Grateful Web Interview with The Ballroom Thieves

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Submitted by Vinh Nguyen on Sat, 12/06/2014 - 2:43 pm

The Ballroom Thieves are performing in Denver, Colorado this weekend (https://www.facebook.com/events/989757557708115/).  This will be a unique and an exciting experience to catch this rock-folk trio particularly at this intimate Denver venue (Larimer Lounge).  When I think folk, I typically think perhaps of enjoying thoughtful inspirational music on the couch.  Ballroom Thieves is that plus upbeat, rock flair in a concert hall -- armed with an electric guitar, drums and a cello.  Grateful Web visits the young trio again during their tour around the US and before their latest, expected record release in Spring 2015.  Below is Grateful Web’s talk with drummer, Devin Mauch:

Grateful Web:  Thanks for joining us today so early.  Well, I guess it’s not that early if you’re in the east coast.

Devin:  Yeah, it’s not too bad.  It’s noontime for us.  Thanks for hitting us up.

Grateful Web:  Devin, you’re the percussion guy in the band.

Devin:    Yes, I play drums and sing

Grateful Web:  When did you start playing drums?

Devin:  I started playing drums mostly as a hobby.  My brother was playing in high school.  We had drum kits around the house.  I was always playing guitar and piano but it was there.  I was fooling around with it in high school.  It got a bit more serious in college.  I was always just self-taught.  At this point, I’ve made a small career out of it.  Yeah, since high school is when I’ve been playing. 

Grateful Web:  Then, you met up with Martin [Martin Earley, guitar/vocals) first I presume.

Devin:  Yes, Martin and I went to college together.  We met there and started playing together.

Grateful Web:  Let’s talk a bit about the sound of Ballroom Thieves.  On your website, you’re a “rock band in a folk suit” and another article reads you’re “rock disguise as folk”.  Can you elaborate on the description?

Devin:  Sure, we’ve evolved a lot over the last couple of years.  I think the roots of this band are definitely in the folk music -- the folk movement.  We find a lot of inspiration from that genre and the history behind it.  We were raised on all different kinds of music:  classic rock, old country, etc.  Martin has really begun to bring in a significant amount of electric guitar into our sound.  Callie [Calin Peters, Cello/Vocals] plays a cello but not in the classical sense that you expect to see from an orchestra or something.  She’s definitely got kind of her own gritty style.  With the combination of those things with my kind of organic drum setup, we just feel like folk doesn’t explain it very at all.  We’re a bit more of a rock band but the folk influence is undeniable.  Yeah, it’s fun thing, “a rock band in a folk suit”.  It’s our way of sort of marrying the two genres and saying we’re trying to do our own thing, you know. 

Grateful Web:  Do you intentionally try to throw the “rock” in there somehow or does it just come naturally?

Devin:   Yeah, it all comes naturally.  There is no intentional push to be one or the other – or to be more rock than folk.  I think naturally, especially in the last year, the writing has definitely been geared a bit more towards rock.  And, the sound feels a bit more rock.  But, Martin, who writes a lot of our lyrics, has a very folk way of writing lyrics.  He’s got a bit of folk style to it with the storytelling – intricate lyrics and all that.  

Grateful Web:  I saw the band’s YouTube ‘Brother’ video performed in Austin Texas.  [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9b9qDuiUhcU].  I hear rock.  I hear folk.  It sounds amazing.  I think a fan posted that you’re a mix of Nirvana and John Denver.  [laughing] 

Devin:  [laughing] The comments get pretty crazy.  But you know, we appreciate anything. 

Grateful Web:  How did you come to have cello in a rock band?  I don’t always know there’s a cello until the video.  Anyhow, was that an intentional decision?

Devin:  Martin and I started as a duo in college.  We were playing as a duo for a year or two – two years maybe.  We always had this fascination with the cello as an instrument.  We talked about if we add a third or if we start to build this band up the cello is something we’re interested in having because of its versatility and just the wide range of dynamics and sound that it could get.  It really lends itself to not being cornered into one genre or one sound.  You can really use it in so many different ways.  We had a different cellist for about two years from the beginning 2012 to mid-late 2013.  We parted ways and we found Callie who’s our current cellist.  The cello plays a huge role in the music.  It’s funny that you say you don’t notice the cello as much.  But, I think that’s in recorded music to date.  We have our first full length coming out in the spring and that is the first project that Callie has written and recorded on.  Our previous work is with our old cellist.  I think the cello plays a much more vital and obvious role in the upcoming record. 

Grateful Web:  I’m excited about that.  I’ve read she’s classically trained from Berkley and that she likes musically kind of where the band is going.  

Devin:  Yeah, she went to Berkley specifically to avoid becoming like an orchestral cellist – and exploring the other area that her talents could lend itself to.  I think she saw Berkley as a place that would push her not in one direction but offer up different ones.  She’s studied cello I think since 10 so she’s really run the gauntlet of all different kind of styles.  She’s kind of settled into this vibe that just really fit well for stuff we’re writing now – the rock-folk fusion thing.

Grateful Web:  Again yeah, we’re definitely excited about that.  You guys toured with Railroad Earth.  What was that experience like?

Devin:  Yeah, we didn’t do a bunch of shows.  I think we did three with them.  It was really cool.  They’re obviously way bigger than us.  They’ve been around for so many years.  Whenever we get to play with a band that has experience like that, it’s valuable in so many ways.  We’re still so very young and we have a lot to learn.  They were really really kind people.  Playing with them was just really special.  It was really cool to see how so many years of fan building really pays off.  So, playing with them like at the House of Blues was just cool.  The genres are totally different but it was cool.  We still definitely were inspired by what they were doing and what they’ve accomplished. 

