Grain Thief is a 5-piece americana string band from Boston, MA. The group comprises Patrick Mulroy (guitar, vocals), Zach Meyer (mandolin, vocals), Michael Harmon (bass, vocals), Tom Farrell (lead guitar), and Alex Barstow (fiddle).
Prior to the formation of the band, Grain Thief was used as a moniker for Mulroy’s solo project from 2011-2014. Mulroy toured the East Coast sporadically after recording two EPs and moving back to Boston from Washington, DC where he had worked in a Korean Restaurant and played bass in a heavy metal jam band called Thundertyts.
In Boston, he continued to use the name Grain Thief and brought in a revolving group of drummers, percussionists, guitarists, and bass players. Rhode Island born Tom Farrell joined the coalition early on as a lead guitar player--he and Mulroy met in a dark basement in Brighton somewhere around 2008. For a time, the band featured 2 drummers, with Farrell on bass allowing Mulroy to play his newly purchased blonde telecaster.
After much prodding, saxophonist, Zach Meyer reluctantly joined the band on mandolin. The two had met through a mutual friend in the Cambridge competitive beer-drinking scene and vaguely knew that the other could play an instrument. However, this quartet (Mulroy, Meyer, Farrell, and South Shore Joe Angellis on drums) would not last. Dissatisfied with the project’s direction, Mulroy dissolved it.
The new Grain Thief reformed almost immediately at Meyer’s apartment in Lower Allston, where the 3 former members (Mulroy, Meyer, and Farrell) worked on acoustic arrangements of some new and old songs to prepare for a one-off show in a converted Brooklyn warehouse.
Meyer’s then roommate was future fiddle-player Alex Barstow. Barstow was trained as a classical violist, but was soon dragged into jamming on old time tunes by Meyer who grew up in the old-time fiddle community in Washington state. Barstow never made it to that show in Brooklyn, but he did wind up at the band’s next rehearsal and first two shows at the Rosebud Diner in Davis Square.
Meanwhile, acquaintance of the band and recording engineer Mike Harmon was building a studio out by Wachusett Mountain in Central Massachusetts. Mulroy, a carpenter, seeing the opportunity to score some free recording time for his fledgling band, spent countless hours with Mike building out the studio. However, the free recording time would never come to pass, as Mike would soon join the band. With Mike’s bass, third vocal harmony, and Trident series 65 console, the band was now complete. Their union was solidified after Mulroy accidentally dropped Harmon’s 1939 Kay Bass down the stairs, snapping the headstock clean off, resulting in a costly repair and lifelong friendship.
Their debut EP Animal was recorded and released in November 2015. The record showcases the band's roots in folk, bluegrass, and old time music. In 2017, the band began a residency at the Burren pub in Somerville and continues to entertain the Wednesday crowds to this day. From their perch in Massachusetts, the band has toured heavily in New England and made forays in the West, South, and East Coast.
The recording of Animal’s follow up Stardust Lodge began in April 2016 and finished a year and a half later. Mulroy's lyrical approach to the album is met equally with songs of loss and regret, and the struggles of the everyday working man with a satirical twist. The arrangements and instrumentation represent a departure from Animal’s bleak simplicity with the band showing a bit more leg. With a new record out and shows booked throughout the country, the band has a long road ahead to cruise.