Maine Music News met up with the members of Ghost of Paul Revere,
Maine’s own holler folk band, before their performance to a packed crowd at Bangor’s Nocturnem Draft Haus. If you are a fan, you already know what you love about this band, and if you’re brand new to the acoustic quartet then check out their website, www.ghostofpaulrevere.com, for your video and streaming pleasure.
Maine Music News – I’ll start with the traditional, tell readers a bit about the band and how the band came together.
Sean McCarthy – The band kind of came together. The guitar player, Griffin, the banjo player, Max, and myself, the bass player, have been best friends since we were really little. We’ve been best friends since kindergarten, we just hit it off. We didn’t start playing music together, although we were all interested in music, until probably senior year of high school, and then we just messed around with acoustic. We all went off to school, and when we came back, Griffin started playing the open mic nights down at The Dogfish Company in Portland. He’d have Max and I come up and sing backup harmonies on a couple of the songs he’d been working on, and he’d also have Matt come up and play harmonica on a couple of the songs. They met through the open mic night. We just decided to pursue it as a fun activity, just something to do when we all got together, and it turned out that it sounded really good. We started playing together each time instead of Griffin sharing the ghost of Paul Revere, it just became the Ghost of Paul Revere, and it has been an uphill climb since.
Maine Music News – The name, I’ve got to ask, and I’m sure you’ve been asked a million times, where did it come from?
Griffin Sherry – It came to me in a dream in college. It was one of those things that you wake up and you can’t get it off your mind. I was playing with a band out in New York, and when I came back to Maine the idea of playing under my own name didn’t really interest me. I wanted to have something attached to it so I was playing out in Portland as Griffin Sherry and the Ghost of Paul Revere. The concept was that it wasn’t just me on stage, even if I was the only one performing, and it allowed me to have rotating members to come fill in the band whenever I needed to. Like Sean said, I used to pull them up because I tried to fill three hours by myself, and it was grueling. I managed to do that for about a year and a half. Finally, within one show, the four of us played together for almost an entire set, and the next show we were just the Ghost of Paul Revere and we were writing music and just going for it.
Maine Music News – You guys sound just like a match made in heaven. The harmonies and everything coming together, it’s absolutely amazing. You’re known as a band to see live. Tell me about that.
Matt Young – It’s an energy that we share on the stage between the four of us. It’s the music that comes through us. And then it’s how the room responds to the energy that we’re putting out. It just becomes a loud, raucous circle of musical power, and we have a really good time with it.
Griffin – We recorded our records live so our live sound is very similar to how we sound on the record. The difference is that when you record like that it isn’t like playing in front of an audience, it is like playing in front of a mirror. You can scrutinize real hard, and you can do it over and over again, but you also loose that fact of people who see us have a big influence on how we play. We really get amped up when people get amped up and that feeds off one another and reverberates until it’s a lot of fun. It’s funny to be considered a live band, too. It’s not something we are shooting for, it just kind of happened. Our kind of music lends itself to communication, and that happens when everybody is playing together.
Sean – I think it’s also because we just have so much damn fun up there. People come up and talk to us after the show and say you guys look like you’re having a blast. And we are. That’s why we say that if we are going into a gig that has an older, quieter, kind of room then we’ve got to remember rule number one – always have fun. As long as we’re having fun, the audience will have fun, too. We have lots of fun. …We aren’t Morrissey and The Smiths.
Maine Music News – The kind of music you do, I had a hard time defining it. You call your music holler, folk, and stomp. You can’t just Google that. So what is your style? Mainers like to support Mainers, and there will be a lot of people who look at this and they want something new – tell me about this holler folk stomp thing.
Max Davis – We deemed it holler folk because we’ve had such a hard time compartmentalizing our sound and what we are doing and what our live show is into genres. Instrumentation wise, we are a bluegrass band – banjo, bass, harmonica, mandolin.
Maine Music News – But you don’t sound like a bluegrass band.
Max – Exactly. We’re not really in that technicality. Then we kind of think folk, but folk has its own kind of confinements, and a lot of what we do definitely has a rock and roll background, R & B background, that classic singer-songwriter kind of thing. That is where the holler folk thing comes from. It was Griffin’s idea, the field hollers, that kind of group energy that comes about. We do a lot of clapping and stomping and getting people involved. People creating sound. So we’ve had a hard time placing ourselves in a genre. By creating, or saying something like holler folk, it gets people interested to listen to the music, it peaks curiosity or it touches upon things in people so they are more likely to experiment.
Maine Music News – Interesting. You’re finding that having a different categorization is bringing people to you. We’ve had other artists say the music has to be something that people can categorize and know where to put a cd in the music store bin.
Matt – I kind of feel that people tell each other that these guys rock, you’ve got to see them live. And that is generally the buzz. Then we get a really good turn out and it’s going to get crazy, it’s going to get weird. And Sean, and all of you, it is like a fever takes you, and you become so much fun. Then it sort of sweeps into the room.
