This week, The Show On The Road brings you an intimate conversation with avant-folk instrumentalists and songwriting team Martin Earley (guitar, vocals) and Callie Peters (cello-vocals) — the driving forces behind New England’s The Ballroom Thieves.
Beginning as a hard-traveling duo — which also features longtime percussionist Devin Mauch — over a decade ago at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, the Ballroom Thieves began to turn heads and fill rooms when they added Peters and her fierce and poetic singing-style around eight years back. The Queen-meets-Wings stacks of harmonies, gorgeous string arrangements and slam-poetry off-kilter lyrics instantly made them stick out from their gentler rootsy peers. They recorded the beloved harmony-drenched debut, A Wolf In The Doorway, in 2015 and followed up with their soulful, expansively electric Nettwerk debut Deadeye, which has been streamed over 50 million times and counting. A tasteful covers record followed as they established themselves as international festival favorites.
2020 was supposed to be a triumphant year for the group, but of course that’s not how anything went last year, for anybody. Their playfully experimental and fearlessly political release Unlovely (your host Z. Lupetin’s new favorite record of this fractious era) got buried in the late winter tumult of the new pandemic, forcing the group to call off all touring and shelve all promotion. Holed up at home, the chastened group hoped the world might discover the deliciously angular anthems like “Vanity Trip,” “Homme Run” and the epic tempo-jumping opening title track (featuring fellow New England harmony-masters Darlingside) at a later, calmer date.
The world has not gotten calmer, of course. Earley and Peters had to push off marrying each other and percussionist Devin Mauch had to make the tough decision to leave the group and focus on his art career after a decade sharing stages across the world with his friends.
Despite all this, our talk was an upbeat one. The group recently returned to performing live and sold out their hometown venue the Sinclair in Boston with an expanded group of musicians backing their ever-evolving sound. New music is on the way — but in the meantime, give yourself a day to sit with Unlovely: one of the true lost gems of the 2020 musical year.