Q&A: The Revivalists take stage in Miss.
In the midst of their national takeover, The Revivalists will take the stage at the 24th Annual Crawfish Music Festival at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi on Sunday. Last month, Rolling Stone named them one of the ‘Top 10 artists to know.’ The seven-piece band formed during their college years in New Orleans, all hailing from different pockets from the Eastern seaboard region. They flew straight into the Crescent City after their April 12 performance on The Today Show to relax for a few days before performing in Biloxi. Drummer Andrew Campanelli took a few minutes for a phone interview to discuss the upcoming event as well as the bands’ intricacies.
Ardan Thornhill: So you’ve been on the road since early March and don’t have much of a break ahead. In the last month, you’ve been picked up by Rolling Stone, The Today Show.. Your success is booming! Tell us what that feels like.
Andrew Campanelli: The Today Show yesterday is a good example. The biggest thing to me that feels different is the amount of support. The online community has grown tremendously. For instance, ‘The Rev Heads’ have formed as a fan group and organized themselves. The support from the fans has been the most tangible change lately. It used to be little pockets of the country, but now it’s kind of unified.
Ardan Thornhill: None of you are from the South, but you have this groovy, bluesy sound that really speaks to people in the region. How exactly did a seven-piece band of Northern-raised guys come together to produce a sound that feels so familiar?
Andrew Campanelli: Part of the reason we all moved to New Orleans is that we had a draw [to the music culture of the city.] We all moved here in part because of our love for the music, but our sound also developed just because we a mix of influences. One thing we all really like is groove-oriented music. We never set out to write soul songs or funk songs, we just played what spoke to us. The thread throughout was the groove.
Ardan Thornhill: Suppose I never heard your music before. How would you describe it in terms of other artists, if that’s something you can even do?
Andrew Campanelli: It’s hard. We’ve often been compared to so many artists. We fall a little bit between funk and rock, something like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but a very song-writery sound, if that makes sense.
Ardan Thornhill: Bring me into the writing process. What’s that like?
Andrew Campanelli: The process is interesting –and you can hear it a bit in the songs – but they never adhere to one sound. So, we take them as they come, try to make them interesting, personal and never try to play too much. As a seven- man band, sometimes one person will write a song by themselves, and that will be it. Other times, someone will bring in a song, and once we all get our hands on it, it’s turned into something completely different. Sometimes, we just start jamming, and Dave will write lyrics. So, it’s a very collaborative process. Lyrically, we try to write honest songs that use real experiences that act as a barometer as our song. We are very conscious of being honest. We like many kinds of music, but [the common factor] of all of our influences is honesty.
Ardan Thornhill: Earlier you mentioned something about ‘not playing too much.’ Tell me a little bit about what that means and how it factors into defining yourselves as a band.
Andrew Campanelli: At first, we were playing as much as we could in New Orleans. A – we had no other options. It was about getting routine shows. But then we starting playing out out town. We quickly found out that [by taking these out-of-town gigs], our local fan base was more excited to see us when we came back. It was the best way to build a band. People don’t assume they can see you every week. You slowly build these new audiences. Taking a step out of your city is really valuable because the people that like you will really support you when you come back. It was really the thing that got us here.
Ardan Thornhill: What about you? What’s your story?
Andrew Campanelli: I grew up outside of Washington, D.C. in Virginia. I was in a school band in fourth grade. I would watch these instructional videos. One was by Chad Smith in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, another was by the drummer of the Dave Matthews Band. So, I always watched them and played along. When I went to Loyola [University in New Orleans], I got to know the [other band members] through music workshops at Tipitina’s. Major people in the drumming world attended these workshops. When we started touring, we got to play with all these giants like Dumpstafunk,Intergalactic, Snarky Puppy.
So I got to be around some of the best drummers in the world and just learned from that. George [Gekas, the bassist] and I’s fathers had really similar taste in music. We both grew up around 60s soul and music that came before rock & roll, so we have a lot of common references.
Ardan Thornhill: So you guys are the more toned-down, mellow guys?
Andrew Campanelli: Not necessarily. We both really like gangsta rap.
Ardan Thornhill: Bringing it back to Sunday’s event, so I know you’ve been working on some new music. Are we going to hear some of it? And who are some artists you guys are excited to play with?
Andrew Campanelli: So we have been working on some stuff, but we are probably not going to debut any of it just yet. It’s all in development. The North Mississippi All-stars will be there, and I love those guys. Really looking forward to seeing them and playing in Biloxi. The whole Gulf Coast area is just a second home to us.
Ardan Thornhill: Does playing in small pockets like Mississippi offer any unique opportunities or audiences?
Andrew Campanelli: We’ve had opportunities to play on a lot of different stages over the years. The size of the crowd is not the defining factor of the show – it’s all about the crowd’s energy. So, if you go to a small space with a small stage, people are often very excited to see you. That often is so much better than being in a large, sold-out space where people are kind of in-and-out and milling around. When we play in smaller spaces, we often tap into a niche fan base. In any case, it’s all about interacting with the audience. For you guys in Mississippi, we’re going to bring our all to the show! Can’t wait to see everyone.
After the show, The Revivalists will make their way to Athens, Georgia and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. They will return to the Gulf Coast region on April 23 to play at the Orpheum Theatre in New Orleans with The Soul Rebels and Wolf Pack. You can also catch them at the Jazz & Heritage Fest at the end of the month before they hit the road again. For information on tickets for the 24th Annual Crawfish Music Festival, visit http://www.mscoastcoliseum. com/events/2016/24th-annual- crawfish-music-festival(3).