Party Thieves is Not Your Typical Partier [Interview]

How Jared McFarlin battled through depression, anxiety and loss. The full story of Party Thieves.
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How Jared McFarlin battled through depression, anxiety and loss. The full story of Party Thieves.
Party Thieves Interview

Jared McFarlin aka Party Thieves (via Facebook)

It was 7:15pm on a Wednesday evening when I sat down to dial Jared McFarlin for the Party Thieves interview. I called and there was no answer. So I called again and there was no answer. After leaving a voicemail, I reached out to one of his agents who was a bit shocked at the situation. “He’s never missed anything, actually” the agent said. Wondering if the interview was going to happen, I started moving on with my life. That’s when I got the call back.

“Sorry I missed your call, my phone was on the couch and I was building my bed, ha.” Turns out Party Thieves was just getting settled in a split-level loft in a brand new city.

This resettling didn’t shock me at all. He has gone from total music obscurity to 70,000 social media followers and a Flosstradamus-label-leading-EP in less than three years.

His sets clock in at about the same pace, firing off nearly one track per minute. For him to stay put would be akin to Donald Trump staying quiet (in no way am I actually comparing Party Thieves to Donald Trump). So after living in New York, he made the move to somewhere more fitting for his music endeavors. While this would be LA for many other artists, this was not the case with Party Thieves.

Instead he moved to Dallas, TX because it was the most practical from a business standpoint– no state income taxes and centrally located for touring. Not that LA was ever really in the question.

“LA is kind of it’s own thing right now– I’m not– I love visiting LA but I wouldn’t be able to live there myself. It’s too different from New York as far as pace. Everything is a little bit slower and kind of more laid back, and everyone is more mellow like, ‘let’s just chill out and go to the beach’”, he said with a laugh. “It’s not productive enough.”

It became quite clear early on that I was talking to a guy who would defy all expectations. The young producer spoke casually as if we’d been friends since childhood, which was pretty ironic for someone who couldn’t be bothered to live by the ocean. This chill personality was even more ironic once I realized it powered him through both mental and physical struggles, guided by his family and faith.

Though he makes it sound easy, the man behind Theft Army didn’t just fall to the front of the bass music scene.

“A whole ‘nother world”

If you’re already aware of Party Thieves, then you’re aware of his symbol. But what you may not know is that this is something the artist created himself, along with his cover art and all of his clothing.

“I get most of my creative genes from my dad [...] My dad is the Art Director of the New York Times, so I have a little bit of background in graphic design and Final Cut Pro and stuff.”

And the creative influence doesn’t stop at branding. “[My dad] played a little bit of music growing up. He played, and still does, a killer guitar and drums so I also played a little drums, guitar and piano. We would just enjoy jam sessions together.”

But despite these talents, McFarlin didn’t start out with any connections to the music world. In fact, he started out in a “whole ‘nother world” completely– West Point Military Academy.

“I was in the military world – in the army. So I didn’t really know anyone musically. I didn’t know much about the culture. So it wasn’t a connection [that got me here] or anything like that. I started at ground zero.”

Party Thieves Interview

Party Thieves throwback photo (via Facebook)

Without any connections, he started to create his own. One connection he created online led to what he describes as “one of the biggest breakthroughs of my career” – his 2015 track ‘Chief’ with ATLiens.

Another of these connections would come thanks to a minuscule typing detail. If you go to his Soundcloud page and scroll all the way down, you’ll find his edit of the Audien remix to Pompeii’s ‘Bastille’, hashtagged “Heaven Trap”. Party Thieves says he decided to throw the hashtag on there “as a little genre spinoff”. Unbeknownst to him, this would spark a connection with Slander.

“I had no clue who they were and they had no clue who I was. Then they ended up finding my track through my hashtag. And they produced an edit of [the edit] that I did.”

Apparently Slander had used the same tag a few weeks earlier which placed Party Thieves smack in their path, and a path that would eventually lead Party Thieves to his Australian agent.

“My friend Pete Don, he’s a great photographer/videographer who I met through Slander in 2014. I was with them during Miami Music Week in 2015 (which was the first time for me going to Ultra). [Don] was like ‘let’s go get some coffee’ and I ended up meeting Will Sparks and Joel Fletcher, who he also shoots for, at the coffee shop. Their agent came up to me and we introduced each other. We really didn’t have much to talk about at first. But funny enough, we found out later that day that one of his artists, Señor Roar, had actually [put out an edit of ‘Chief’] on the remix package and [the agent] hadn’t realized who I was. Six months later I did a tour with [Señor Roar] and his agency in Australia.”

McFarlin pointed out that he was basically working as his own agent at first, adding that it was networking with bloggers and other similarly small artists at the time, like Quix, that was instrumental to his success. Once a couple tracks were put together, he says it was all about getting artists to play it in their sets and getting footage of the play to share on social media.

“It’s those small little events that happen over the course of time, rather than what you think is just the one big thing that’s the make or break of your career. So a few pieces in the first year or so kind of led to where I am now.”

