“Generally playing Johnny Brenda’s is a good memory,” says Calin Peters, one-half of Boston-based indie folk duo The Ballroom Thieves. The last time I spoke with the band’s other half (in March of 2020, just before COVID put live music on hold), and Calin’s husband, Martin Earley, he told me that, for the band’s next show at our favorite Fishtown venue, “We’re thinking of setting up a zipline from the balcony down to stage so we can make an epic entrance. We’ll see how the fire Marshall feels about it.” The band has sold-out the venue numerous times in recent years, including a 2017 date when they managed to pack the room despite like-minded Americana rockers The Lone Bellow having their own sold-out show at Union Transfer on the very same night. The Ballroom Thieves are currently in the middle of a US tour that will have them returning to Johnny Brenda’s this Thursday, October 20th.
However, The Ballroom Thieves have been through some changes since the last time they were in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection in December of 2018, including a major car accident, the departure of a band member, and the pandemic itself. “When it comes to the past two years, sometimes we feel like they never happened,” Calin tells me during a recent phone chat, before Martin adds, “It feels like we aged about ten years in the past two.” However, Calin tells me that the forced break actually turned out to be a good thing for the band: “We had the rare opportunity to decide if we really wanted to do this… And Martin and I decided we very much did, while our previous bandmate decided he did not.”
Calin tells me that the extra time given to the band to work on their latest LP – Clouds, which dropped this July on Nettwerk – certainly had an impact on the writing and recording process: “We definitely spent more time writing. We had all this extra time in the winter to record a bunch of demos, so we really knew what we wanted to sound like, and we recorded it in like two weeks.” She also says that these new songs have garnered some of her favorite reactions to the band’s music: “For the first time ever my favorite songs on the album match other peoples’ favorite songs on the album… It sure is nice to get a little agreement [laughs].”
The Ballroom Thieves have been touring Clouds, and their new lineup, since July, including a number of exceptionally large shows, such as Newport Folk Festival and a string of dates opening for Shakey Graves, in addition to an overseas tour, which included a handful of festivals. “We just finished three dates with Shakey Graves (We’ve been buds for a while now and hoping to do this for some time.) Before that we did a three-week tour of Scandinavia… It was really exciting to go to a new place that we hadn’t been before and bring our music to a new audience,” says Martin, before going on to suggest, “If you get the chance to visit Scandinavia at the end of the summer, I’d highly recommend it.” Calin also tells me that there is, indeed, something nice about getting to play some of these bigger spaces: “We have been loving large festival stages! It’s fun to have a lot of space to explore the stage and run around, visit different parts of the stage, and play to each other… from far away [laughs].”
The band do, however, tell me that they’re still more than happy in their usual settings of listening rooms and “mid-size rock clubs,” as well. “We very much are excited to be on the road… Just getting to tour has been a huge highlight,” says Calin of the group’s recent live experiences. They also tell me that the reactions to the new material in a live setting have been very validating. “It’s really fun to see people singing along to the new album,” says Martin, before Calin adds, “We’re really happy that people are coming along with us in our new sound.” They also tell me that they’re really excited to bring The Ballroom Thieves in their new form to Johnny Brenda’s for the first time. “We’re loving playing as a duo recently,” says Calin. However, she also tells me that that doesn’t mean that the show is going to be a mild affair throughout: “We’re feeling very energetic. We have a bit of a fuller, louder sound these days. It’s definitely more of a rock show.”
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