Photo by Josh Wool
If you’re looking for harmony heaven, Portland, Maine, and The Ghost of Paul Revere might be a solid place to start. The band, composed of guitarist and singer Griffin Sherry, bassist and singer Sean McCarthy, and banjo player Max Davis, explored new creative depths with their latest album Monarch, for a record that truly shines.
The band, who have been friends since childhood, have a compelling sound, which dances between banjo-and-harmonica-heavy boot-stompers (“Little Bird,” “Honey Please”) and evocative harmonies (“Wild Child,” “Kings Road,” “Montreal”) – think Zac Brown Band with more banjo, mixed with the Avett Brothers or the Bros. Landreth.
“We’ve been playing ‘Wild Child’ for a while before the record came out,” Sherry tells us. The Ghost of Paul Revere seem born to play festivals, with energetic highs and intimate lows that connect strongly with their live crowds. Bits of Monarch – like “Wild Child” – were initially introduced to fans live, something that helped shape their appearance on the record. “I think that when you play a song for an audience you really start to understand it,” Sherry says.
Though the live show has in the past heavily influenced the recording process for the trio, the band approached it a bit differently with Monarch. “We would just perform the song in a room altogether till we got the take we liked,” Sherry says of previous records. “[With] Monarch we decided that we wanted to approach it in the exact opposite way and try to make a record that we didn’t think we could reproduce live.”
The result is a dynamic LP that pushes the band’s sonic boundaries while diving deeper into what sets them apart: harmonies to die for, rich instrumentation, and something to say. While both the process and the output were a switch from the way they’ve done it in the past, they weren’t worried about diverging from their sound.
“When you believe in the music you’re creating – if you’re not just doing it to change for the sake of changing, if you’re really pursuing an idea you care about – I think the people that are really into your music are going to trust where you go,” he says. He says that idea eliminated his fear that this record doesn’t quite sound like the others. “I believe in these songs and this is, to me, what I think they should sound like and I think that other people are gonna believe the same thing,” he says.
Monarch continues the band’s live-show-ready ethos, with a collection of songs that both pull the listener in and are the perfect festival vibe.
“Most of the time we write separately and bring a song that’s like 70 to 80 percent complete to the other guys, and we all sit down with it and that’s when it really starts to take on form,” Sherry says of the band’s writing process. For Sherry, it’s one that never stops, even on tour.
“I’m kind of constantly writing,” he says. “I feel like it’s a good way to keep your mind a little fresh.” He keeps notebooks of lyrics and voice memos of melodies in his phone, for moments when inspiration strikes. “I think that it’s pretty important to capture inspiration when it happens,” he continues. “If you’re driving a car and you think of a line it’s good to just pull over and let it run its course ’cause you don’t know when the next time you’ll be able to grab is.”
And the inspiration for the name?
“I just woke up one morning and couldn’t stop thinking about it,” Sherry says of the name, which he created for his solo project in college, Griffin Sherry and the Ghost of Paul Revere. The ghost, Sherry continues, served a dual purpose: it could be a revolving group of musicians, as well as “embody the spirit of the performer – how someone can get onstage and become something other than themselves.”
And when Sherry, McCarthy and Davis began to play together, the name stuck. “When we finally got together to make music, it fit so perfectly with what we wanted to do that it didn’t make sense to do anything other than just have the ghost be the three of us.”
Grab Monarchon iTunes and stream below.