I’m going to be releasing that under my name Bethany Joy.”
When the time comes, the challenge is fitting diverse musical styles into a live format. “That’s always been my conundrum,” Bethany says. “I can play a lot of different types of music.” The result may be “a hybrid band with Thieves of Joy.”
In the midst of the live music hiatus, Dan says, “We’re both really fortunate that we both have day jobs. We definitely miss music and it’s this big hole in our hearts.”
Thieves of Joy is available on digital platforms. Listen on Spotify.
A native of Barberton, Karla Tipton earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Kent State University and spent 14 years as a staff reporter and editor at the Antelope Valley Press in California before returning home. She is the author of two time travel romantic fantasy novels. She keeps busy writing, working in the IT field, playing rock guitar, photographing urban settings and enjoying the local arts and music scene. Photo: Used with permission from Thieves of Joy.