With the recent release of their single “16 Candles,” Winnipeg-based The Noble Thiefs have returned to the music scene with a mission and a compelling statement.
The powerful track was inspired by the 2014 Chicago shooting of Laquan McDonald. The Noble Thiefs were in Manhattan during American Thanksgiving in 2015 when the buried video footage of a white police officer shooting an unarmed black youth 16 times went public and sent shockwaves through communities across the United States. A protest immediately broke out on the streets of New York and The Noble Thiefs joined the march. The experience inspired singer Myron Dean to pen “16 Candles” both as a tribute to the late Laquan McDonald and a call for healing and change. The Noble Thiefs long to be on the right side of history in these divisive times, and aim to create dialogue and unity through the power of music and lyrics.
We recently chatted with the band about the new song.
“16 Candles,” which is your first release in four years, was inspired by the shooting of Laquan McDonald. Unfortunately his story has been repeated too many times here in the US in the last several years – what was it about his story in particular that drew you to write about it?
We were in Manhattan the night the footage of Laquan being gunned down by Chicago PD leaked online. It had been a year since his slaying and a protest erupted in response, marching through the East Village, sweeping us up. In a matter of minutes we went from being on the outside looking in to being thrown into the heart of it. That night was one of those rare experiences where you get to be a part of something first hand that leaves an imprint on you forever. We played a gig that night. The energy onstage was palpable.
I wanted to ask you about one of the quotes from your press release in particular: “As Canadians, it’s easy to sit idle and watch.” As Canadians, how do you see the experience of police brutality there, and what path do you see forward for improving the situation?
We get so much white noise rising up to Canada out of American media. It’s so easy for news to develop a layer of glass, separating us. Sadly, we become so incredibly apathetic to the whole issue all too often. Ya know, like what can we do? Our vote doesn’t count down there. But with today’s connectivity online there’s plenty we can do. So let’s voice ourselves! Whether it’s to bring a sense of unity and healing to those Americans who are in need of it or to put pressure on our neighbours down south to make a change on the ballot or protest outside the courthouse….it all counts! We’re very fulfilled to be part of a group of Canadians who are pushing for change beyond our borders.
Looking at headlines from our vantage point here in the US, it seems as though some of the political and social problems we’ve been seeing here are starting to increase in Canada as well – hate crimes, the rise of the populist right, an increase in intolerance, attacks on women’s rights, and so forth. What changes are you seeing in the political climate, and how can the dialogue and education you’re calling for with this song counteract some of the negativity?
Whoa! Big questions! Thanks for asking these…Indeed, we are sadly seeing a rise of nationalism and intolerance. But I don’t think it’s trickling up from the US. It’s unfortunately always been here. Over in the UK, you’re seeing the exact same thing. However, it’s empowering those people that’s the issue. It’s voting for them or giving them a platform on which to speak that spreads that type of behaviour. Those #$%@’s were always there. But it’s almost like when they hear of other @#$@’s they start to think that they have leverage, or a right to think the way they do. And they come out of the woodwork. We’re all for freedom of speech. But freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from the repercussions of your ignorant ideologies.
At the same time, we can’t just fight fire with fire as much as we tend to. Because even if we win, we just force them back into the woodwork from which they came, where they’ll continue to surround themselves with only people who are akin to their flawed mindset and they’ll be ready to bounce back into the public the next chance they feel justified to do so. Is the answer as simple as to just choose love anymore? I think we’re all still figuring it out. But there’s a massive change on the rise. I see how open the eyes of 12-15 year olds are these days. Something great is gonna come of that generation. We just have to continue to pave the road for them, no matter how bumpy it is to ride.
Can you talk a bit about the lyric video for the song and in particular the symbolism in the video? If there’s one message from the video that folks should take away, what is it?
The candles left to melt are for the youth that didn’t get to come home to blow them out. Nothing is sadder than tragic ends to young lives. As I said, youth is the future getting brighter. They’ll always be. These candles in particular are for Laquan. The way his death touched us that night, pulled us into a movement from which we’ll never depart. The timelapse effect on the cake melting can be construed as a metaphor for how quick their lives fly by. And indeed it accentuates the tragedy. But it was used primarily to draw viewers’ eyes in. You need to allure people in order to deliver a message that they possibly aren’t prepped for. It sure does look cool, doesn’t it?
Is there more music to come from you (perhaps a new album)? If so, any hints about what’s ahead?
We’re rounding a decade of being a band this coming year. Six of which we spent our focus on the road. We’re shifting our focus to adapt to a constantly shifting world around us. One thing’s for sure, 10 years is an accomplishment for a band who never made it big! So you can be sure that a celebration is in order!