Mon Mar 16 2020
8:00 PM (Doors 6:00 PM)
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Some people say luck is the intersection of hard work and opportunity. On their fourth full-length album and first for Loma Vista Recordings, The Revivalists chronicle, catalog, and capture an unbelievable ride where ten years of tireless hard work would be unexpectedly revved up by the wrongly dubbed "overnight success" of the gold-selling number one single "Wish I Knew You."
Like any enduring band, they reacted the best way possible to newfound popularity - by buckling down and turning up with an album chock full of tunes worthy of even greater success. It's the result of a trip that unassumingly commenced in 2008 with hundreds of underground shows yearly and culminated 10 years later with not only "Wish I Knew You," but three years of back-to-back sold out headline tours. In life, like rock 'n' roll, some questions get answered while others stay unanswered. Our personal backroads tuck, twist, and turn through ups, downs, and everything in between at light speed, sometimes without explanation or a moment for reflection. Mirroring the push-and-pull of the past few years, the boys-David Shaw [lead vocals, guitar], Zack Feinberg [guitar], Andrew Campanelli [drums], George Gekas [bass], Ed Williams [pedal steel guitar], Rob Ingraham [saxophone], Michael Giradot [keyboard, trumpet], and PJ Howard [drums, percussion]-deliver a bevy of anthems marked by moments of sonic complexity, celebration, and catharsis.
"As far as the music goes, sometimes I just have a feeling, and it comes through in a song," says David. "I don't know what it is, but it makes me feel something. I wanted this album to be simply about that. Making the new music has been a bit of a cathartic process for me-just to get some of these feelings out, lose myself in the art, and become someone else. Songwriting is the great escape. It's where I can be who I want to be. It's been three years of touring our asses off, writing in between, and honing our craft. Then, 'Wish I Knew You'happened. Everything got even crazier. This album basically came together the way we always make records though. It's simply a collection of songs from where we were at that point in our lives. We didn't want to divert too much from what we've always been, but we wanted to take it to the next level and continue that trajectory of our artistry and creativity."
Simultaneously, life was rapidly changing around the band, and the music spoke to that.
"Everything going on these past few years certainly informed the direction," David continues. "I don't know if I was ready for some of what transpired emotionally. I got personal on some of the songs. I said some things I might not have otherwise. Thankfully, I have a good family network and amazing girlfriend to balance all of the changes."
"We were fortunate enough to have this 'hit' on the last record, and things have changed," adds Andrew. "We had to keep pushing forward."
For the first time, The Revivalists recorded and co-wrote with multiple producers and writers, enlisting the talents of Dave Cobb [Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton], Andrew Dawson [Kanye West, Fun., Sleigh Bells], and Dave Bassett [Elle King, Vance Joy] for sessions in New Orleans and Nashville, which became a hub for the band. They spent three weeks recording at the iconic RCA Studio B, soaking up the aura of one of the most storied studios in music and the city's great musical history. Additionally, it would be the first record with percussionist PJ joining the band in the studio.
Bringing sixty songs to the table, the guys whittled the batch down to the best fourteen of the bunch.
Andrew continues, "On the first few records, we were figuring out what our identity is, so we were really involved in the minutia of recording. After all this time, we have an identity, and it's more based in our songs. We were able to let go and allow these producers to take us into a direction that we wouldn't go on our own. We got to explore a little more. Being ten years in empowered us to do that."
"We had the opportunity to work with more people, which was amazing," David goes on. "The main difference was having this team and the chance to co-write. It really elevated our craft in a way that I don't think we ever thought about previously. We were all working together in the studio, while keeping the true heart and soul of the band intact through the whole process."
The first single "All My Friends" speaks to that spirit. Driven by swaggering piano, boisterous horns, and bluesy leads, the track swings towards an unshakable chant, "All my friends take good care of me." Striking, sharp, and soulful, it introduces this chapter with confidence and charisma.
