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Interview With Mario J. Rivera & Matt Ainsworth of Nights Like Thieves

Updated: Jun 11, 2022

Mario J. Rivera @ The The Casbah. Photo Credit: Unknown.

My introduction to Nights Like Thieves came at the OC Sellout Fest in 2021. I came into the Tiki Bar that night as they were finishing up their soundcheck. I thought the show had started. I had never heard these guys up until then and they grabbed my attention shortly thereafter.

As you all know, if I like what I hear, there is a very high chance that I will purchase merch from the band after the show. The key is after. Having my hands full during a show does not compute. People who clutch their gear at a venue before a show look like thirsty fanboy/girls. On a personal level, it’s amateur hour. If you’re at a punk or a thrash show and think that rare, collectable vinyl won’t get shattered to bits in the chaos of a mosh pit, you’re severely delusional.

Enough of my ranting….

Nights Like Thieves made me want to buy their merch. But most important of all, I wanted to see them play again..and again…and again. To use a phrase, these guys fire on all cylinders. Recently, NLT (Abbreviation for Nights Like Thieves for the remainder of the article) battled hard and won the opening slot for Lit at the Anaheim House of Blues on 6/17/2022. I’ve got a good feeling about this show. Hopefully you can still get a ticket when this article drops.

To commemorate this occasion, what better way to bring NLT and La Clika together than for yours truly to interview the man, the myth and the legend…Mr. Mario J. Rivera. Matt Ainsworth showed up later as a very welcome surprise/bonus. Much thanks to both for allowing me to interview them.

In the words of Marvin Gaye, Let’s Get It On….

Nights Like Thieves rocking the Tiki Bar. OC Sellout Fest 2021. Photo Credit: Jose Corona Jr.

G. Scott Hughes (Interviewer.): Nights Like Thieves is not really an emo band. Yet, you’re not a full-on metal band either. You seem to combine both genres quite well.

Mario J. Rivera (Interviewee.): We are usually considered a melodic emo/punk/rock band. Or at least that’s how we pitch ourselves when people ask. We definitely blend a little bit of everything in. I think people would say we are a pop/punk/emo band. We’ve even been called post-hardcore. In the end, we’re going to become a jazz fusion metal band. (Chuckles.)

GSH: So how did all this start?

MJR: The band started in October 2016 when I moved to San Diego from Albuquerque, New Mexico. I posted a few songs on Craigslist since I didn’t know anybody in town. Two guys hit me up that were trying to start a band. That was Steve (Bass. NLT.) and Franky. They had a project together and what was funny is they both hit me up without telling each other. Franky was our original bass player and Steve was playing guitar. NLT as a whole has been through about 8 different member line-up phases. Steve and myself are the only original members.

GSH: And the name?

MJR: I had several names on a sheet of paper at that time. Nights Like Thieves sounded the coolest out of all of them. It sounds like the band that steals the show. Even though sometimes that is not the case.

GSH: What’s on your pedalboard?

MJR: My pedalboard was a skateboard for 20 years.

GSH: Joking?! Come on, Man!

Yes. He actually did this. Photo Credit: Mario J. Rivera.

MJR: I recently changed it a few years ago because I got more pedals and they all couldn’t fit on my skateboard anymore.

GSH: Dang! And here I thought you were pulling a funny on me.

MJR: No joke. Skateboarding is huge part of my life. I used to talk shit to the kids who copied me because I knew that they didn’t skate. Like: “You don’t even skate! You can’t do that!” (Laughs.)

GSH: Damm those posers! But imitation is flattery. I can see those things at Hot Topic going for $200 a pop.

MJR: Dude! I always had people commenting on it and even went as far as trying to create a few prototypes because my friends told me I could make serious money from those things. But I really wasn’t that into the whole business aspect of it. It was just my thing.

GSH: I get it. More of an underground type of deal.

MJR: Yeah. Over the years, I’ve seen a few people do it. It wasn’t some crazy, creative idea. I just needed a pedalboard. I’m a skateboarder. I used that. I have a lot of skateboard decks laying around, so it just worked out that way.

GSH: Who was your favorite skateboarder when you were 19?

MJR: Marc Johnson. But I grew up watching The Bones Brigade videos back in the 80’s. Franky Hill was my favorite skater back then.

GSH: Nice. I’m going old school. Mine was (& will always be) Tony Alva.

MJR: Look at all this cool stuff you’re getting for your interview!

GSH: I know, right! How hard is it to be in a band these days?

MJR: I don't think it's hard to be in a band these days. It's harder to be heard. Because of the internet, there’s so many awesome bands out there and so much music to take in.

GSH: What does a band have to do today to stand out?

MJR: You have to have a sound of your own, and it is very hard to do something that’s completely original these days. What also makes a band stand out is their content and the way they engage on social media. I’m sure there are many amazing bands that have not been heard just because they don’t push themselves online. Networking is absolutely vital too

GSH: Tell me about your new management firm?

