Balthrop, Alabama are from Brooklyn. No, really. Well, okay, not quite. But when siblings Pascal and Lauren Balthrop left the Yellowhammer State for BK they decided to make their new band a home away from home. The town of Balthrop, Alabama was formed and its population grew to 11. Together they make a raucous kind of southern psychedelic folk-rock – think Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros if they swapped California for the cotton fields. Earlier this year, they released We Have Electricity, the follow-up to debut double album Your Big Plans and Our Little Town. We caught up with Pascal to get to know the band better.
Hello, please introduce yourself and your music to the uninitiated.
Balthrop, Alabama is a small town band, founded by me and my sister. All told, there’s about 10 or 11 of us. We sing songs about love, dead people, and dead people in love.
Tell us a bit about your latest record, We Have Electricity.
This one is a bit of departure for us. We turned to our friend Josh Kaufman, who has played guitar in the band since its inception, to produce the album, along with engineer Jim Smith at Saltlands Studio in Brooklyn. Josh took a bunch of raw songs and moved them in some very interesting directions. We’re really happy with how it came out.
What was your best ever gig?
A couple summers ago we did a tour of the northeast, including an ill-fated jaunt into Canada that was thwarted by some overzealous border guards and our own naivety about international touring. On that same tour, we played a house party in Vermont, thrown by a woman we’d met only briefly and who knew next to nothing about our music. But she pulled out all the stops, inviting a town full of friends to camp out on her lawn while we played on her expansive front porch. At the end of the show, we decided to close with a song called ‘Explode’, a joyous celebration of the end of the world. As the song drew to its climactic conclusion, a huge array of fireworks started going off in the field behind the crowd. We were completely amazed and surprised. It was like a rock and roll dream come true. And no one got hurt!
What inspires you?
I typically draw inspiration from the amazing work of others around me. It usually comes as a confusing mix of emotions, mostly awe with a healthy dose of envy. Sometimes it’s overwhelming, like when I first saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch: I came out of that movie theater almost crazed, with a compulsion to make something beautiful immediately, almost a feeling of needing to vomit. Maybe that’s what Sartre was talking about. Or when I saw The Arcade Fire for the first time. This was in 2005, before they were crazy huge, but they played a show that was worthy of a crazy huge band. It was a religious experience, the kind of thing that makes you believe there’s a god in all of us. I came away from that show wanting to be a god, too.
If you won a billion dollars what would you do with it?
I’d sign every brilliant struggling musician I know and buy them a tour bus. And an island.
Which of your songs is your favourite and why?
Hmm, this changes a lot. Usually it’s the most recent one. But the one I keep going back to is ‘God Loves My Country‘. It’s an anti-anthem about the absurdity of religious nationalism. There’s a delicious irony at the heart of that song, and I especially love it when the occasional right-wing nutjob completely misses it and embraces the song whole-heartedly. That’s the best irony of all.
What are you plans for the future?
We don’t really think too much about the future. We kinda just take things as they come. Oh! I’m getting married in August. And then we’re doing a tour in October. That’s in the future.
Finally, we’re always looking to expand our musical horizons. Do you have any recommendations of bands or artists we should be looking out for?