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They may have had to head west to find inspiration, but Boston-bred Americana quintet Grain Thief have kept their New England hearts intact throughout the process of putting together debut full-length album, Stardust Lodge. And after a quick jaunt through Colorado, they’re back home and ready to celebrate the occasion.
With a release show set for the night of its release, Friday (August 24) at Cambridge’s Atwood’s Tavern, singer/guitarist Patrick Mulroy and bassist Mike Harmon are as relieved as they are excited that the record is finally ready to see the light of day. “We’re just really excited to get it out,” Mulroy tells Vanyaland. “It took us quite a while to put it together, and it’s been ready to get out there for quite some time, so now we’re all at the point of, like, ‘let’s do this.’”
Harmon adds: “We’ve put out two singles so far, and we’ve gotten some great feedback on those. When we were on tour in Colorado, we had some advance copies available, and everyone sounded pretty stoked to hear it.”
One reason they’ve received such great feedback on the album is their ability to keep their interpretation of the Americana genre fairly open-ended — but that direction wasn’t exactly a thought-out decision.
“People who vibe with no-adjective country music can vibe with our music, and so can people who are fans of Mumford & Sons,” says Mulroy. “It’s always been a grab-bag genre for us, and especially for someone like me, who has, admittedly, never really been able to stay in one genre, because there are so many different ways music can be played. The Americana label is very forgiving like that.”
With the namesake for the album being credited to a cheap hotel near Lake Tahoe, the group wanted to capture the essence of what makes Americana music so exciting for them — for example, the ability to capture the feeling of a football game in a small town. But in the process of capturing that essence, they also wanted to make something that had a unique New England vibe to it; not an easy feat when writing songs like “Stateline Hills” and “Colorado Freeze,” which embody experiences the group had while on their treks out west.
While overseeing the recording process at his studio, Wachusett Recordings in Princeton, Harmon found a certain amount of humor, in a way, in what the band was trying to achieve. “In the ways we do our songwriting, as well as the persona we want to put out there, it’s all very New England,” he says. “So, it’s kinda funny when we’ve recorded songs about places that have nothing to do with where we are from.”
Mulroy expands of that, by saying: “For me, I’ve listened to how artist like Jason Isbell capture the country essence of a football game in a small town, and what I wanted to do was capture the boiled-down version New England version of what that would like. But what happens when I travel, which is something I do a lot, is I get these ideas for songs about these places that are weird to me. When I’m in that world of a different accent, a different communal vibe, it’s puts so many new song ideas into my head because I’m away from what I know.”
Luckily, when they take the stage to celebrate the birth of the new record on Friday night, the five-piece will be back in its natural habitat, surrounded by all things New England, including fellow Boston-based quartet Ruthless Moon. Accompanied by guitarist Tom Farrell, mandolinist Zach Meyer, and fiddler Alex Barstow, Harmon and Mulroy are looking forward to relishing in the outcome of the hard work they poured into the record with the late-summer bacchanalia.
“I mean, it’s a release party, so we definitely want it to be a fucking bangin’ time,” said Mulroy. “So we’re gonna keep the energy up, and we’ve been playing a lot of these songs for awhile now anyway, so there are people who are going to be familiar with them and really enjoy hearing them again, and we’re just trying to give them a real party.”