The Revivalists On Their Hometown, Recording Analog, and How to Kill It Live

  • August 20, 2015
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With a name like The Revivalists, the New Orleans seven-piece puts the weight of a whole lot of tradition on their shoulders - and they deliver in spades.

Formed from sheer coincidence when guitarist Zack Feinberg happened to ride by singer David Shaw's porch while he was singing, the Revivalists quickly coalesced around a blues, rock, and funk style. Their lineup boasts two horns and a pedal steel player, which gives their sound serious depth, and a clear songwriting ability and technical proficiency lets them take some risks with it. Their upcoming record, Men Amongst Mountains, was recorded with Ben Ellman and released via PledgeMusic. IYS talked briefly with bassist George Gekas about recording to tape, releasing through PledgeMusic, and the secret ingredient to a killer live show.

So I know the story about Zack passing David on the porch and striking up the conversation, but how did you fall in with the Revivalists? Your bio online mentions Loyola?

GG: I attended Loyola University of New Orleans for college and shared some classes with our drummer Andrew. He met our guitar player Zack through these music workshops they would hold for kids at Tipitinas, which is one of the more prominent musical venues in town. Over the course of a few months they played a handful of shows with Dave and a couple bass players as The Revivalists. None of this was very serious at the time considering the majority of the group was still in college. I ended up filling in for a couple shows during the summer going into my senior year and you could say the rest is history. Right after I joined the group definitely got more serious about playing as many shows as possible. We actually ended up getting out first manager whom the band met through a friend of mines recommendation.

With a seven piece band, how does the songwriting process work?

GG: Given the fact that we have a lot of individuals in the group songwriting can literally come from any which way imaginable. Some songs start off very barebones, where the demos are built upon from one or two instruments and then arranged for the full group. Others are fleshed out live jams that are for the most part, written on the spot and then have lyrics written over after. Some songs are brought to the group as a full piece of music. Every single song has a different story of how it came together.

The Revivalists have a very particular style and sonic approach. How much of that is conscious? Do you ever find yourself writing songs going "Eh... doesn't really fit"?

GG: There are no real restrictions as to what would "sound good” and or "fit.” There’s a wide enough palette of musical tastes between the individuals to be able to cover a lot of musical ground. It’s never been really about "hey we should do this sound” or "play something that sounds like that.” So in that case conscientiously we don’t really strive to do anything or not do anything. If someone approaches the group with an idea and we like it then we move forward on it.

Your sound really shows off its New Orleans influence even though you didn't all come up there. Whats your favorite thing about being based there?

GG: What’s great about being from New Orleans is that you are constantly surrounded by music all over the city. It’s so important and deeply seeded into the cultural fabric of the city that is hard to ignore it. We are also fortunate enough to be apart of a city that cultivates its musical community and really celebrates the camaraderie that comes along with that.

Can you talk a little about other bands you're into right now, local or otherwise?

GG: I’m currently listening to a ton of different music. It’s in my best interests to take in various genres and styles to expand my palette and have a wider knowledge of the language of music. Locally there is this group Naughty Professor. They just signed with Rope-a-Dope, if that’s any indication of their style. They are good friends of ours. In the world of bass related music I’m digging the new Thundercat EP as well as the new John Patitucci solo album. In the more mainstream world I’m in love with the new Alabama Shakes album and am looking forward to the Tame Impala album, I really like the single. I’m also currently starting to dabble with metal again like in my younger years. I watched a ton of videos on YouTube at this festival called Hellfest in France and was enamored by a lot of what I heard.

So in sessions for "Men Amongst Mountains", your website says you all set up in one room and recorded to tape, for a more "performance based sensibility". Do you feel you achieved that? More than if you'd used digital?

GG: We are in a great era for studio music because there is the capability to record to analog tape and have it run through Pro Tools. Years ago when you recorded to tape you would only get a couple takes to get something right and that was it. So with the current technology available we are in a unique situation to be able to get that super warm tape feel, but have the ability to run it through all the advantages of a DAW like Pro Tools. For the album we went in with a mindset to play together like its strictly tape. You want to get in the studio and nail the performances live, collectively as a unit, playing as much music together before the overdub process. It usually makes for a better end product. There is a certain amount of magic that is created when everyone is firing on all cylinders on a track in a giant room looking at each other and vibing off each other. That can get lost when everything is meticulously separated out and everyone records individually. At the same time it’s not like we solely relied on the tape machine either. There were numerous instances where having Pro Tools running saved our asses, so there is some give and take between digital and analog.

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