Portland “holler” folkies The Ghost of Paul Revere consists of Griffin Sherry on guitar and vocals, Max Davis on banjo and vocals, Matt Young on harmonica and mandolin, Matt Baker on mandolin and Sean McCarthy on bass guitar and vocals.
Sherry, Davis and McCarthy grew up together but didn’t start making music with each other until years later. The five members played together in various incarnations before finally coming together as a group in 2011. Their debut EP, “The North,” was released last summer.
As for the name, Sherry said he woke up one morning and wrote it down. When he and his bandmates played together for the first time, they all agreed The Ghost of Paul Revere was perfect.
GO caught up with the band and fired off a bunch of questions. The responses were a group effort led by Sherry.
What inspired the cover of “The North” EP that pictures you all waist-deep in water?
It was taken on a stretch of the Saco river where three of us grew up, a place with a lot of memories that helped define and fuel our music. It also reflected the imagery and vocabulary found in the music.
“Holler folk.” Did you guys coin that phrase? How do you define it?
We were trying to describe our sound one day and found it actually quite difficult. We weren’t bluegrass or country, and we weren’t folk or blues. Those definite lines were hard to really see. So we started calling it “holler folk,” and it stuck.
It is partly a nod to old field hollers. We feel that our vocals are one of the strongest aspects of the group, helping to define and separate us from other acts. It was also a nod to the back-country feel of our sound and the level of intensity and conviction with which we play it.
Why do you think there’s been such a return to acoustic music over these last couple of years?
There is an immense history tied to acoustic music in America, which allows it to be nostalgic and demands that it be continually innovative. Perhaps a lot of people have been so oversaturated with technology in music that they’re searching for something that’s a little more pure. Or perhaps there is more of a communal aspect to that type of music, allowing everyone to join in and experience the music instead of just listening to it.
The song “Wolves” has qualities of an old spiritual with the lyrics and hand-clapping. Was this your intent?
That certainly was a driving force behind “Wolves.” It could be my favorite song on the EP, because we deliver it with such a heavy hand. I always wanted to write music that engages people. I’m very interested in the communal aspect of performing music, so “Wolves” was an opportunity to write a song that required our audience to become involved.
When we recorded it, we used microphones under the floorboards to capture a beat without using any percussive instruments. Lyrically, I wanted the words to have the same weight the rest of the song had. I wanted words I could growl.
What’s the overall inspiration for the band’s songwriting?
Sherry: I tend to write very personal songs, and find it hard to write topically. Most tend to be interpretations of moments or sentiments I’ve had. I always find when I’m looking for something exact from a song, I never find it. I have to find an emotional connection with the song and let it build itself naturally; otherwise, it’s an exercise in futility. When I’ve got something that both exhausts and excites me, I know I’m on the right path.
Davis: For me, songs always start fragmentally. Combinations of words generally begin the hunt to develop and expand an idea. The arduous and fascinating process of development happens independently at first, but then demands the assistance of Griffin, Sean, Matthew and Matt to bring it to reality.
When can we expect a follow-up to the “North” EP?
We hope to be back in the studio recording a full-length in the fall. We have all the material for it, but right now we are visiting studios to find the right fit and figuring out how to raise the funds to make the record we want to make.
Who are a couple of acts/musicians that you all share as a common influence?
We all came from different places of musical influence. Certainly Dylan, The Beatles, Hank Williams, Led Zeppelin, The Band, The Avett Brothers and Earl Scruggs are on the list.
Where’s the best place for people to follow you online?
Staff Writer Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:
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