On “womp womp” songs becoming more relevant in the pandemic and on celebrating major changes
During a band’s existence, changes are bound to occur. These changes can come in terms of artistic approach, the vision behind the music, or simply members leaving and moving on.
For Boston folk-rock dynamos the Ballroom Thieves, the latter is happening with Devin Mauch’s plans to depart the band by the end of the month. It’s a time of transition but also for celebration of Mauch’s contributions, and that celebration will begin with back-to-back shows on July 16 and 17 at the Sinclair in Cambridge.
I recently spoke with singer-bassist-cellist Callie Peters about their upcoming shows, looking forward to playing in front of a live crowd again, their latest album, and what the post-Mauch era of the band will look like.
The upcoming shows at the Sinclair are a big turning point for the Ballroom Thieves with it being your first shows since the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year and the last time Devin will be performing with the band in the Boston area. Is it a mix of excitement and nervousness?
We have really missed playing live in-person shows, so we’re excited to finally get back on stage and watch people enjoy music together. Martin and I did a handful of live-streamed living room shows and small in-person shows, but there’s nothing like playing to a room full of music lovers from a stage. We hope it’ll be a fun way to end this chapter of the band, and besides the anticipation of playing three shows in a row after such a long break, we’re eager to get back to performing.
With it being Devin’s final hometown shows, do you have anything special planned?
Both shows will feature a handful of older songs from our first two records. We’ve been performing with our bandmate Ariel Bernstein for a few years now, so it’ll be different to strip it back to the trio lineup and play, and sort of attempt, some of the songs we don’t really do anymore. We’re calling it “Early Waypoints of the Ballroom Thieves” to honor the many years we spent touring as a party of three.
While live music was shut down for the most part during the pandemic, how did each of you keep yourselves occupied? Did you write and work on new tunes remotely or did you do other things?
I think we all started the year in disbelief that the world had been turned upside down by a virus and that our jobs would probably be put on hold for the next year and beyond. After some months of over-watching news and worrying through the end of a long winter, I think we all enjoyed the rest and quality home time after the years of consistent touring. We practiced a lot, caught up on a few home projects, and Martin got really good at making bagels. We fostered dogs and then adopted one we couldn’t part with who we named Bagel, which was probably the most pandemic thing that happened. We also wrote a bunch of songs and recently recorded 10 of them with producer and friend Jerry Streeter.
Speaking of albums, in February of last year right before the pandemic hit, the Ballroom Thieves released their third album, Unlovely. It abides by a sociopolitical theme inspired by the 24/7 news cycle and the presence of toxic masculinity and straight up evil in our society. To reflect, how do you think the songs on the album have evolved from that time to now?
Firstly, I have to mention that we’ve been working with our friend Ariel for many years. We feel so lucky that he joined us on stage full-time in 2019, making us a four piece. On the album he played percussion, guitar, and organ while basically contributing sick licks every which way, you name it. Since we released Unlovely weeks before the shutdown and haven’t toured since, the songs really haven’t evolved beyond their life as tracks. They did become even more lyrically relevant as the year progressed, which I’m not sure is a good thing seeing as our lyrics are usually pretty womp womp.
After Devin leaves the band, what does he plan on doing? Also, do you, Martin, and Ariel plan on having the Ballroom Thieves back as a trio or are you searching for another fourth member?
Dev spent the year reconnecting with home and doing a ton of camping, even through the winter. He also started a wood burning business called the Wild Electric, which features scenes from his adventures. I’m positive he has many glorious wilderness trips in his future. We’re happy to report the Thieves will remain a quartet and we’ll be playing shows together starting in August.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Brooklyn Rail, The Providence Journal, The Newport Daily News, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, New Noise Magazine, Flood Magazine and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.