MJR: UAC Management from The UK. Kevin Thrasher (Escape The Fate) and Hristo are the owners. They found one of our videos on a rock music channel on Youtube. They liked what they saw and contacted us. They’re a one stop shop basically for bands who act like management, design, videos and PR. We were hesitant at first, since I do video and graphics for NLT already, so we agreed to let them do PR stuff. Personally, PR stuff is very overwhelming for me, so it’s nice to have some of that work taken off my hands to focus on other aspects of the band.

GSH: I had a feeling that NLT was going to win the Open for Lit contest. How did you pull that off?

MJR: We basically instant messaged everyone on our social media platforms, texted friends, and so on… hit them all up and didn't get a lot of sleep during that time. I seriously talked to people that I haven't talked to in 15 years. We also got friends and girlfriends to use their platforms, and to also reach out to their friends and family. Everyone just started sharing and getting votes in.

GSH: And that video you did was genius.

MJR: Thank you! Miserable is one of my favorite music videos. I always wanted to do a video like that. An idea was to have Steve (Bass. NLT.) shirtless and have the rest of us playing on him. (We both laugh.) When we found out about the contest and read the rules, it just called to me and I went for it. This is going to be a big opportunity for us. We’re super stoked!

GSH: Let's get back into pedalboards. I know Mario has a big one (That's what she said.):

Matt Ainsworth: My pedalboard is very simple. I've always used a volume pedal in my chain. That is first. I used to work for Ernie Ball. I've got a ton of those. Then a tuner and those run into my effects loop. I've got a Phase 100 from MXR. Then I've got a Holy Grail reverb. And then into a Carbon Copy delay.

Matt Ainsworth. Photo Credit: Jose Corona.Jr.

MJR: I don't even know what pedals I use. Wait. I have a phlanger. A tuner. A space echo. A DD6. They're mostly Boss pedals. A Ghost Echo from Earthquaker.

GSH: What would you consider your most invaluable piece of equipment? Right now.

MJR:My hands! (Laughs.) I'm not a real gearhead. If it sounds good, I'll use it. I'll go with my guitar. (ESP LTD Viper. A Gibson SG copy. See above photo.) ESP LTD guitars are my favorite!

MA: My Marshall DSL 40. It's just a 40 watt combo amplifier. I don't want to carry around a half-stack anymore. It's got a great clean channel. Keohni (Drums. NLT.) is a very hard hitter and that amp can cut through his drums.

GSH: Do you record in a studio? Or do you do it all DIY?

MJR: At first, we just did it ourselves. Now we record the drums at Clarity Recording Studios. Which is owned and operated by Sean Tolley. When all that is done, we record everything else in our recording room here. The we ship that to Joe Marsh in the UK. We do everything with him now. He really likes our band. We send him our demos and he makes suggestions. Our new stuff sounds so much better now. Every 2 months we have a new song and music video coming out.

GSH: I have noticed that you guys do not have any downtime.

MJR: .We don't. Matt just wrote a new song today. Matt has written 20 new songs so far. Matt and I write everything together. Before Matt, I wrote all the songs and now it's a collaboration. It rules!

GSH: What about lyrics? How does NLT approach that?

MJR: Matt likes to tell a story with words. I like to use metaphors. Like I'm talking to somebody.

GSH: Top 5 albums?

MJR: Deftones- Diamond Eyes. ATDI-In/Casino/Out. Glassjaw- Worship and Tribute. The Get Up Kids- Small Brown Bike....there's just so much good stuff out there.

MA: I'm into hip-hop. That does not influence my music with NLT. Wu-Tang Clan. A Tribe Called Quest. Punk Rock: Pennywise-Straight Ahead.

MJR: I've been into Battle Rap for a while now. Like Blaze Battles and Scribble Jam. Disaster is my favorite Battle Rapper. I used to love The Pharcyde!

GSH: We got it. Anything else to close this article with? The floor is yours.

MA: These are the most sincere and truly dedicated guys with an astonishing collection of accomplishments as musicians that I have ever worked with. Fun fact-Mario and I have never sat down together and just played guitars. It's just fucking crazy because that is just how naturally locked in we are. Fate is a real thing. It has led me to right here, right now. Oh...NIB High School Football Rules!

MJR: I’d like to say thank you for having us and interviewing us. This is really awesome and we appreciate the opportunity so much! For anyone who’s interested in checking out our music, videos, etc… just search for Nights Like Thieves online and you will find us. We’ll see ya again soon!

Nights Like Thieves. L to R- Keoki Lanza (Drums), Matt Ainsworth (Guitar. Backing Vox.) Steve Smith (Bass, Backing Vox.)), Mario J. Rivera (Guitar, Vocals) Photo Credit: Mario J. Rivera.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Mario and Matt for this opportunity. Get to the House Of Blues in Anaheim on 6-17-2022 to see these guys. And please feel free to say Hello.

Now I'm done.

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