Scene Stealers

After 17 years, D.C.’s Thievery Corporation is still making beats and packing the clubs

January 11, 2012

Eric Hilton, left, and Rob Garza formed Thievery Corporation in 1995 and also run the Eighteenth Street Lounge record label.

The first time Rob Garza and Eric Hilton met, it was musical amore.

“We immediately connected, talking about the music we loved, shared a few drinks,” Garza recalls about meeting his Thievery Corporation cohort in May 1995. “Eric had just opened up [swank Dupont Circle nightclub] Eighteenth Street Lounge with his partners, and I walked in there with a mutual friend and really fell in love with the place and the music.”

A week later, the fast friends recorded their first songs together, including Thievery’s debut cut, “The Glass Bead Game.” Seventeen years later, their partnership is still strong and prolific, one of the few dub-heavy chill-out projects that has continued to thrive in D.C. and beyond even as interest in that scene has waxed and waned.

Part of the duo’s ability to survive is that the two basically agree to not disagree. “They’re not strong disagreements,” Garza says. “If both of us are really into something, then we’ll take it further. Otherwise, if one of us isn’t into it, there’s no sense developing it.”

They’ve also stayed independent, releasing the band’s music on their own Eighteenth Street Lounge label. On ESL, Thievery’s created six studio albums, umpteen remixes and, most recently, the “Live at the 9:30 Club” DVD, which documents the group’s five-night run there in January 2010.

“It’s become a tradition,” Garza says of the multi-night shows at 9:30. “We don’t do it every year, but it’s our hometown, and the shows are great and filled with hometown love.” Thievery will likely be playing 9:30 Club again in 2015 to celebrate 20 years together, says Garza. It’s an idea he marvels at.

“It’s really bizarre. When we started it, we had no idea we’d be able to sell records in general,” he says. “I remember we printed a thousand CDs, and that week [a distributor in] Germany bought them all and ordered another 2,000. And we’ve never looked back since.”

9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW; Wed.-Fri., 7 p.m., sold out; 202-265-0930. (U Street)
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