The Ballroom Thieves
Brooke Annibale, Rusty Clanton
901 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA, 90012
This event is 21 and over
Watch & Listen
The Ballroom Thieves
Darker times make for bolder and, sometimes, brighter art.
The Ballroom Thieves - Calin “Callie” Peters (vocals, cello), Martin Earley (guitar, vocals), and Devin Mauch (percussion, vocals) - mine immense melodies and hypnotic hooks from personal stories on their 2018 EP, Paper Crown (Nettwerk Records). Under the cover of vintage jazz-style, the five songs reflect feelings of rootlessness from four nomadic years, bouts of depression, and the ever-looming specter of political unrest hanging over the country.
Nevertheless, a noticeable glimmer of light always peeks through.
“Our lifestyle has shaped our perspective,” explains Martin. “We’ve toured so much that we haven’t been able to call anywhere home. A lot of the songwriting was done from this place of simply not having a home base. We were the perennial guests.”
“Some of the more somber moments come from a darkness I carry,” admits Callie. “I’m not an optimist, and I suffer from insomnia and depression. Traveling around on highways and utilizing the faux likes of large cooperate hotels and chains can bring a person down. Songwriting is a way to speak about sad things in a pretty and concise way while providing a distraction from some of the realities of tour life. It’s not all dreary though, and the enormous range of experiences give us the juxtaposition of happy, easygoing vintage music and dark lyrics.”
That subtle balance has transformed The Ballroom Thieves into a quiet phenomenon. Following two EPs, the group released their full-length debut A Wolf in the Doorway in 2015. Between marathons of touring, 2016’s Deadeye would spawn a string of fan favorites. They claimed real estate on prime Spotify playlists (e.g. “Your Favorite Coffeehouse,” “Relax & Unwind,” “Morning Acoustic”) with “Bees” cracking 10 million streams on the platform. Along the way, they sold out shows and delivered standout performances at festivals such as Boston Calling and Newport Folk Festival, while landing features at NPR, Baeble Music, Boston Globe, Paste, Earmilk, and many others.
In late 2017, they commenced work on Paper Crown, collaborating with producer Ryan Hadlock (The Lumineers, Brandi Carlile, Vance Joy) in Washington for the first time.
“Working with Ryan at Bear Creek was a completely new and unique experience,” affirms Devin. “He naturally pushed us through our vulnerabilities, challenging the band to grow and apply some of his more pop sensibilities to our traditional ‘Thieves sound.’ The rustic wooded environment at Bear Creek also had a serious impact on the band's experience creating these songs as we found ourselves there at two very different times of year - once in the beautiful but smoky heat of August and again in February's more frigid rain season. The result was a pretty stark contrast in the sounds, tones, textures, colors, and feel between each song, which in itself is a reflection of this band and our journey. “
During the process, The Ballroom Thieves dramatically expanded their sonic palette. Electric guitars figured prominently, and the group wholeheartedly embraced the fifties and sixties pop and country influences such as Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, and Willie Nelson in addition to religiously spinning Dan Auerbach.
“It was an attempt to make contemporary music accessible for a large range of music lovers” explains Callie. “You can’t deny those classics are special, and people across all generations have loved them for decades. Listeners keep coming back to them again and again for a reason.”
Martin elaborates, “We liked mixing those old-school pop elements with our big harmonies and folk-sensible songwriting.”
The band introduced the EP with the haunting “Only Lonely.” It quickly generated over 3.9 million streams. Meanwhile, the single “Do Something” illuminates their evolution. Its smoky soul could very well have swooned right out of a Chicago jazz haunt and onto a California beach circa 1965. At the same time, it encases fiery rhetoric within those sweet sonics.
The Ballroom Thieves culled the EP title Paper Crown from a lyric in "Do Something." Representing the ephemeral nature of consumerism, corporate greed, and reality TV, it's symbolic of the fake coronation atop the country's hierarchy. At the same time, it proposes an alternative charge for unity in the face of this misdirection.
“It’s a letter to this administration to do something kind,” Callie exclaims. “This president is not a suitable representative for any human being, but ironically, many of the Americans rallying behind him are the ones who stand to suffer the most if he continues to bolster ideals that only work for people who look and live like him. For ‘Do Something’, instead of focusing on my cynicism about it, I was trying to have higher hopes, and maybe scream a little about what most of us are thinking.”
