June 25, 2008

Coming together with this restless ‘city’

Residents of the small, fictitious town of Balthrop, Ala., blend folk, rock and indie pop to create a distinct style heard around the South and Midwest.

Among the town’s 549 characters are a milkman, a drunkard/handyman and a bearded lady.

“We change the number every time someone dies in the town,” multi-instrumentalist Georgiana Starlington said. “It is a whole world you can kind of get into.”

Alabama-born singer/songwriter-siblings Jemison Thorsby (née Pascal Balthrop) and Starlington (née Lauren Balthrop) formed the band in 2006 while living in New York City. The band, which can sometimes include 11 people or more, released their double-album debut in 2007 with the newly-formed End Up Records. 

“(The band) kind of started as a solo project with me and a couple people I knew from a café across the street (in New York),” Thorsby said.

Four years in the making, Your Big Plans and Our Little Town is filled with songs about love and death, written primarily by Starlington and Thorsby.

Photo by Bernie DeChant: The town criers: Balthrop, Alabama, featuring Jason Lawrence (far left), formerly of Fire The Saddle, visits The Rud Wednesday night.
Photo by Bernie DeChant: The town criers: Balthrop, Alabama, featuring Jason Lawrence (far left), formerly of Fire The Saddle, visits The Rud Wednesday night.

“I have not had a really traumatic life or anything,” Thorsby said, adding that the band tries to present his affinity for darkness in an upbeat way. 

Balthrop recently released several EPs, one of which includes the song “God Loves My Country,” a commentary on the propensity of people to claim God is on their side while attacking their enemies. 

As the band grew, Thorsby said he wanted Balthrop, Alabama to be a family thing, but mean something broader for the other members. He created pseudonyms for each musician when he noticed the road signs on I-65 sounded more like names than Alabama towns. As a vehicle exits the interstate, it can turn one way to Georgiana and another to Starlington.

“As a music listener, I love it when bands have a depth, something you can sink your teeth into, something that rounds out the music that the music cannot do alone,” Thorsby said, citing Arcade Fire as a key influence.

Audiences at Balthrop’s shows not only hear the songs, they will also be able to “see” them: Chalk artist Michael Arthur draws pictures that coincide with the songs as the band plays.

Wednesday’s show is also a homecoming for drummer Jason Lawrence, who played in Fire the Saddle and Let Sleepers Lie. 


Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.com


Balthrop, Alabama

w/ The Town Criers,

Nautical Fox

Wednesday, June 25

Rudyard Kipling

422 W. Oak St.

636-1311

$TBA; 8 p.m.