"I actually wrote those verses when I was 27," says David. "I met up with Dave Bassett in Malibu, where I did some writing sessions, and I brought the lyrics to the table. It's a bit of a retrospective look back. You're in your twenties, staying out for three days, not contacting your significant other, and getting into some bad shit. Looking back, I realized, I had an amazing group of friends who stuck by my side."
"Musically, it bridges the gap between what we've been doing and what you're about to hear," explains Andrew.
Illuminating their effortless chemistry, the opener "Otherside" came to life in just one vocal take with "no trickery or anything" bolstered by fingerpicked clean guitars and cathedral-size harmonies. Elsewhere, the guttural grooves of "Oh No" spiral towards a fret-burning solo as wild and gritty as David's delivery. "I Hate To Love You" hinges on the kind of confessions typically reserved for holy counsel, and "Change" climaxes on a raw howl. Written by Andrew, "You Said It All" illuminates the dynamics at the heart of the record.
"I was going through a point in my life where I was thinking about situations with significant others," Andrew elaborates. "To me, it was the idea that when you've come to the end of something and put it all out there, there's nothing left to say. You're in that reflective state of being alone."
Representing a vast swath of the country and defying regional pigeonholes, David's roots are in the Rust Belt, while Zack, Ed, and George hail from the Tri-States and Michael and Rob from the Southwest. Andrew cut his teeth bashing the drums in the DC scene and newcomer PJ made his bones in Chicago. However, the Crescent City would ultimately bring them together. Since forming in New Orleans, the group quietly grinded towards international ubiquity one gig, song, and album at a time. Seven years in, 2015's Men Amongst Mountains represented a high watermark. Its lead single "Wish I Knew You" became a slow-burning hit, racking up more than 200 million streams and ascending to #1 on Adult Alternative and Alternative radio. On the latter, it clocked a record for "most single-week spins ever at the format" before eventually receiving a gold certification from the RIAA. A mainstream phenomenon, the song found traction at Hot AC and Top 40 and bubbled up on to the Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks as the band made the rounds on television with performances on Today, Jimmy Kimmel LIVE!, Ellen, and Conan. Acclaim came from USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Forbes, Flaunt, Buzzfeed, Uproxx, Billboard, and more with Rolling Stone touting them among "10 Artists You Need To Know." Along the way, they garnered a Billboard Music Awards nomination and two nods at the iHeartRadio Music Awards. Between countless gigs, the musicians also ignited festival stages at Bonnaroo, Governor's Ball, New Orleans Jazz Fest, Outside Lands, and Pilgrimage, to name a few.
Looking back, David smiles, "It's been quite the ride."
In the end, The Revivalists welcome listeners on this journey with them as they set out with a newfound depth and ambition.
"As we went along, we found there are more questions than answers, and we're all sort of figuring it out," concludes Andrew. "We're all doing the same thing. We hope people listen to the record and maybe can go out and keep making connections. That's what we're supposed to do. It's the human experience."
"We're in this together," David leaves off. "We love to take people on an emotional rollercoaster with us. That's what this record is. It's who we are. There's some real magic in that."
“I just wanted to be honest about everything, from my musical influences to my story,” muses Neal Francis. After years of dishonest living -- consumed by drugs, alcohol, and addiction -- such sincerity is jarring from the 30-year-old Chicago-based musician. Liberated from a self-destructive past and born anew in sobriety, Francis has captured an inspired collection of songs steeped in New Orleans rhythms, Chicago blues, and early 70s rock n’ roll. His music evokes a bygone era of R&B’s heyday while simultaneously forging a new path on the musical landscape. Ohio-based Karma Chief Records (a subsidiary of rising soul label Colemine Records) released two songs, “These Are The Days” and “Changes, Pt. 1,” in early 2019 and will follow with the full LP Changes on September 20, 2019.
