Like a number of band origin stories, Ghost of Paul Revere’s starts with a borrowed minivan. It unfolded this way: the three founding members grew up in a small town in Maine. They needed a set of wheels and the space to meet the expanding rigors of their gigs. At first one of the guys' parent's minivan sufficed. If the minivan wasn’t available, another set of parents would loan them their station wagon. The guys weren’t persnickety; it just needed to load their gear and bodies.
Loaner vehicles would get them to gigs for the next few years, but before long it was time for the guys to take ownership of their very own auto.
“It wasn’t until the end of 2014 when we pooled our money, and that’s when we’d bought a new van as a group,” said Griffin Sherry, guitarist-singer of Ghost of Paul Revere. ”It’s the same van that we are taking to Montana. It’s got about 235,000 miles now, and we will probably have about 240,000 by the time we get to Montana.”
Portland, Maine and Missoula, Montana, share a number of similarities — dynamic live music scenes, small town sophistication, and precious proximity to wilderness and recreation. Consequently, Ghost of Paul Revere has an earthy style and woodsy sound that many Missoulians might find relatable.
“The people in Montana are similar I think,” said Griffin. “I feel like cold weather states usually get this mixture of people who are equally as sarcastic as they are stalwart and heartwarming.”
Hearty places harvest self-determination, and there is anecdote that Griffin likes to share that only reinforces that perception. When the guys couldn’t quite find the right description for them or their music, they simply made up their own. They called it “holler folk.” Think about bluesy bellyaching. Think about folksy whooping and country shouting. Think about catchy foot-stomping and jamboree howling. You’ve just imagined everything that “holler folk” is.
“Really, holler folk satisfies our main rule,” said Griffin. “That main rule has always been our number one rule, and that’s to have fun, and we wouldn’t know how to perform music any other way. I’m having a blast with my friends up there. It’s a labor of love — singing and having a blast. We all care about the music and the show, and we are just traveling around with a group of guys who are giving it their best.”
One of the most fulfilling aspects of listening to Ghost of Paul Revere is that strange sense of the collective, the feeling that this smooth cooperative enterprise is jarring, thumping and grinding it out for the audience’s pleasure.
“Because we’ve had that really long relationship, I think it’s easy for us to co-exist on the stage and as musicians. I think it’s to our benefit that we went through a lot of our growing pains just growing up together.”
The Ghost of Paul Revere’s three founding members (Griffin Sherry, bassist-singer Sean McCarthy, and banjo player Max Davis) were raised in Buxton, a woodsy area of approximately 8,000 west of Portland, a sparse land of overalls and gray flannel suits. (The band has since added a drummer who originally hailed from northern Maine and a harmonica player from New York.)
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“Buxton is not too far from the populous parts of the state, and there’s a stoplight, and it was a big deal when the new grocery store came into town. We had parking for snowmobiles in the school parking lot, gun racks in the back of the pickup trucks. We’d sneak into Portland to catch a lot of metal shows, though our modern music sensibilities came from our parents’ records. When I turned 16, I found some old records of my parents, and through my mom I discovered bluegrass, 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken' by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and that was my first introduction to bluegrass.”
After Griffin graduated from college he reunited with McCarthy and Davis in Portland, and the trio decided to make a band of it. It started with gigs at restaurants and clubs in the city. Soon, the guys were hopping into the borrowed minivan to play the next town over, then the next county north, and then out of state. It was an exciting time to base their music out of Portland, he said. What had always been a solid rock ‘n’ roll town come 2011-12 was burgeoning with fresh, amorphous waves of folk, bluegrass and hip-hop.
Since releasing their debut album in 2014, the optimistic, adventurous group has been delivering its northern Maine roots sound to clubs and festivals nationwide.
The festival circuit has provided the band with a level of exposure that would’ve otherwise required years of steady touring to accomplish.
“The festivals are incredible because you are reaching people and playing for those who wouldn’t come to a show at a venue and who wouldn’t pay for a band like us that they never have seen before. Those days of seeing a band you don’t know at a club seem to be waning. We straddle the line between being like the kind of band you’ve assumed on the festival circuit. But we are also a three-piece harmony band first and foremost. Even though there is a lot of jamming, we are usually the only band at festivals that doesn’t jam.”
Griffin said that one of the elements of the band’s success is rooted in its songwriting process, which, he said, has always been centered on unearthing moods that go well with the instrument and crafted without fretting about the defined boundaries of genre.
“We were just writing songs with the instruments we had. From the start we were more interested in crafting songs than worrying about what kind of band we were, and not paying attention to what niche we fit into. I think that that allowed us to write some very interesting songs and to approach that type of music in a different way.”
Griffin said the musicians of Ghost of Paul Revere plan to enrich the tastes of their audience through genre-skipping, thriving arrangements, and a joint sonic imagery that they like to plant on the kisser with a bang.
“The point is to play the songs the best you can — fun and loud. That’s the goal every single night. Convey the songs as fun and as passionate as you can every single night.”