At Work: The Ghost of Paul Revere

Jake May on November 30, 2020
At Work: The Ghost of Paul Revere

The Ghost of Paul Revere’s core members—banjoist Max Davis, bassist Sean McCarthy and guitarist Griffin Sherry— have been friends since they were three years old. In fact, Sherry posits that the first two months of quarantine were “the longest time we were apart since 2008.” And that’s despite the fact that the three still live within 20 minutes of each other near Portland, Maine. “We’ve always lived kind of right next door to each other, so that still hasn’t changed,” explains Sherry.

Since they formally came together in 2011, The Ghost of Paul Revere have released three full-length LPs—2014’s Believe, 2017’s Monarch and 2020’s Good at Losing Everything—as well as three EPs. Throughout that time, they’ve also grown into a force on the road, sharing the stage with Jason Isbell, Béla Fleck and The Infamous Stringdusters, among many other roots-leaning acts.

But while their sound is often labeled as “bluegrass,” Sherry is quick to challenge that notion. “People struggle to define what genre of music we play because, when they see a banjo, they automatically want to just say, ‘bluegrass, got it,’” he observes. “But none of us grew up listening to the Morrell Song Book; we grew up listening to Radiohead, Zeppelin, the Boss, and that kind of music.” Rather surprisingly given their sound, Sherry cites Radiohead as one of his biggest influences. “The way they approach rhythm on instruments is extremely interesting,” he explains. “It translates so well to acoustic instruments—I think about some of the tracks on In Rainbows in particular.”

With that rhythmic approach in mind, for Good at Losing Everything, the band expanded their personnel to include drummer Chuck Gagne and multi-instrumentalist Jackson Kincheloe. (Pianist Ben Cosgrove, who has toured with The Ghost of Paul Revere in the past, also contributed to the LP.)

“Going forward, while we always like to bring on other musicians whenever we can, our hope is to continue to develop this five-piece further,” explains Sherry. “We want to pursue that louder sound; it’s something we’ve never really done before.”

The band began experimenting with additional instruments on 2017’s Monarch. “We first flirted with the idea of adding amped instruments and drums to every song with [that record],” Sherry recalls. “That was a risky album for us, like, ‘What are people going to think if we add drums?’” While they’ve doubled down on the electric and percussive elements, Sherry notes that they haven’t completely turned their back on their acoustic origins, especially when it comes to the songwriting process.

“Once you make a couple of records with just acoustic instruments, that really means that the songs rest on the songwriting,” he explains; the songs on Good at Losing Everything had to pass that proverbial litmus test. As Sherry says, “To be viable for a record, each song had to stand on its own without anybody playing on it.”