Over the past couple of years, we have been privileged to share some stunning and intimate miniature gigs with our readers. In troubled times, especially when live music has been hard to come by, these home recordings have connected artists and audiences and, frankly, helped to bring a little light to the gloom. We’re delighted to share a mini-gig from New England indie-folk duo The Ballroom Thieves. Until recently, the project was a trio, but with the departure of friend and founding member Devin Mauch, Calin “Callie” Peters (vocals, cello, bass) and Martin Earley (vocals, guitar) have had to become used to writing and recording as a couple. Peters and Earley have become much more than band members. Now life partners, engaged to be married, the pair have embraced writing together, with their emotional bond and natural chemistry transforming their process. When they wrote their last full-length album, ‘Unlovely’, Earley said: “Figuring out how to write as a writing team has been something of an adventure. We used to create songs more separately but found that we complement each other well in almost every sense of the word, including songwriting. Most of the songs I brought to the table were inspired by our dreadful news cycle but tend to involve some sort of hopeful or romantic spin, whereas most of Callie’s songs are about smashing the patriarchy and destroying evil forever.”
It’s great to see their connection in this two-song mini-gig. The first song recorded for AUK is a beautifully understated version of recent single ‘Borderline’, which was released in November. The official single is an outstanding song, carefully constructed and layered, building as the song progresses with the introduction of driving percussion after the chorus. Here, with just the couple’s voices and the guitar, it’s stripped back to the song’s subtle, melodic core, allowing us to focus on their vocal interplay and the introspective lyrics: “Still I can see anxiety will be the death of me // But I worry over who I would or Wouldn’t // Be without it // All alone on the borderline // running fast, not to fall behind // I have a body bit I can’t call it mine // I still do from time to time.” The delicate performance of the verses makes the choruses soar all the more.
Then the duo perform a cover of Joe Purdy’s ‘New Year’s Eve’ for us. The original is a great song but The Ballroom Thieves very much make it their own. This version is particularly notable for the impassioned conclusion, their combined vocal rising as one like a desperate prayer or plea for a better world: “And we teach every child so they might rise above // And the power means nothing in a world without love.” Let’s join them in hopefulness and play this song loud when the New Year comes.
‘Borderline’ is the title track from the band’s forthcoming album, which is due out in 2022. Earley says of the new material: “On our last album, ‘Unlovely,’ we added a lot of horns, a lot of instrumentation that we couldn’t play live as a quartet.” Peters adds: “On this next record, we focused in on the band, on what we could play together. We were all in the same room playing live, and that was just fun. We were learning how to be a band together.” ‘Borderline’ was originally written as a sad, acoustic song but grew into something more. They say of the single: “The crux of the song is the thought that anxiety can be such a pervasive part of your life that it’s difficult to imagine the person you would be without it. Sometimes it feels like we’re sitting on a little rain cloud inside our heads, watching our bodies move through each day in front of us, and that’s an idea that needs a happy, summery guitar riff to keep it from depressing everyone.”
Anyone unfamiliar with The Ballroom Thieves, should take the time to absorb their excellent back-catalogue while waiting for the new album release. Their eclectic blend of musical styles ensures their output is always intriguing, always surprising, while their harmonies are simply beautiful. Enjoy.