Ballroom Thieves continues to evolve – with a little inspiration from Harry Styles

Like many people, Martin Earley and Calin Peters of the Ballroom Thieves have spent much of the pandemic resolving big questions and strong emotions. Oh, and also like many people going through the pandemic, Earley and Peters fell in love with Harry Styles.

Existential puzzles about wearing “laughter like a bad disguise” and the fun of a Harry Styles infatuation run through Ballroom Thieves’ fourth album, “Clouds” (out now).

“Callie was sitting around our wood stove and looked at me and said, ‘I think I’m in love with Harry Styles,'” Earley told the Herald. “My first thought was not that I was jealous of him. It was, ‘You can’t have it. I’m already in love with him.'”

At home in Maine, the couple started toying around with a few verses about the British idol. Jokingly, they were singing about their crush around the house. But soon it evolved into a real song, a good song – “Harry Styles” is a quivering ballad with echo and reverb with a searing little guitar solo and a dreamy chorus.

“Harry Styles” is somewhere between a bit of indie pop (“Borderline”) and a nearly seven-minute cello fever dream (“Trodden”). The trio of songs represents the evolution of the Ballroom Thieves: the group began ten years ago as an American duo with vocalist/guitarist Earley and vocalist/percussionist Devin Mauch, wisely added vocalist/cellist/bassist Peters, lost Mauch to a career change. , just as Earley and Peters grew up as songwriters.

“We used to lean heavily on these big three-part harmonies,” Earley said. “(On ‘Clouds’) We left the big three-part harmonies, the wall of sound, behind and it was a conscious decision.”

Ballroom thieves now seem to be thriving on reinvention. “Clouds” is softer, sadder, and softer than 2020’s “Unlovely,” a surprisingly loud and expensive album with occasional big pop and hard rock flourishes. But the reinventions came naturally, honed for months at home before the band hit the studio.

“We spent a lot of time, more than ever before, singing together during the pandemic,” Peters said. “We also went through a period where we watched way too much news, got really sad, and decided to start writing instead.”

“Clouds” shows that Earley and Peters have learned to sing as a duo, with complex and immaculate harmonies. And how to sing alone: ​​Many of the best moments are dominated by just one of them (see Peters’ lonely, hypnotic “I Lose”).

It also shows that despite big questions and strong emotions, Ballroom Stealers aren’t above a bit of cheerful fantasy.

“We realized that not all songs need to be sad and personal and meaningful,” Earley said. “Some of them can be fun and happy. … We were trying to rediscover the joy of songwriting and ‘Harry Styles’ is the epitome of that.

“I remember Martin singing the first verse to me and laughing so hard,” Peters added. “To our surprise, our label really loved the demo and needed it on the album.”

It must be on the album. Because the balance it offers and because, well, Harry Styles.

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