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Friday September 13 2024
  7:30PM doors -- music at 8:30PM
 •••  ALL AGES
$20 in advance / $22 at the door
An Evening With...
The Ballroom Thieves
ballroomthieves.com
 indie folk-rock

The Ballroom Thieves
-from Boston, MA
-What if we could all be a little more tender? Towards strangers, our kids, and ourselves. As we all become more easily connected through social media, pop culture, and our collective helplessness over the mistakes that are breaking us down, a realization has been washing over many of us: We don’t treat ourselves or each other very well, and in order to break that cycle we need to understand why.

As two former kids, The Ballroom Thieves have some thoughts on the matter. Ten songs-worth to be exact. Their 5th full length record, Sundust, is a collection of thoughts about the human experience.

The ways our personalities emerge, our unique world view, and our capacity for compassion as adults are all formed during that delicate two decade process called childhood. Most of us don’t receive the emotional support we need in order to become empathetic adults because most of our parents didn’t receive what they needed in their own childhoods. Pouring from an empty cup seems like an inevitable condition of the human experience. If we could change that and offer future generations the gentleness they need to end this never ending cycle of trauma, most of us would choose to, but without doing the grueling work of healing childhood wounds, falling back into old generational patterns is much more likely.

“This group of songs is self portrait of our intertwined lives” writes Calin Peters. She is the counterpart to Martin Earley, and together they are The Ballroom Thieves.

The songwriting team aren’t strangers to topics of mental health and a crumbling society. From as early as their second album, 2016’s Deadeye, the band has been musing on the pain of existing and how to cope. These days, as society trends towards self awareness, it’s easier to sort through the mess.

Peters delves into the theme of Sundust by recalling how, late in 2023, after the record was written and all its topics were swirling in her mind, she came across “a really beautiful article by [American novelist and non-fiction writer] Anne Lamott. It was about not learning how to live for yourself in time, and there was a sentence that made me say ‘ah yes, there are so many of us who are working through our own trauma.’ Lamott wrote ‘the game of life is hard, and a lot of us are playing hurt.’ As I sort out my own childhood I come back to that idea often, and I’ve let it replace other mottos I grew up hearing, such as ‘time heals all wounds’ and ‘it is what it is.’”

If ‘it is what it is’ there would be no point in learning and evolving, and those are two pillars the pair has built their partnership on. For more than a decade, Earley and Peters have been combining their thoughts and musical abilities. They’ve toured the US dozens of times, ventured into Europe, Canada, and even managed a journey from Maine to Hawaii to Alaska in one trip, all to play their music for the dedicated fanbase they’ve been steadily growing, person by person. The two have played beautiful theaters like Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, well-loved festivals such as Newport Folk, and legendary rock rooms like LA’s Troubadour all across the country. They’ve been known to power slide across stages on bloody knees with their full band and silence packed rooms for 90 minutes with their lyrics and harmonies, accompanied only by a cello and an acoustic guitar during their more intimate duo shows.

“We have loved pushing the limits of our band in every direction and it’s especially fulfilling to pull our arrangements back to just our two voices and principal instruments,” says Earley of the previous touring year. “We are really looking forward to sharing Sundust in this newfound, intimate way.”

Sundust, released on April 12th 2024 via Nettwerk Music Group, is comprised of the Thieves’ most personal songs yet, even in terms of the recording process. In a slight departure from previous projects, the band made a conscious decision to forgo the traditional studio environment for the bulk of the creation of the album, choosing instead to work from their makeshift studio at home in Midcoast Maine. The resulting sounds reflect the remote coziness of the location, from the sparse, cushy drum and bass groove in the opening Everything is Everything to the buzzing, lively organ pulsing through Right on Time, and the interplay between Peters’ crystalline vocal and blooming cello in the steady build of Casual. The concept is perhaps best exemplified by the delicate 4th track, Tender, which consists of the pair’s signature vocal harmonies atop a lithely finger-picked acoustic guitar and a haunting pedal steel that weaves itself effortlessly into the tune.

“We built a set of six acoustic baffles, padded out a closet with foam and spare blankets to act as a vocal booth, and turned one of our guest rooms into a recording studio for the better part of 4 months,” explains Earley, noting that keeping external sounds from disrupting their recordings quickly became a daily issue. “Rainy days were especially tough, but the main culprit was our dog, Bagel. He’s a bit of a snorer and he absolutely needs to be by our side, so there were quite a few good takes that had to be discarded because we could hear him snoozing away in the background.”

There were aspects of the recording process that couldn’t be done from home, however, so the help of co-producer Dan Cardinal and drummer Cody Iwasiuk was enlisted.

Iwasiuk lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba and recorded all of the drum and percussion parts of Sundust remotely over the course of a few days, a measure that came with its own list of pros and cons, as Peters explains. “There were times when it took us three or four hours to finalize a part that might have taken twenty minutes if we had all been in the same room together, but Cody was so patient and positive and we really felt like he understood what we were trying to do from the very beginning.”

Cardinal owns and operates Dimension Sound Studios in Jamaica Plain, MA, where the Thieves have worked on several of their previous recordings, including their debut, A Wolf in the Doorway, and Deadeye. “Dan’s been a dear friend of ours for many years and he was involved as a satellite co-producer from the get-go,” writes Peters, going on to explain that the band spent the final four days of tracking at Cardinal’s studio in Boston to round out the record. “Things moved quickly during that time,” explains Earley, “thanks to the inclusion of guest musicians like [pianist] Ben Cosgrove, [producer and organist] Sam Kassirer, [violinist] Abigail Reissman, and [pedal steel player] Rich Hinman.”

“We had pre-existing friendships with almost everyone who worked on this album, which made for a very sweet and smooth operation,” says Peters. “As everyone in the post-pandemic video conference world knows, it can be really difficult to get a nuanced point across accurately on a choppy screen or a muffled phone call, so already being close with the person on the other line went a long way in accomplishing our common goals in an efficient way.”

Sundust is about self awareness, breaking down walls that trauma creates, and healing from harshness, but it's also about finding the glimmers, the striking beauty of being a person, and a longing for connection with healthy people. “Even while working on the visual representation of the record there was a seamlessness and ease to each work day,” says Peters. “We would often find ourselves in deep, meaningful conversations with the talented friends we were creating with, swapping similar stories of cycle breaking and our growing compassion for ourselves and others. It seems like a lot of us are trying to heal, and it’s inspiring to make art with people who are really doing the work.”

Sundust is out everywhere on April 12th, via Nettwerk Music Group.