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Posted Jul 20th, 2015 (9:30 am) by Sean O'Leary
The Revivalists On Their Hometown, Recording Analog, And How To Kill It Live
The Revivalists On Their Hometown, Recording Analog, And How To Kill It Live

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.

This was the second time you'd worked with Ben Ellman as the producer, did his presence help in that process?

GG: Ben Ellman has become a dear friend to all of us through our musical journey so it was an honor to get him on board again for this album. It’s interesting to get a second go around with a producer because you are familiar with each others personalities and what everyone can bring to the table. It makes for a more enjoyable and productive experience cause there is a level of comfort ability that can only be reached by spending time with someone. We also hold his opinions and ideas in high regard cause we realize that we all shared the same common goal of making a great record. Ben is also great at making everyone feel important and that their contribution is vital to the process.

What made you decide to run the record release through Pledgemusic?

GG: PledgeMusic is an interesting animal. I think a few years ago if you asked us if we would participate in some sort of crowd funding we would have been vehemently against it. The landscape of the music industry has changed since then and people are looking for more and more revenue streams to latch on to. It seems like everyone is doing it these days and there is no sense that artists are selling their soul or taking advantage of their fans. Information is accessible at such a rapid rate right now people want and are expecting to reach their favorite artists on a level unprecedented before. PledgeMusic is just another creative way of having artists reach their fans and provide them with a product makes them feel connected. We don’t see ourselves having any major issues with it, except for making sure everyone gets what they ordered and that we find the time to personalize each item cause that’s essentially what people are paying for.

Your live shows are pretty well regarded, and I noticed in live sessions, you guys take a free-er approach to your songs, particularly in your bass parts. Do you think that plays into the atmosphere of your shows?

GG: Live shows are where songs can really take a completely different shape and grow into something that is constantly evolving. When you record a song it’s like a picture of that facet of time. You can’t go back and change it once it’s all said and done. Live you play songs for so long you eventually are satisfied with what you played or to a certain degree you want to change it. You want to remain true to the original composition, but at the same time add a current artist approach and voice. I’m in an interesting position being the bass player cause I essentially lead the dynamic of how a change in mood takes place, since it’s my job is to connect the rhythmic and melodic parts of the songs. Where I really get to explore and get creative on the live side of things is being able to lead the spontaneity of certain parts. That’s where I thrive and it’s where the music is really in its purest form. I would equate it to when the guitar players solo, except my solo is leading the band by guiding it through different vibes.

Any final thoughts or things you want to mention?

GG: Thanks to all our fans over the years for making everything we do possible. We really hope you love the new album as much as we do.

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