On Saturday, May 17, Boston-based band The Ballroom Thieves will bring their unique rock/folk blend to Lawrence in the Esch-Hurvis room. Featuring Martin Earley on guitar, Devin Mauch on percussion and Calin Peters on cello with all three contributing vocals, the band are currently in the midst of a six week US tour. I got the chance to catch up with Earley on the road prior to their Lawrence show and ask them a few questions about their music.
Q: How long have you guys been together? When did you meet?
A: Devin… and I met… at Stonehill College, which is a small liberal arts school just outside of Boston. There wasn’t a music program really to speak of, so we kind of had to make our own. After college we… did our first tour right away. We started playing with another cello player but then about 10 months ago or so we found Callie, our current cello player.
Q: How would you describe your sound?
A: It’s a little tricky to describe because we’ve got a lot of different influences we all come from different musical backgrounds. The best thing we’ve kind of come up with is that it’s rock in a folk suit. All the instruments are stripped down and it’s a lot of acoustic stuff but all of our songs definitely have an edgier kind of sound then just a standard folk song.
Q: What’s it like being on tour together?
It’s been great. It’s a lot of time, just the three of us, a lot of time spent driving, but we’re all good friends at this point. We get along. We bicker every now and then but it’s kind of, you know, bickering like siblings. This last tour has been especially great because we’ve been able to see the west coast quite a bit. An eight hour drive isn’t so bad anymore when you get to drive through the Rockies.
Q: What’s your favorite part about performing?
A: The actual sharing of things that we’ve written and put together, that I enjoy immensely. I really enjoy playing songs and kind of seeing songs develop from an idea to a song that’s a rough structure with a guitar part and a vocal part to the full band adding drums and adding cello and vocal harmonies. Seeing the final product and really performing the final product, that’s my favorite part.
Q: What’s the weirdest show you’ve ever done or the weirdest place you’ve ever done a show?
A: The ones that we enjoy the least, I would say, are when we play commuter colleges, so there’s no campus and we’ll be scheduled right in the middle of the day during lunch. But we’ve gotten to play a lot of fun shows on this tour, couple of house shows that were really fun and playing at some breweries. Those little shows were really great, especially when you’re on the road as much as we are it’s sometimes tough to take a day off and enjoy the nature that you’re surrounded with but in those places it wasn’t difficult to do at all.
Q: Where does the inspiration for your songs come from?
A: Most of the stuff that I write is inspired by personal events or things that someone I know has gone through, just general kinds of feelings and emotions, but it can really be anything. I read quite a bit, so there’s always that kind of slant to the inspiration as well. Generally it’s very personal. That’s what makes the songs interesting to perform because you know when I play the song there’s a certain emotion that’s attached to that song.
Q: Is one of you the main songwriter or do you collaborate? Is it a very collaborative group?
A: I write all the lyrics and the guitar parts. I usually come to the band with an idea or I come with a song that’s not fully done and we kind of work on instrumentation together. We build up a drum part and a cello part. Each person is pretty much responsible for their own instrument, so everyone kind of has their own creative decisions to make… We build the harmonies together.