When they were boys growing up in the southern Maine town of Buxton, Sean McCarthy, Griffin Sherry and Max Davis did all the things that young men do. Climb trees. Jump off the rope swing into the Saco River, which Davis and Sherry lived on one side of, and McCarthy lived on the other, in the town of Hollis. Build snow forts. Imagine they were Ninja Turtles or Power Rangers.
Those idyllic days set the stage for what the three friends would do later in life, as adults, playing in the Portland-based Americana band The Ghost of Paul Revere – though they didn’t know it at the time, of course.
“We’ve known each other for a little over two decades,” said McCarthy, bassist for the five-piece, who will perform with When Particles Collide at Nocturnem Drafthaus in Bangor on May 9. “We were definitely imaginative little kids. There was a lot of make believe. I think we’ve always had a pretty strong connection to each other. We played music together in high school. We could always sing harmonies really well together.”
The Ghost of Paul Revere formed two years ago, with Sherry on vocals and guitar, Davis on banjo and vocals and McCarthy on bass, after the three friends reconnected after college and joined up with multi-instrumentalists Matt Young and Matt Baker. In high school, the three played a kind of acoustic folk-pop. As adults, they gravitated towards blues, folk and indie rock, like traditional southern acoustic blues, John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Nickel Creek and the acoustic side of Led Zeppelin. They were harmony singers first, though, so they not only love bluegrass harmonies – they also love Motown vocals and soul and r&b.
“We all have certain musical obsessions. I think that, along with our rural background, really informs everything we play,” said McCarthy. “We also really put a lot of energy into our live show. We really try to put everything we can into our shows. That’s why we call it ‘holler folk.'”
Holler folk is the term the band came up with to describe their sound – folk music, but with a big, brash, passionate vocal edge. Live, they feel more like a bluegrass version of the Arcade Fire, throwing themselves into the music and singing their hearts out. A taste of that energy can be found on the band’s six-song EP “North,” which came out last year; the band plans to enter the studio this summer to record a full-length which will hopefully come out in the fall.
“We like to create a community with each show,” said Davis. “It’s less about us being on stage and the audience being separate. We want to bring it all in together. We try to orchestrate a moment with them.”
The name for the band came from a dream that Griffin Sherry had a few years back, in which he says he encountered what he believed was the ghost of Paul Revere. Those old American personalities, Revolutionary War or otherwise, haunt everything, not just the music that the five band members make. The past hangs around, whether it was something that occurred centuries ago, or a fond childhood memory of running around in the woods.
“There’s a power in playing live music. There’s energy, and it’s coming from somewhere, and it’s not just the people in the room, said McCarthy. “There’s ghosts of some sort all around us.”
The Ghost of Paul Revere will play at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 9 at Nocturnem Drafthaus in Bangor, and with Tricky Britches and Tall Heights at One Longfellow Square in Portland on Saturday, May 11.