If the saying, “when I ask you to listen to a song, I am trying to tell you everything I mean to say” is true, then an artist covering another’s song is the ultimate form of flattery.

Enter The Ballroom Thieves’ Covers EP, a veritable three song love letter to Frightened Rabbit, Joe Pug and Bahamas.

The Boston-based trio, which includes Callie Peters on vocals and cello, Devin Mauch on percussion and vocals and Martin Earley on guitar and vocals, didn’t just cover each song—they interpreted them. We had a chance to interview the band to hear more about the EP, and they revealed that each bandmate chose a song that was meaningful to them. For Peters, it was “Lost in the Light,” by Bahamas; for Earley, it was “Hymn #101” by Joe Pug; and for Mauch, it was it was “My Backwards Walk,” by Frightened Rabbit.

The Thieves bring their unique, stripped-down spin and harmonies to each track enabling listeners to really hear each song for the first time. Pay close attention to the four minute mark on “Hymn #101”—the band’s harmonies give way to complete silence as Earley steps back from the microphone and pauses before belting out lyrics in time with his explosive percussion. It’s reminiscent of how Elvis Costello sounds when he performs live.

The band has been open about its choice to release the Frightened Rabbit cover despite the circumstances surrounding frontman Scott Hutchinson’s death. The decision to release the cover was “not a response to Scott’s passing…but [rather] promoting more communication and education surrounding mental health in general,” the band stated on Facebook.

During our chat, Mauch explained further: “The band and Scott’s willingness to be open meant everything to me. I found Frightened Rabbit while I was going through an internal transformation. I was learning to cope with years of suppressed emotion. They were the first artist that did not hide how shitty it can be and in that way, I formed a weird companionship with someone I had never met before. I introduced so many people to their music. I knew it would be healing and it always played a role.”

In true spirit of making the cover their own, the Thieves left out a major refrain of the original: “you’re the shit and I am knee deep in it.” When asked why, Mauch commented: “At the time we recorded it, there was a disconnect with the refrain—I never got it. So it felt like a no brainer when we recorded it—we were not going to include it.” The original, which was comparatively fast paced, included an intense electronic keyboard breakdown before the refrain. The Thieves not only manage to keep the integrity of the breakdown intact, but add a distinct, dramatic flourish to it with Peters’ famous cello playing. “We talk all the time now about adding it back in. It will definitely be there in a different version,” Mauch noted.

Peters has received increasing notoriety for her ethereal vocals on Thieves’ songs, which are particularly apparent on “Lost in the Light.” A celestial, smoky version of the Bahamas song, her voice and the bands’ harmonies bring to it a vulnerability that the original, frankly, just does not hold. 

Covers was a passion project that evolved over the past year during the band’s downtime. They plan on expanding it during their down time in the future, according to Mauch but no word on what future covers might be included. 

Catch The Ballroom Thieves live on December 29th at The Royale.

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