Incorporating musical styles that range from Motown to classic rock and metal, The Ballroom Thieves’ latest LP is a sonic encapsulation of emotional and political dissonance, the constant state of discomfort that’s enveloped the world for the past few years.
Calin “Callie” Peters (vocals, cello, bass), Martin Earley (vocals, guitar), and Devin Mauch (vocals, percussion) set out to tackle subjects as weighty as greed, inequality, privilege, and narcissism, and as light as fulfillment and adoration, Unlovely offers a track for every occasion, whether you’re furious, depressed, exhausted, or hopeful.
As their first album entirely co-written by Peters and Earley, save for Peters’ song “Pendulum,” Unlovely is a tangible reflection of their evolution from band members to life partners.
The band did a track-by-track breakdown of the album for us.
Unlovely is a protest song in 4 different tempos featuring Darlingside. Bowie barks at one point, and the couple birds are Kaylee and Hailey from The Harmaleighs. -Peters
We originally thought this song might be a single because it’s fun, catchy, and “instantly likable,” at least according to Callie’s mom. There’s this Nietzsche quote about how artists muddy the water to make it seem deeper than it really is, and as harsh as it sounds, I think it’s true.
I also tend to be a bit of a diva and I didn’t feel like singing the chorus, so Callie asked two of my sisters to join her and they absolutely slayed it. -Earley
In the Dark
I hope to wake up each day and make the conscious decision to keep living and to leave the world slightly better than I found it, but there’s a moment during certain days when the forces of gravity pull a little harder than they normally do. I’m dragged down into bed for a few extra minutes and staying there seems like the easiest thing in the world. This song is about those little moments.-Earley
This isn’t fucking baseball. -Peters
Don’t Wanna Dance
A sweet (aka sarcastic) song about dancing on razorblades (aka touring) and how everyone (aka me) eventually gets cut (aka depressed), but it’s worth it. Or is it. -Peters
Ballroom Thieves Doom Metal!!!!!! If Don’t Wanna Dance is the side of me that copes with the struggles of the road by pushing through them, then Begin Again is the side that copes by burying herself in the covers forever. The side that melts down and can’t put itself back together again, and gives itself up willingly to the abyss, or something dark and epic like that.
There’s a Patti Smith moment in there, and some pterodactyl screaming I’m really proud of. In the end, I find redemption in the collective female. Being in a band really brings out the existential crisis in everybody. It’s all metal baby. -Peters
Vanity Trip is a critique of our orange boy king, from his own perspective. He’s not waiting by anyone’s door, he’s not concerned with anything other than his own enrichment; he’s living on his own time. He’s on one gigantic vanity trip and we’re all just along for the ride.-Earley
Roll the Bones
Picture a couple skeletons gambling their death savings away at a casino. They’re in love and they know they might lose everything they have, but they go for it anyway. They want to experience everything to the fullest and at least they know that if they don’t succeed, they’re dead anyway.
It’s a loose metaphor for the act of buying a house through a mortgage loan and becoming a homeowner even though your career as a musician is anything but lucrative or guaranteed. But hey, the world is ending – let’s roll the dice. -Earley
We all wish we could speed through life’s tedious moments and slow down the precious ones. This is a personal reminder that life is fleeting, so I should try and experience everything slowly and fully and let the wonders of the universe, space, and time weigh me down a little.
Pendulum was partially inspired by the NPR podcast S-Town and its clock-making protagonist John B. McLemore, and I wrote it sleep-deprived in the passenger seat of the van after pullin all nighters 4 dayz. -Peters
Love is Easy
This song is about finding someone who is easy for you to love and then loving that person no matter what the world throws at you, basically. -Earley
For Hitchens is the first song we started and finished together. It’s a lullaby for our future baby and it was directly inspired by the River Whyless tune “Born in the Right Country.” Upon listening to that song seven thousand times we started thinking about whether or not it’s morally okay to bring children into a world that might be uninhabitable before our own lives end. It made us think about what kind of world we want our children to inherit, and what we have to do in order to make that world a reality.
It’s a song about speaking truth to power and standing up with conviction for what is right. It ends with the line “you will learn that silence is not bravery,” which is a direct dig at those who refrain from speaking up because they’re not personally affected or because they stand to gain something by remaining quiet, and those who offer thoughts and prayers when action is the bare minimum. Those are the topics with which we’d eventually like to sing our kids to sleep.-Peters