Grateful Web:  I know you guys had talked about a mix of upbeat songs at your shows.  You certainly get that with Railroad Earth. 

Devin:  Oh yeah, definitely.

Grateful Web:  Do you guys personally listen to that genre of music – or what do you listen to?

Devin:  We listen to a ton of different stuff.  We spend so much time on the road, in our van, traveling.  We’re constantly looking for and listening to new and different kind of music.  Like I said, we were all brought up on a full range of stuff: show tunes, classic rock, Billy Joel, James Taylor, John Denver, Bob Dylan, and all the old classics.  More recently, what we listen to a lot is our friends and people we meet on the road and people we play with who are doing the same thing that we’re doing.  Maybe, they’re in the same position career wise that we are.  We got friends like Darlingside, Tall Heights, The Ghost of Paul Revere, and Carbon Tigers from Chicago.  We talk to them probably a few times a week just to see how everything is going.   And, we listened to them probably at least every other day.  I think lately we’ve been mostly listening to a lot bands that we play with and meet on the road – just looking for inspiration with everything that’s coming in the music world right now.

Grateful Web:  Yeah, sure.  You guys are out of Boston, Massachusetts.  When we last met with you, I think Ballroom Thieves wanted to branch out from Boston and tour other parts of the region.  I think you are doing that now.  How has that been going?

Devin:  It’s been pretty cool.  This year, particularly, 2014 has brought us all around the country.  We’ve really been everywhere except the deep Southeast -- we didn’t go to Florida.  But, we spent a lot of time in the Northwest, in the Midwest, in the Southwest.  It’s been really cool.  It’s been a taxing year on our…our bodies – and mentally.  But, it’s been so inspiring and cool to see different places and spread the music – and just get out of New England a little bit.  It’s still obviously awesome to come back home and play in the Northeast and New England.  Since we talked last, we added many many miles to our van.

Grateful Web:  Like you said, it’s taxing physically and mentally I’m sure to train up to or work up to that.  On your Facebook site (https://www.facebook.com/ballroomthieves), I saw a photo of the band decked in water rafting gear.  Did you guys actually go rafting?

Devin:  Yeah, that was really a cool little story actually.  We were up in Walla Walla, Washington.  We played a show up there.  During the show, we said, “hey”, if anyone has any recommendations of fun things to do around here, cool play places to stay, we don’t really have a plan but we’re really open and would love to experience, you know, whatever you guys got going on here in the local culture – or whatever.  After we finished playing, this guy, younger guy, came up to us and just said hey I own a little bed and breakfast around the corner.  I’ll take care of a room for you guys tonight.  I’ll take care of food.  Also, if you’re down for it, I’ll take you on a white water rafting trip tomorrow morning.  And, he just [laughing]…he did this all for free without us really expecting anything at all. 

Grateful Web:  [laughing] No kidding…

Devin:  And, that was from that morning.  We went there and he gave us all the gear.  It was pretty cool.  We had never done that before.

Grateful Web:  But, you guys were definitely down.

Devin:  Yeah, that’s like one of the coolest part of this job is meeting local folks and being exposed to how kind people can be – and just hooking us up with all these adventures and stuff. 

Grateful Web:  Did he do the steering for you guys?

Devin:  We actually each got our own kayaks.  So, it wasn’t like everyone in one big boat. 

Grateful Web:  So, there was a river – like white water?  [I obviously know nothing about this activity]

Devin:  Yes, it went from rapids and something I’m sure a professional would see it and laugh at it…but for us, we were like, “Oh my god.  If we die, this is gonna be a really badass way to do so”. [laughing]  And then it would be calm for while and you can kind of relax and look at nature and the stuff around.  It was really secluded.  It was cool.

Grateful Web:  Well, I’m glad you guys still have all your limbs.  So, the Thieves have two EPs out there and I think you mentioned an album, LP, coming in the Spring?

Devin:  The two EPs one came out in early 2012 and another came out just about a year ago.  

Grateful Web:  The last self-titled EP one is on SoundCloud (https://soundcloud.com/theballroomthieves)

Devin:  Yeah, they’re all on SoundCloud, Spotify, Pandora, iTunes and all that stuff.  But yeah, back in June we recorded our first full-length record with Dan Cardinal in Boston.  We had a hell of a good time.   The product is something that we’re really proud of.  It will be coming out in April next year.  And, we’ll be playing pretty extensively around it.  We’ll have to talk to you again in the Spring. 

Grateful Web: Yes.  You’ll be playing your old and new stuff on tour?

Devin:  Yeah, we’ve been playing a lot of new material live.  So, I would say 60-to-40 new stuff to old stuff when we play this weekend.  We’ll talk about the new record and we’ll be playing several songs off the new record.  Some of those songs are already available in YouTube videos from our friends at Audiotree: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zselyC3FSyE).  We have a couple of videos with them up from the record.  We’re excited about all that. 

Grateful Web:  Great.  Well, thanks for joining us Devin.  The Ballroom Thieves December 7th 2014 performance will be here in Denver at The Larimer Lounge.  The remaining tour can be found at http://www.ballroomthieves.com/ .  Yeah, if you have anything else Devin, I’ll leave the last word with you.

Devin:  That’s about it.  We’re really excited to be back in Denver.  The whole state of Colorado has been a really cool market to explore this year. Hopefully, people will come on out.  Thank you so much for talking to us again.  We really appreciate it.

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