Martin goes on, “It’s unifying rather than being divisive. It points towards the fact we’re all trying to navigate this situation together. We shouldn’t be doing that as two separate factions.”
Whether it’s the hard-hitting “Can’t Cheat Death” or the tearful, yet upbeat joy of “Almost Love,” they make pronounced creative strides together.
“To me, this EP is a transition,” Martin states. “It leads us towards the next project and stands as an evolution of our sound. Just like any band, we keep evolving and writing new songs that require creativity in production. I hope we take our older fans with us while making some new ones along the way.”
In the end, The Ballroom Thieves strain light through all the darkness.
“We hope people find it catchy and inviting,” Callie leaves off, “but are also able to find a likeness and connection to any of the ideas we express and the music we love to create.”
Singer-songwriter/guitarist Brooke Annibale sheds a bit of her indie-acoustic skin on her newest record Hold to The Light--a pop-progressive album that offers a fusion of textured electronic and traditional (guitar, strings, keys) instrumentation with songs bearing Brooke’s keen, soulful lyricism. The songs on Hold to The Light develop like Polaroid photos: each reveals a memory suspended between the perspective of the past with all its wistfulness, pain, and joy, and the revelations of the present.
Produced by Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter, Lake Street Dive) at his Great North Sound Society in Maine, Hold to The Light is Brooke’s third full-length record following 2015’s The Simple Fear. The record features the contributions of seasoned artists Sam Kassirer on Keys; Zachariah Hickman (Josh Ritter, Ray Lamontagne) on Bass; Josh Kaufman (The National, Josh Ritter) on accompanying guitars; Sean Trischka on Drums; and Matt Douglas (Sylvan Esso, Mountain Goats) on Woodwinds.
Hold marks several major departures for Brooke in terms of both songwriting and production. “For this record, I started trying to envision what the production might feel like for some of the songs during the writing process. I challenged myself to come up with other parts besides guitar--drum beats, keyboard ideas--in order to dig up the foundation for the vibe of the song. The songs really evolved in the studio as we experimented with different effects and ideas.”
The result highlights playful, retro-synth effects on songs like “Distraction,” and incorporates soaring electronics on the bright, danceable “Glow.” Brooke’s thoughtful, layered songwriting anchors the production to explore a range of narratives working through themes of seeking truths, letting go, and reconciling the past with the present. The title track, “Hold to The Light,” unfolds as an incantation about summoning the courage to look closely at the buried, the broken, the pieces we keep out of sight. Similarly, the mid-tempo “Underneath” is a kind of surrender to both the longing and the fear for something more just below the surface of the everyday. The mid-tempo “Point of View,” is a rueful rumination about the gracelessness of confrontation, the push-pull to see while being seen, to hear while being heard. Both lyrically and musically, Hold opens up spaces for the listener to inhabit and make their own.
Hold to The Light is an exciting evolution in Brooke’s career as a musician. Her creative roots run deep with family connected to music--her maternal grandfather founded a music store, selling instruments and sound equipment, which continues to operate today. Brooke began playing guitar at 14 and since then her passion for making and performing music has taken her all over the country. She released her first full-length record, Silence Worth Breaking in 2011, produced at The Smoakstack, followed by 2013’s EP Words in Your Eyes and 2015’s The Simple Fear. Her songs have appeared in film and on major network TV shows.
On the road, Brooke has recently been on tour opening for Josh Ritter, Margaret Glaspy, Great Lake Swimmers, Jesca Hoop, Iron & Wine, Rufus Wainwright, Aoife O’Donovan, The Handsome Family and others. She has performed at festivals including Three Rivers Arts Festival, Thrival Festival, Falcon Ridge, and Philly Folk Festival, and her songs have been featured in multiple TV shows including Pretty Little Liars, Hart of Dixie, Vampire Diaries and more.
When Brooke isn’t on the road, she loves spending time with family and friends in her hometown, Pittsburgh.
Rusty brings an amazing combination of sound through his acoustic vocals and indie melodies. His love for music continues to grow, along with has audience. He has performed in venues and 70+ houses across the United States & the United Kingdom.