Max Davis, The Ghost of Paul Revere

By Kevin Alan Lamb

“If you have pain in your bones, know you’re not alone.”

These lyrics from “San Antone” forged an instant bond between myself and Ghost of Paul Revere. The Maine-grown, foot-stompin’ holler-folk quartet adopted their name from a dream and represents their New England roots while exploring the significance of the messenger and the mighty impact few can have, unifying many.

Their message is hard fought and honest, grounded in the ability to uplight others as a result of a connectivity formed through collective commonality. Rarely do I discover an album and listen to it on repeat, The Ghost of Paul Revere has four according to their Bandcamp. Their work ethic and life philosophy come as a result of an attitude developed from Winter and the seasons. And if their ship was sinking, they hope you’d pass Rye or Die, a small batch whiskey that Tamworth Distilling out of New Hampshire made in their name (a serious check mark on the band bucket list).

Here’s my conversation with banjo player Max Davis ahead of their show this Wednesday at The Parliament Room at Otus Supply, where they will be joined by The Last Revel.

What’s the best and worst things about winter in Maine?

The worst part about the Maine winter is the Maine winter. But seriously, it’s probably the end of the season.  The winter always seems to tease of spring, especially after the especially long and harsh ones. It gets warm, maybe rains a bit, and just when you start to believe you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it reverts back to full on winter! That’s when the cabin fever really gets to you.  I think the best part about the winter is the attitude it develops in people.  It seems like the diversity in seasons has a way of developing great qualities in individuals.  We know we have a short window of the long, warm days to accomplish what we need and want to get done. It instills an incredibly hard-working mentality balanced with the desire to enjoy the good times while they’re available.

Who is responsible for the songwriting?

For this last record, it was all of us.  A majority of the song’s lyrics start and get hashed out individually by Griffin and I, then are brought to the group. That’s when they really start to take form.  Sean is an ace at stitching together and composing the moving parts of the bare bone songs I bring to the table.  Usually, the next focus is the harmonies, once they start feeling right, the song takes off.

For the tracks on Montreal our drummer Tony McNaboe, who writes for and has played in a number of incredible projects, added a whole new element to our songwriting.  It was a first time writing with drums and it dynamically opened up the sonic space for us.  It really let us take chances and test out new realms of our instrumentation.

What do you remember most about your last visit to The Parliament Room?

Right off the bat, it was the food! We love to eat well on the road, but by being a traveling musician you generally don’t have a bank account that can facilitate eating food the likes of what The Parliament Room serves.  (We still talk about the bone marrow)

It was also the people. Everyone from the crew running the show, our sound engineers, the staff, and those who came to listen made us immediately feel like a part of the community.  That kind of welcome does wonders for a performance for us.  Community and connection are a huge part of why we make music; we really felt it working that night.

If the ship was sinking, what type of whiskey would you want to be handed to you?

Whoa, that’s a tough one, I know it’d be different for all of us. I mean realistically, it’d probably be Seagrams 7 right out of the old plastic bottle. However, if it was no holds barred, I bet we’d reach for Rye or Die. It’s a small batch whiskey that Tamworth Distilling out of New Hampshire made in our name (a serious check mark on the band bucket list). It’s a 100 proof whiskey made with Maine grown rye, we saw barreled back in 2015 and released earlier this year.

One of my favorite lyrics: “If you’ve got pain in your bones, you know you’re not alone.” To me, this is about our tendency to isolate ourselves despite our similarities and connections to others… even though we’re all subject to a similar struggle. What do you think?

Absolutely, I think that’s a great analysis. San Antone is one of our oldest tunes and still one of my favorites to play.  Griffin wrote that years before we formed and we have seen it go through so many iterations and phases.  Over the six years, we’ve been playing it, I’ve emotionally connected to it in so many different ways and that’s the beauty of it.  Building off your idea, it seems the song contains a universal sentiment we share and in the same breath, leaves room for a very personal connection within the commonality.  I think that isolation or polarization due to fear, pain or struggle, is the last thing that we need these days and that music can help bridge that gap. I love hearing people sing along with San Antone. It’s in those moments I believe it’s working, unifying us all in our differences and our similarities. It’s unbelievably powerful.

How did you connect with The Last Revel? What’s the coolest experience y’all have shared so far?

The Parliament Room is actually going to be our first date! I mean that both literally and figuratively. We have been running the same circuit for a little while now, but this will be the first time our roads have finally put us together. We are huge fans of what those guys are doing and have heard nothing but the best about them.  I think we are going to be fast friends.  We are doing a bunch of shows on this tour following this show, so you’ll have to check back in. I’m pretty sure there will be some real good stories to tell!

Tell us about the dream that leads to the name… Ghost of Paul Revere, and the message it tells?

The dream was originally Griffin’s, but this is what I’ve gathered over the years.  It came while the two of us were at art school and Griffin was doing some singer-songwriter work.  I don’t believe that it was a midnight ride or a pint with Paul Revere, but he woke with the words stuck in his head.  Initially, it seemed he used it as the Ancient Greeks used “daemons” or as the Ancient Romans used “genius” – as a construct, or divine attendant, to explain a source of creativity. (Apparently, even Socrates claimed to have one!) It allowed the individual to remove him or herself from the process, protecting them from taking on too much praise or failure.  The idea carried over when we formed the band but also took on new meaning.  The name connects us to our New England roots but also explores the concept of the messenger and how few can bring many together.

People describe you by asking people to think of others (Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons) but how would you describe you?

Hard fought, honest music. A family band (though not actually family) created through 28 years of friendship, traditional instruments, and a guttural desire to communicate and hear the emotions, sounds, and thoughts that bring out the better in us.

Has anyone ever gotten a Ghost Of Paul Revere tattoo?

Yes! I think four people have now, that we know of. It still blows my mind.

Do you have a pre-show ritual?

We always do a hands-in kind of thing.  Sometimes it’s a sing-along deal (we were doing Paul Simon’s “Loves Me Like a Rock” for a while), sometimes it’s more of a hoot and holler deal, it’s always changing. There might be some whiskey involved too.

Just in case you were looking for one, This is a Good Sound.

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