None of this would have happened though had Party Thieves not been strong enough to survive a couple major challenges in his life.

“A part of what I do every day”

New Party Thieves

Party Thieves has come a long way fast, but still pays homage to his past.

With no real intention of getting into music, McFarlin played sports at the West Point Military Academy which was “definitely not the easiest school”. Especially for someone who started his time there as a senior in high school. And when knee injuries kept him from achieving his athletic goals, and personal struggles crept in, McFarlin’s ascension took pause.

I knew from previous interviews that he had suffered from depression and anxiety during this time, but for someone who has accomplished so much, and who was such a breeze to speak with, it was jarring to hear him put it in perspective.

“I [regressed] and wasn’t really respondent with my life [...] while life was still going on around me. It definitely had a huge effect on how I handled things at the time, and how responsible I was, or irresponsible I was.”

One major blow was when his little nephew Jon became ill with a rare autoimmune disease called IPEX. This is the same nephew he would later dedicate a song to on his Undrafted EP.

McFarlin said that Jon passed away last October. It happened while he was on tour and just days before his Seattle performance. And while McFarlin had overcome his personal struggles by this point and was gaining steam as a musician, he made sure to stay close to his nephew. In fact, one of the reasons he was even in Seattle at the time was because of Jon.

“He died when I was on tour,” he explained, his breezy tone breaking slightly over his words. “And the city I played in was the city where he died. [...] I knew that things weren’t going the best for him, so I wanted to [get out there]. [...] I tried to get my schedule to line up.”

With his voice shaking a bit more, he said he made it to Seattle in time to be there with his brother and sister. And though he didn’t want to dwell on it, and still made it through his show in Seattle that week, it was clear how close he still is.

“He was my nephew, but he was also like a son to me. He's definitely a part of what I do every day.”

“Blessed”

Party Thieves Interview

Party Thieves via Facebook

Despite these events, one of the first ways McFarlin describes himself is “blessed if anything”. He credits a lot of his strength to family support, but also mentions therapy and religion as playing a role, noting that he “definitely prayed a lot” and “went to church” to help him get through the tough times. “I’d definitely say I’m a religious person, 100%.”

It turns out religion has been a part of his life from the beginning, as both of his parents are deacons. This led to him volunteering for a family charity which was yet another example of McFarlin’s work ethic. And when I asked about this volunteering, it was clear I wasn’t being specific enough. “With who? I used to do a lot of volunteer work” he said with a laugh.

One of these, Arise and Walk Ministries Foundation, he describes as “helping the medical needs of people in South America and the Caribbean countries.” For this, he said he helped “assist and organize” for fundraisers to “support all of our outreaches to different countries.”

“The family who runs it, they’re like another family to me. So I definitely have a great relationship,” he said while adding that he’s still a part of the foundation.

Party Thieves Interview

Party Thieves

All of this seems counter intuitive for a culture often derided for its drug use and party atmosphere. Especially for an artist who calls himself Party Thieves.

“[My parents] trust that I don’t really get myself involved with the behind-the-scenes stuff that may happen, [...] the darker side of it.”

“I really don’t. I’ve never taken molly before, never tried ecstasy before [...] I’ve just never really had interest in using drugs as a gateway to produce music.”

But Party Thieves made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t judge people who do go that route.

“By no means am I saying I’m better for not doing it or anything like that. I’m just saying it’s how I grew up. [...] I’ve thought about it before, but nothing too crazy to pique my interest in wanting to do it.”

Party Thieves Interview

Party Thieves aka Jared McFarlin

Party Thieves’ emergence has been so fast, it truly does seem like he came out of nowhere. Especially when he puts it all in this mind-bending perspective: “2013 was the first time I heard what electronic music really was."

When you slow things down though, it’s easy to see how “those small little events” he mentioned really do add up. He credits his “huge entrepreneurial drive,” “spontaneity” and “impulsiveness” for powering him through, but it seems like there’s even more to it than that.

This is a genuine artist and a truly resilient person. He calls his sister-in-law “really his sister” and spoke to me, a complete stranger, as if we'd been friends forever. The track he created for his nephew, who he referred to as “like a son”, is a testament to that. He created and played the touching melody himself on the piano as a tribute.

So when you see him pose with his head down, and hands in prayer, remember that isn’t only “praying for bass” as he puts it. This is something more genuine.

“‘I’ve been doing this for a while. It’s also kind of paying tribute to my family and people who support me everyday.”

Despite this, he says he’s “not really successful yet” and hinted at even bigger things to come in the future. A collaboration with Flosstradamus is coming which is now just in search of a vocalist, and a “huge piece” with Hucci is on its way. And when he refers to his “banger friendly” sound, he cryptically qualifies it as his “past sound.”

It seems there is no slowing down now for Party Thieves, but back in his one-bedroom Dallas loft, it seems as though the furious pace has had at least one side effect.

“I definitely didn’t read the instructions [for this bed] full enough to realize what I was getting into,” he says with a laugh. 

Party Thieves Interview

Party Thieves with Theft Army (via Facebook)