There is a deep connection between Francis’s childhood -- his obsession with boogie woogie piano, his father’s gift of a dusty Dr. John LP -- and the songs he’s created. The result is an astonishing collection of material without parallel in the contemporary funk and soul scene. The influences are unmistakable: the vocal stylings of Allen Toussaint and Leon Russell; the second line rhythms of The Meters and Dr. John; the barroom rock ‘n’ roll of The Rolling Stones; the gospel soul of Billy Preston; the roots music of The Band. Francis pays tribute to the masters but has his own story to tell: “It’s the life I’ve lived so far.”
And what a life it’s been. Born Neal Francis O’Hara, the piano prodigy found himself touring Europe by the age of 18 with Muddy Waters’ son and backing up other prominent blues artists coast-to-coast. In 2012, Francis joined popular instrumental funk band The Heard. With Francis at the creative helm, The Heard transformed into a national act, touring with boogaloo progenitors The New Mastersounds and chart toppers The Revivalists and appearing at Jazz Fest and Bear Creek. As The Heard’s star rose, however, Francis sunk deeper into addiction. Once a promising sideman, by 2015 he had been fired from his band, evicted from his apartment, and was perilously close to self-destruction. “When you get close to death like that you can feel it,” Francis recalls. An alcohol-induced seizure that year led to a broken femur, dislocated arm, and, finally, the realization that he needed to get clean.
The journey from a hospital bed to launching his solo career was neither predictable nor straightforward. There were musical fits and starts, relapses, and broken relationships. Yet the overwhelming passion driving Francis in this second act has been an abundance of creative energy. “Drinking held my music in a half-cocked slingshot. I was always so consumed by drugs and alcohol that I didn’t have the time, money, or creative energy to do it. Sobriety let it loose.”
Determined to realize the songs swirling in his head, Francis assembled a crack team of musicians, calling on bassist Mike Starr (The Heard) and drummer PJ Howard (The Revivalists, The Heard). He linked up with producer and analog-obsessive Sergio Rios (Orgone, Cee Lo Green, Alicia Keys) and self-funded a trip to Killion Sound in Los Angeles to record the initial batch of material. “I learned to trust my instincts in that room,” says Francis. Buoyed by classic horn arrangements and Rios’ fierce guitar work, the resulting tracks illuminate a lifetime spent studying the masters of rock and soul music.
From the RMI electra-piano riff that kicks off “She’s A Winner” to the screaming organ swells of “This Time,” Francis and company let it all hang out. This is fun music, dance music. Yet verse after verse and chorus after chorus, Francis wrestles with his past in a straightforward manner: “It’s 5 o’clock in the morning, but I’m not home/ I’m surrounded by people, but I’m really alone.” Like Toussaint and Russell before him he’s married the upbeat rhythms of New Orleans R&B with the lyrical approach of a confessional singer/songwriter. The refrain on “This Time” serves as a foxhole prayer for a better future: “Let me get it this time/I won’t let you down/Let me get it this time/I won’t fool around.”
Francis finished recording basic tracks for Changes in Los Angeles in February of 2018 and spent the following months doing overdubs in Chicago with engineer Mike Novak (who also recorded demos for the project). Soon after he was eager to begin his touring career. After signing with Paradigm Talent Agency, Neal played shows across North America supporting Australian band The Cat Empire. He has received praise on several notable radio outlets including KEXP, KCRW’s The Morning Becomes Eclectic, and BBC Radio 6. Francis and his four-piece band recently performed during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, sharing the stage with The Meters and other legends. This summer he performed at Summer Camp and Chicago’s Chi-Soul Festival, and hit the road with Lee Fields & The Expressions, Dumpstaphunk and others. Francis pledges to tour relentlessly to promote his own music. “I’m doing this to fulfill a drive within myself, but also to pay tribute to the gifts I’ve been given. And it comes from a place of immense gratitude."
Mon Mar 16 2020 8:00 PM
(Doors 6:00 PM)