Revivalists Talks About Their Music Journey

For years, the Revivalists were the not-so-little band that could — with seven members this group was never little – scrapping their way from playing shows in their home base of New Orleans to starting to release albums and getting out on tour, gaining praise for their albums and their dynamic live shows and growing their career step by step.

But having crossed the decade mark, things are definitely on an upswing, and guitarist Zack Feinberg is appreciating some of the opportunities that the Revivalists are now getting.

“There are so many things. We’re playing Red Rocks,” he said in a phone interview, referring to the iconic outdoor amphitheater near Denver. “That’s absolutely bonkers. We opened for the Rolling Stones.”

Yes, the Revivalists are playing Red Rocks next June. The band was also set to play New York City’s Radio City Music Hall in March of last year, although the pandemic got in the way of that. And in 2019, the band opened a show on the Rolling Stones’ “No Filter” tour and came away with life-long memories.

“It was something that I never expected would happen, that my band would be opening for the Rolling Stones in 2019,” Feinberg said. “I was born in 1987, that’s already almost halfway through their career. It’s just felt incredibly validating to be on that stage and to be in that football stadium opening for arguably one of the greatest rock and roll bands in history. It’s so special to see those guys and to get to meet them briefly before the show and just see them up there doing their thing. It’s inspiring and it just felt like a nice little validation of everything and all the work that we’ve done. I just had an incredible time and it was a highlight that I’ll never forget.”

More special moments like that gig with the Rolling Stones figure to happen if the Revivalists continue the upward trajectory of their career. Early on it was a slow climb for the band, which formed in 2007.

Within a year, the Revivalists had released a self-titled EP and begun the heavy tour schedule the band has maintained ever since.

By 2014, though, the band — which includes Feinberg, David Shaw (vocals), Ed Williams (pedal steel guitar), George Gekas (bass), Rob Ingraham (saxophone), Michael Girardot (keyboards/trumpet), Andrew Campanelli (drums) and fairly recent addition PJ Howard (drums) — was gaining serious momentum. After self-releasing their first two full-length albums, the Revivalists landed a deal with Wind-Up Records, which re-released a deluxe edition of the second album, “City of Sound,” in 2014.

The bigger platform provided by Wind-Up gave the Revivalists more exposure, and the next album, 2015’s “Men Amongst Mountains,” took the band to a new level with a single, “Wish I Knew You,” going No. 1 on “Billboard” magazine’s Adult Alternative Songs chart.

Then 2018’s “Take Good Care,” the group’s first album for Loma Vista Recordings (part of the Concord label group), added a second No. 1 Adult Alternative hit, “All My Friends,” to the band’s catalog.

Then in 2019, the group got to do a project that came from another of the kind of cool opportunities that are starting to happen for the Revivalists.

Called “Made in Muscle Shoals,” it’s an EP for which the Revivalists went to the legendary Fame Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and recorded new, and sometimes markedly different, versions of five songs mostly from “Take Good Care,” plus a cover of the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody” and a new track, “Bitter End.” A companion mini-documentary follows the band through the process of making the EP, capturing elements of the band members’ creative process and the excitement of recording in the studio where such legends as the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding cut some of their classic albums and songs.

Initially, the idea for the Fame Studio session was not so ambitious. The Revivalists were going to record and film performances of songs from “Take Good Care.” But that thinking changed once the band arrived at the studio.

“We looked at this as an opportunity to go to Muscle Shoals and do our live videos there. And while we were doing so, it was kind of like what’s the point of doing it exactly like we’ve been doing it live or how we did it in the studio?” Feinberg said.

“Let’s have some fun and let’s get inspired by the sounds we were hearing in this room and through this equipment,” he said. “We kind of just had fun exploring different interpretations of our songs.”

Some of the new versions on the EP, which was released in January 2020, offer fairly subtle differences. For instance, the EP’s version of “Change” gets some new electronic touches, but retains the frisky pop-soul sound (think Pharrell’s “Happy”) of the studio version. “Oh No” stays mostly true to the studio version, just with a bit more of an organic sound. A few other songs, however, offer more substantial changes. “All My Friends” loses much of the pop sheen of the studio version and takes on a more stripped back, more soulful feel. “Wish I Knew You” is transformed from its bouncy pop studio version into a meditative gospel-ish ballad that features just piano and vocals.

Coming out of the Fame Studio sessions, Feinberg said the experience of exploring new ways to play their songs will help the band on a creative level moving forward.

“I think it’s helped us grow as arrangers,” he said. “There are so many ways you can perform songs. I think it will inform our next studio experience in the sense that like we’ll be open to trying things in a different style…It’s a good thing that you try songs in different styles and see if they resonate differently and what not.”

For now, the Revivalists are getting back into the touring routine. The group has a run of shows set for September and a few shows already on the books for next year. The band has the arsenal to make for a memorable show.

“Our live show is known for being quite a spectacle based on the group, and also the number of musicians on stage, two drums, horns, pedal steel guitar and a regular rock band,” Feinberg said. “It’s like it all sort of adds on top of standard rock band instrumentation, and we have a very dynamic and energetic frontman in David Shaw, who delivers every night. But with all that said, we also like to keep it fresh. We tour every night, so we’re not playing necessarily the same set every night. There are going to be unique things that happen each night. We’ll pull out old material and new arrangements of new material.”

And unlike many concerts these days, virtually everything the audience hears will come from the musicians on stage, which is a point of pride for Feinberg.

“I’m always disappointed when I go to a concert and I’m hearing things happen that I’m not seeing on stage. So especially with a band of eight guys, everything is coming to you live,” he said. “There might be one (backing) track or two where we add a beat that’s obviously something we made beforehand that doesn’t sound like our instruments. But our sort of ethos has always been we’re an honest rock band and I as a concert-goer appreciate that live energy and delivering that, and what we strive to do is bring that in our live shows.”

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