Griffin – We happened to luck out, too. We started writing this music right before the cusp of it hitting the mainstream so we don’t sound exactly like any band that’s out there, but we also sound similar enough that people can grab onto it. That has worked to our benefit and certainly it has benefited us having our own niche because, even on a local level and now as we are growing, we stand out more than we would have if we had just said that we were just like the Avett Brothers or just like the Old Crow Medicine Show or any of those. Having our own definition has helped fuel a little mystery because people ask us about the genre and a little bit of distinction in what has become an increasingly crowded field. There are people with acoustic instruments singing loudly all across the country right now. Which is good, it is a good thing that this is happening, but you also have to figure out how to poke your head above water a little bit.
Maine Music News – Your first two cds, North and Believe, have both received positive critical reviews. You have also had great regional sales. How has that success translated?
Sean – More places to go to, more faces to play to. It is definitely cool to get the acclaim that we have. That is kind of what you go for subconsciously, I guess. When we put out the record we didn’t have a meeting and say that we were going to be in the top selling slot for X amount of months or anything like that. We just played the music, and it turned out that people liked it well enough to buy the albums. I think what that means to us is that the more people who buy the albums, the more they share it, and the fan base grows larger and larger it is kind of like laying new tracks for us to go on. Someone shares the music in Tennessee, and we go to Tennessee. We have different people from Europe saying they really like the music and can’t wait for us to come over there. It’s kind of like us knocking on the door.
Max – I feel like the critical acclaim has been good, but it’s not been huge. I think that we’ve gotten really good reviews on the albums we’ve done, but what Sean is really saying is that word of mouth has been huge for us. Somebody hears it, like friends or a family, and something about the connectability in the music makes them continually push the music, to give it out to friends.
Maine Music News – Some artists lose their sound when they go in the studio. You guys didn’t do that. The studio work is just fantastic. Who did you work with and what did you do so that you sound so good?
Griffin – Our first EP we recorded down in Portsmouth. There’s a place called the Electric Cave, which is a punk studio, and we recorded there because they have hollow wooden floors and a natural reverb chamber underneath. We actually recorded some of our percussion that way doing foot stomps and recording it through mics. We worked with Drew Brown, who has worked with a lot of New Hampshire-based bands. That record is a little funny because we went into it with a very small budget. We got something that was really good out of it, something that is a little rough, but something that we really enjoyed and people catch on to.
With Believe, we worked with Jon Wyman, who engineered and produced the record, and we worked with Adam Ayan over at Gateway Mastering, who is Bob Ludwig’s understudy, to master the record. Our thought was that if we want the best results then we have to work with the best, and it turned out to be entirely true. We raised the money, we did the time and the practicing, and we made sure that this record, at the time, was the best thing we could put out.
I think a lot of bands, especially since it is now so easy to record in any place, kind of miss the fact there are people out there who know a lot more than what they know. If we had tried to record our own record, it would have sounded like swill. We worked with Jon, and he did incredible things for us, just incredible. He not only helped it sound the best it could but also helped us see potential in our own songs and our own practices that we wouldn’t have seen on our own. That is really beneficial. From what I’ve seen in the local scene, that is the difference. People who are really willing to go for it and put themselves in the firing line and hope that their record is going to work, sometimes those are the really successful ones and the ones that get the best praise. The others – maybe recorded on a laptop or at a friend’s studio or by someone who is trying to learn how to record – when they put that out and expect it to sound the same as something that is done in a professional studio, their product just doesn’t hold up.
# # #
Maine Music News – And folks, that was when the ghost of Murphy’s Law showed up and the recorder died. Coincidentally, the room became crazy noisy with the Friday night crowd that recording was nearly impossible anyway. Things always work out. The conversation with the members of Ghost of Paul Revere kept on going. Here are the big themes that fans will want to know:
New music is planned for 2015, and the band intends to push the boundaries a bit with the production of the new release, perhaps doing more track work and involving elements not heard to date. While there are songs ready to go, some of the music remains in a very loose state. Matt said that if you get a show between now and the recording studio, you will probably hear some of the new tunes being field-tested before an audience. The band tries out new material, sees how the crowd reacts, and then works to fine tune. If you are hungry for new Ghost, get out in this cold Maine winter and fill up the seats.
We always want our local bands to make it big, to be a success, but we also know not every band defines success the same way. We asked the members of the band to define success as they see it. Sean shared with us that the band is having fun now, but they want to take it as far as they can go. When they sold out the Port City Music Hall to 600 plus fans, all singing and loving every word, that was wonderful, they didn’t think they could pull that big a crowd, but they did. Now, a bit further along, they are working towards national, and international, recognition. 2015 will see the band incorporating more long term strategies, more tours beyond the Northeast to the Midwest, Colorado, and Texas, and striving for national visibility.
But have no fear, fans of the Ghost of Paul Revere, the members of the band were very quick to point out that though they have plans for the band’s future, they are bonded as a team. Each member wholeheartedly agreed that they wouldn’t do this with any other group of musicians. They have developed a “radical level of honesty” over the years, a trust that keeps them happy and eager to share time together and continue to grow that distinct, yet familiar, style of music that they, and fans, enjoy.
Our many thanks to the members of the Ghost of Paul Revere, Griffin, Matt, Max, and Sean, for their generosity and conversation. Gracious and entertaining, no wonder this band is building a dedicated fan base across the region. All our best to you in 2015 and beyond. – Maine Music News