10 Questions with ... David Shaw
May 23, 2016
1. How did you guys come up with the name for the band?
We started to find ourselves on festival bills with our idols and in front of huge crowds. We thought, "We're amongst these giants, but we're holding our own." We felt like we stood up and met the challenge by simply being who we are as The Revivalists.
2. How was it to work with producer Ben Ellman for your current album, Men Amongst Mountain?
We had been playing a good amount of the songs live. We had a feel for them, but we also had a few new ones. Ben was a breath of fresh air in the process. There are seven people in the band and a lot of strong personalities, to say the least. Ben guided us through our ideas. With his encouragement, we'd work it until we felt that magic
3. What were some of the band's highlights last year?
There are a few major highlights from last year that come to mind: In July we released our third studio album, Men Amongst Mountains. Making an album takes immense focus and energy, so it was great finally seeing it out in the world. We were also fortunate enough to play at Red Rocks, which is definitely a bucket list venue.
4. What are you most excited about this year?
We started the year taking time to start working on new material which brought us into the beginning of the spring/summer tour fully refreshed. We made our first national appearance on the Today Show April 12th. Shows during Jazz Fest always have a little extra because there are a ton of musicians running around town sitting in with each other so you never know what's going to happen.
5. Despite the fact that none of you are actually from New Orleans, how do you think being a New Orleans group has influenced your sound?
Although none of us grew up in New Orleans, we all moved there partially because of our love for the music. The beat of New Orleans is heard in the streets and gets into your blood. It encompasses a spirit of tradition and further elaboration that fuels creativity. In clubs, parades, funerals and street corners, the music is alive and there's often a flexible line between audience member and performer. Our first tours with Rebirth Brass Band taught us a lot, and we approach our live show with a New Orleans mentality of moving people and finding unique new ways to play the same songs night after night.
6. Can you remember first starting this group back in 2007? How has the band evolved?
When we first started the group, we had the goal to write good songs and play them in front of people. Over the years we added members, started making records, and began traveling a lot. After nine years of playing together, we're better at listening to and playing off of each other on stage and in the studio. As we've gotten better at writing and recording our ideas, we've been able to explore new avenues of songwriting but in many ways the core dynamic is the same as it was in the beginning.
7. Can you describe the group's process when it comes to creating new music?
A lot of the songs that eventually turned into Men Amongst Mountains were written when we were first starting to tour a lot between 2011 and 2014. We were starting to play all over the country on bigger stages with some of our musical heroes and it felt like we were all of a sudden in this giant world. The songs that were written during that time all seemed to reflect that on some level.
We've written songs in almost any configuration possible from an individual songwriter to full seven-person collaboration. When we're on the road we're always writing and recording demos or ideas to bring home. Often one or two people will work on something and bring it to the band to flesh out and arrange.
8. You have been touring a ton lately! Tell us about that.
We've gotten to play a lot of really great venues and festivals in the last few years. The best shows depend on the energy coming off the crowd more than the size. It can be 10,000 people shaking the mountains at Red Rocks or 300 people crammed in the Chicken Box on Nantucket. A lot of the places we're playing these days are in cities we've been playing for years, so we have a lot of friends and fans who've seen us grow from half-empty bars to bigger venues, and their excitement often helps create the best shows from both the audience and the band's perspective.
9. What's it like making music videos with all seven of you? How creatively involved are you all with them?
Making a music video is sort of a similar creative dynamic to writing a song. The concept for the "Wish I Knew You" video came from band discussions and we worked with RiTE Media Group to produce it. They were great to work with because we were really stepping into their world as far as the set, actors and cameras. We shot it during an off day in the middle of a tour so we had limited time to get the shots we needed but once we got on set we started having fun and it came together pretty easily.
10. At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
All that matters is that the art makes you feel something. I'd love for it to take you away into the mood we felt when the song was actually created. I hope you can feel the general vibe of a song and have it be an escape -- whether you're listening to it at home or in the crowd at a show.
Interview by Leah Adams