Photo by Autumn Micketti
Hailing from New England, The Ballroom Thieves released their third album, “Unlovely” this past Valentine’s Day. Co-written by Callie Peters and Martin Earley, the album covers everything from female empowerment to love in a committed relationship as well as diving into their frustration about the current state of American leadership. Earley explained that their song writing process has changed over the past couple of years. “I used to write all of the songs by myself and bring them to the band,” adding that Peters had recently been bringing her own pieces to the table where they would combine forces. “Now we are changing that up a little bit and challenging ourselves to really co-write songs, so that we’re not just kind of pointing out little things here and there on each other’s songs to try and fix them. But rather we’re sitting down and saying, ‘ok, we’re gonna write this song, what is it gonna be about?’”
Recently engaged, Peters and Earley play to their strengths and weaknesses as creative partners. “I’m more of a lyrics guy and she’s way more of a melody woman, so those two things kind of work well together,” Earley shared. “Unlovely” not only echoes the new song writing team, it also offers new sounds like with the track 7, “Vanity Trip”, a tune that sounds like it came out of the 1970’s. Early explained that, “the inspiration [for the song] was more Tom Petty.” The cause of which could be their rapid collection of pedals and gear for their instruments. “In the last couple of years [I] got way more into gear in general, especially guitar gear. I spend way too much money on pedals, and I got really into the boutique stuff,” Earley said. He went on to explain that the decision to go more electric on this album was a conscious one, “but it was kind of a chicken and egg situation because the tones and the new gear inspired some of the songs, but also it was already planned to change things up a bit and go more electric.”
Originally a trio, the group now tour with a fourth member who plays keyboard, guitar and adds backing vocals. The quartet played to a full house last Tuesday at the Black Swan Theatre. Opening for them was Harlequin Gold, a Canadian sister duo with a single electric guitar, who filled the room with haunting harmonies and blissful lyrics. Although they were missing their full band, the two captured the audience who were reluctant to let them leave at the end of their set. The Ballroom Thieves took to the stage around 8:30 and immediately a sense of calm and camaraderie swept through the room as the group kicked off with their first song. The Thieves brought an entirely new sonic palette to their eclectic audience when they launched into their second song, “Tenebrist”. Backed by a beautiful electric melody, this track off the new “Unlovely” brims with wistful energy that had the audience hooked.
The group brought the audience into the performance with their song “Wolf”. With the audience singing the “wolf call” chorus as they accompanied the band, this tune was easily the most memorable moment of the evening. From witty stage banter courtesy of the Thieves’ drummer, Devin Mauch, to the sweeping cello movements on “Love is Easy”, this live show transcended the folk genre entirely to create something richer and undefinable. A true lived shared experience around music, something that seems so impossible now.
Thanks to the Ashland Folk Collective for yet another great show! Check out their website for upcoming shows.