The Revivalists in Motion
The Revivalists are a band on the move, so it’s no surprise they had to conquer a couple transportation issues while on their recent summer road trip.
“This tour started in Texas. We did a handful of dates with this awesome band from Brooklyn, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds. That took us out to San Francisco and to the High Sierra Music Fest, which was awesome,” said bassist George Gekas. “Along the way, our van, which we were planning on retiring after this tour, started to have major issues.”
With a new transmission under the hood and an extended stay in New Mexico in the rearview mirror, the New Orleans-based group was back on the road. The van itself ultimately received the golden handshake earlier than expected in exchange for a new Sprinter that joined the group in Colorado, which has long been a mainstay of The Revivalists’ life on the road.
“New Orleans has a lot of things that it does really well, but it’s not a very outdoorsy place, and it’s just an absolute treat to come out (to Colorado) and marvel at our surroundings,” said Gekas. “And the scene out here is absolutely stellar. All bands know Colorado is an area where people know about music.”
After Colorado, The Revivalists shoved off for a Midwest run, highlighted by a show at the House of Blues in Chicago alongside fellow Crescent City citizens Dumpstaphunk. The group now has a short break until August 15 and then an ambitious touring schedule through the fall including an extensive southern run.
Many bands — most, in fact, these days — lay claim to being a composite mixture of several different styles and genres. Few, however, embody those various influences from one song to another like the Revivalists, who at any given moment can be a little bit funk, a little bit jazz or a little bit country. Most of the time, however, they’re just a whole lot of rock ‘n’ roll.
“Many of us come from different musical backgrounds and we all put our own personal taste on it,” said Gekas. “The ethos that we have is just to create a good song — it doesn’t matter what kind of song it is — and let our personalities come through the music. It becomes us and is not something we try to force. It’s completely organic.”
The Revivalists’ unique sound is in part characterized by the combination of Rob Ingraham on saxophone and Ed Williams on pedal steel guitar, which deliver both jazz and country attributes to the band’s overall vibe.
“There are three core members since the beginning: Andrew (Campanelli on drums), Zach (Feinberg on lead guitar) and Dave (Shaw on vocals and rhythm),” said Gekas. “They were a band for about a year before I became a full-time bass player. Eventually what happened is Rob (Ingraham on saxophone) started sitting in on some songs, and we eventually added him to the band. The same thing happened with Ed (Williams), the steel player. And then after that, the same thing happened with Mikey (Girardot), who plays keyboards and trumpet.
“I kind of have to be like the engine and keep it driving, because there’s a lot of guys, so the drummer and I really have to lock it in tight and make sure we get from A to B,” added Gekas.
The stage presence and energy of lead singer Shaw is also one of the more recognizable elements of the band’s live shows. Making a overt effort to involve the crowd, often leaving the stage with a wireless mic to interact directly with fans, Shaw brings classic rock ‘n’ roll showmanship to the performance.
“It’s something that just came naturally to him. He’s never mentioned trying to copy anybody or do anything that’s already been done — he just does what he feels,” said Gekas.
Hailing from one of the greatest music cities in the world, it’s important to the Revivalists that they tap into the spirit of the Big Easy, while staying true to their own individual style.
“There’s just such stellar musicianship that exists throughout the entire city,” said Gekas. “Literally any style: jazz, blues, and there’s actually a nice emerging indie rock scene. ... And people aren’t trying to go out and one-up each other. Once you become a part of that scene, it’s like a family.”
The Revivalists are currently promoting their “City of Sound” album, produced by Ben Ellman of Galactic, released in March of 2012 and now receiving national airplay. The group will get back back in the studio “slowly but surely,” says Gekas. They have plenty of material, it’s just a matter of setting some time aside to get it in the can.
“(The excitement around the band) has been great for us because it’s been a slow, natural process,” he said. “We’ve been at it for five years, and we went most of that time without major booking and major management. And we were just doing our thing, touring, and we put out a couple albums on our own. So it feels good to know that we have people who have our back and believe in us and understand what we’re trying to do.”